Interested in Social Justice?

August 17, 2020

Here are classes offered this fall for you to consider.

Graphic showing working together for social justice
Graphic showing working together for social justice
Graphic by Violet Dashi

The world hasn’t experienced anything like the year 2020. There’s a global pandemic that’s forcing people to notice healthcare system cracks and income gaps. All across the planet, people — balancing social distance and social justice — are in the streets by the thousands to stand with Black voices. And after 50-plus years of activism, transgender rights were protected by the Supreme Court. It’s been a historic year — and there’s still four months left.

So what’s led us to this point? And where do we go from here?

If you are someone who’s asked these questions and would like to dive deeper into the issues at play, UM-Dearborn has a variety of resources and courses you can take.

To get you started, here are six online courses to consider taking this fall.

Black Cinema (JASS 385) 

This class looks at 100 years of movie history. From a 1920 movie directed by pioneering Black filmmaker Oscar Micheaux — which gives commentary on Jim Crow laws of the time— to the Oscar-winning Get Out, Lecturer Tony Luckett will take you on a visual cultural journey to show how films from African and African American traditions are often responsive to conditions of social oppression and inequity.

Professor Luckett says: “Students often express how amazed they are that archetypes in early Hollywood, dating back to silent films in the early 1900s, remain in film today. This standard is beginning to fade as African Americans produce, write and direct their own films.”


Black Women, Religion and Spirituality (AAAS 393)

Is Black Lives Matter a spiritual movement in addition to a social one? How does Beyonce re-form religion? This course, taught by Assistant Professor Terri Laws, looks at the role of religion and spirituality in shaping how Black women are taught to see race, gender, class, and sexuality in their relationships, culture, and society. Focusing on works like The Color Purple and productions by Tyler Perry, students explore how spiritual beliefs have influenced and empowered Black women — as individuals and as a community — to push through trauma and persevere.

A divine degree: Professor Laws has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Rice University and a graduate degree in divinity from the historically Black seminary the International Theological Center in Atlanta. Her research has looked at the connections between religion and hip--hop, medical ethics and health disparities, and African American spirituality and patient decision making.

Introduction to Urban and Regional Studies (URS 300)

The mass mobilizations following the killing of George Floyd by police demonstrate the power of organizing and the ability of people to shape cities and demand change. Shaping cities is not the power of buying skyscrapers like Detroit’s mortgage mogul Dan Gilbert — instead, it is one of opening new futures by changing what is possible in the present. Everyone has the ability to organize for change. You can help tenants fight eviction, tend an urban garden for food security, or build houses for the unhoused — each is part of the urban fabric. In this course, Professor Joshua Akers shares the importance of city places and spaces and the hopes, dreams, risks and transformative acts of the people who live there by exploring the social and spatial process of cities. 

Professor Akers says: “It is possible to both find one's place and to be part of making the places you imagine the world to be. The cities we live in today — the progress and regress, the events we enjoy and the ones we find ridiculous  — all came to be through individual and collective actions and decisions.”

Isreali-Palistinian Conflict (POL 385)

When there’s something older than our grandparents, sometimes it feels like it’s always existed.  But Palestine and Israel were not always at odds with each other — and there’s been a lot of oppression, political meddling, violence and more that’s created what’s seen today. The course — taught by Professor Ronald Stockton — isn’t to decide who is right or wrong. Instead, it’s to study the conflict from many dimensions and develop a fuller under­standing of issues and perspectives.

Education and experience: Professor Stockton has traveled to both Israel and Palestine. When there, he’s gotten to know many Palistinian and Israeli citizens. He’s witnessed conflict-related harassment while in the Middle East. And he’s experienced questioning by soldiers at roadblocks in Jerusalem. In addition to teaching, Professor Stockton advises the campus’ Model Arab League, which has taken home top delegation awards at the national competition for nearly 20 consecutive years.

Race,  Ethnicity and Community Health (HHS 443)

It’s common knowledge that African Americans are at higher risk for COVID-19. But it doesn’t stop there — negative outcomes span a variety of health issues among many racial and ethnic minorities. Why is that? Assistant Professor Krim Lacey explores that question by working with the class to explore stressors and conditions experienced by African Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, Arab Americans, Asian Americans and Native Americans/Alaskan Natives. Part of the class includes crafting possible policy and intervention measures that would help reduce risk for poor health outcomes.  

Professor Lacey says: “There is an assumption among some that we’ve made tremendous progress socially, politically and economically over time, allowing for more inclusion and narrowing the gap between groups — racial/ethnic, gender, age — only to realize that we still have some way to go before this can be achieved. This is evidenced by the disproportionate amount of racial and ethnic minorities who have died as a result of COVID-19.  At present, the social and political climate that we are experiencing today around discrimination and inequity is unfortunately also reflected in our health system.”

Sexualities, Genders and  Bodies (SOC 366)

Vito Russo said, “Our government continues to ignore the lives, deaths and suffering of people...because they are gay, black, hispanic or poor.” No, that’s not a recent quote — he said it in 1989. Learn about Russo, read his speech, and hear from other LGBTQ+ community activists and advocates about what they have fought for and what issues still need to be addressed in this class taught by Associate Professor Amy Brainer.

Recent research: Professor Brainer studies queer and trans family issues. Her 2019 book Queer Kinship and Family Change in Taiwan (Rutgers University Press) earned a national award from The Association for Queer Anthropology. Her current project documents the experiences of queer and trans individuals and couples as they navigate marriage-based immigration to the United States.

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