2019 Latin Grammys

Beyonce 101: The Rise of Teaching Queen Bey in College

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Beyonce  performs at The BRIT Awards 2014 at 02 Arena on Feb. 19, 2014 in London.

University of Copenhagen is just the latest institution of higher education to get in formation.

Erik Steinskog, an associate professor of musicology at the Denmark school, is the newest professor to join the Beyhive; he’s currently teaching a class called “Beyoncé, Gender and Race.”

California Polytechnic State University, the University of Texas at San Antonio, Arizona State University and Rutgers University have all drank the lemonade, creating classes around Beyoncé’s cannon of work. From her 2016 visual album to the choreography, costumes and imagery she invokes on tour, Queen Bey is “a powerful and popular way to get students engaged,” says Dr. Rachel Fedock, an honors faculty fellow at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

For her class, “Lemonade: Beyoncé and Black Feminism,” Fedock leans on Beyoncé as entrée into black feminist studies, teaching the work of social activist Bell Hooks alongside that of the 22-time Grammy winner.

 

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“It’s a very southern black woman tale using folklore in horror and conjuring,” Kinitra Brooks, an associate professor in the department of English at the University of Texas at San Antonio tells Billboard. “With Lemonade, Beyoncé walked into a conversation that’s been going on for 150 years within black women’s networks.”

Brooks taught her seminar in Fall 2016, but recently won a grant from the University of Michigan to create a Lemonade reader/syllabus which she plans on publishing through the Ohio State University Press. “Lemonade can be read in so many different ways and it’s so relevant, in cultural studies, novelist theory and in discussing real world issues like feminism and race,” she adds.

Prior to launching his own class, Steinskog Skyped into Brooks’s as a guest lecturer. Seeing her student’s response and engagement was early inspiration for his class, which delves into black feminist thought, a nascent subject in Scandinavia.

Billed as simply a Spring 2017 elective class that didn’t meet any requirement for any student, Jenell Navarro’s “Beyoncé: Feminism, Race & Politics” examined gender, sexuality and class issues. “This class gave a particular student right now a voice in a redesigned way. Discrimination has not gone away and it’s been difficult for students of color and low-income. We are a predominately white institution and this class was empowering and uplifting” says Navarro, an assistant professor in the department of ethnic studies at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. She noted that hundreds of students were on the waitlist, a determining factor for teaching two sections of the class in Spring 2018.

Although Beyoncé did not respond to requests for comment, the Houston-born singer enrolled in the 2017-2018 academic year as well. In celebration of the one year anniversary of Lemonade, Beyoncé created The Formation Scholars Award, a scholarship program to provide assistance to four female students at Berklee College of Music, Howard University, Parsons School of Design and Spelman College, respectively.

“The Formation Scholars Award encourages and supports young women who are bold, creative, conscious, confident and unafraid to think outside the box,” says the singer, according to her website.  


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