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HBCU Graduates Create ‘Renaissance: A Queer Syllabus’ Inspired by Beyoncé’s Album as an Introductory Guide to LGBTQ+ Studies Amidst Attacks on DEI

In a pioneering effort to elevate Black queer history and culture within academia, graduates from Howard University and Bowie State University working for The Human Rights Campaign have unveiled “Renaissance: A Queer Syllabus.”

“Inspired by Beyoncé’s chart-topping album, this dynamic educational resource designed to celebrate the beauty, brilliance and resilience of the LBTQ+ community. This syllabus aims to amplify diverse voices, empower communities pushed to the margins, and promote inclusivity and a sense of belonging within higher education,” the syllabus states. “In light of the recent declaration of a national state of emergency for members of the LGBTQ+ community by the Human Rights Campaign, this syllabus becomes even more significant. It serves as a powerful tool to navigate these challenging times and Forster a deeper understanding of the experiences and contributions of LBTQ+ individuals.”

Curated by Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s HBCU Program Director Leslie D. Hall, MSW, Director (Bowie State University 2012 (Bachelor), Howard University 2014 (MSW), Howard University 2024 (Ph.D.)); HBCU Program Manager, Justin Calhoun (Howard University); Associate Director Chauna Lawson (Bowie State University, Howard University and a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.); and designer Korey Foster (Howard University), Renaissance: A Queer Syllabus transcends conventional boundaries of academia by blending music, literature, film, and art into a comprehensive exploration of Black queer and feminist studies. Each track on Beyoncé’s album serves as a catalyst for dissecting themes of joy, resilience, innovation, and legacy within the Black LGBTQ+ community.

With nearly 30 HBCUs set to integrate Renaissance into their curricula, including institutions such as Howard University, North Carolina A&T University, Prairie View A&M University, and Shaw University, the impact of this initiative is poised to be far-reaching. Leslie Hall, MSW, underscores the transformative potential of the syllabus, envisioning it as a tool for resistance and empowerment. “We want folks to add this resource to the arsenal of resistance,” Hall explains. “The syllabus allows educators to utilize music to undergird the works of scholars and authors that emphasize the joy and brilliance of the LGBTQ+ community.”

“Black queer history and culture has always been a vital part of Black culture as a whole. However, this rich area of history is often overlooked. Many of us have spent most of our lives hiding our sexuality and identities due to the stigma that came along with it. The Renaissance Syllabus was not only conceptualized out of a global need for highlighting Black LGBTQ+ culture. It was birthed from a longing of our own self-discovery.” Chauna Lawson told Watch The Yard in an email.

At a time when diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives face mounting challenges and opposition, Renaissance: A Queer Syllabus stands as a beacon of hope and progress. By amplifying marginalized voices and fostering dialogue around LGBTQ+ identities, this collaborative effort between HBCU graduates and the Human Rights Campaign exemplifies the power of education to effect meaningful change. As students and educators engage with the syllabus, they embark on a transformative journey towards greater understanding, empathy, and acceptance of all members of the Black community..

Click here to see the free syllabus for yourself.

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