Exploring Black Women in Pop Culture: Insights from AAS 275



Lydia Kelow-Bennett, an assistant professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, is teaching a course called “Black Women in Popular Culture” at the University of Michigan. The class, which started with a cap of 18 students, now has around 70 enrollees and covers theories on media consumption, the experience of Black women in society, and analysis of their portrayal in the media. Kelow-Bennett asserts the class helps students build their critical thinking skills, and nurtures their understanding about race, gender, and sexuality in society.

Examining Black Women in Popular Culture: A University Course

Assistant professor Lydia Kelow-Bennett is leading AAS 275: Black Women in Popular Culture winter term 2024 at the University of Michigan. This engaging class challenges students to study media consumption, the portrayal of Black women in society, and featured topics like the series Scandal and Michelle Obama’s memoir Becoming.

Kelow-Bennett introduced AAS 275 after joining the university in 2018. Originally a First-Year Seminar with 18 students, the class now accommodates around 70 students due to its growing popularity.

“It’s a fun course”, Kelow-Bennett shares. “It’s a mix of entertainment and deep critical questions around race, gender, sexuality, class and national belonging.”

Attracting a diverse range of majors and grades, the course particularly appeals to students interested in Afroamerican and African studies. Kelow-Bennett nurtures a respectful environment for discussing challenging topics, especially with the class majorly comprising Black students, women of Color, and Queer students of Color.

According to Kelow-Bennett, the course employs interdisciplinary subjects, fulfilling the university’s interdisciplinary course distribution requirement.

“Students seem to leave my course feeling more competent and comfortable talking about issues of race, gender, and sexuality.” She adds, “A lot of students say that the course has helped them understand how these work in our society.”

First-year student Gabriele Shepheard chose AAS 275 due to her aspiration to work in entertainment and politics as a Black woman. She finds the class environment rewarding and appreciates Kelow-Bennett’s efforts to provide students with time to express their opinions and digest heavy subject matters.

Shepheard highlights that the course isn’t just about listening to music or watching videos. Instead, it involves dissecting critical aspects of Black popular culture, such as the music videos of Meg Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj.

Third-year student Jordan Jones resonates with the course’s principles and ideas. He appreciates Kelow-Bennett’s non-judgemental approach in facilitating class discussions and encourages anyone interested in the subject to enroll, stressing that the course is diverse and not restricted to Black students.

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