For students interested in enriching their understanding of black culture or just curious, the Media School has introduced a 15-credit minor in black cinema and media studies.
Students will be required to take a course on screening race and ethnicity, cinemas of the black diaspora, and three elective courses on the representation of race within cinema and media.
James Kelly, director of undergraduate studies in the Media School and associate professor of journalism, said he thinks the minor will interest IU students for two main reasons — the medium and the topic that will be studied.
“It focuses on a medium that’s attractive,” Kelly said. “Most students on campus like movies. Because it’s an attractive topic and because African-American culture is so pervasive, almost predominant in American society right now, the courses are attractive.”
Although the Media School already offers a specialization in black cinema, the minor is different because it is specifically designed for students who are not in it but are interested in expanding their knowledge of the subject.
The minor was proposed by professor and director of the Black Film Center/Archive Michael Martin, associate professors Akin Adesokan and Terri Francis, and assistant professor Cara Caddoo when the Media School was opened in 2015.
Kelly said this is the first semester the minor is available to students, but courses they have already taken that are part of the curriculum will count toward the minor. He said theoretically students could earn the minor this spring.
Kelly said one leading force in the proposal of this minor was IU’s Black Film Center/Archive, which was established in 1981. This center was the first space dedicated to acquiring and conserving culturally and historically significant films about and by black people in the United States.
“As with every discipline, there’s a close connection between teaching and research,” Kelly said. “The Black Film Center/Archive attracts scholars to Indiana University who are doing their research on African American and African cinema in the U.S.”
He said this makes the minor significant because the professors and instructors who teach these courses are scholars of both media and race relations, so they bring an underrepresented expertise into the classroom.
This expertise is something that will greatly influence student’s views because it will help develop their understanding of African American culture beyond the falsehoods, which are prevalent within society, he said.
“The problem of race relations stems primarily from false mythologies that are sustained by ignorance,” Kelly said. “Too many Americans understand race based on ideas about race that are historically based on prejudice and discrimination,” Kelly said.
Kelly said students who take courses in this minor will be educated about African American culture as they are exposed to stories about black people from an African perspective. He said the course will introduce students to a factual representation of the culture so they accurately understand it.
“Race relations are even more tense these days than they have been historically,” Kelly said. “I would say that race is the most important issue for Americans, and racism is its biggest problem.”
Kelly said he would like to think the minor will have an influence on the way Americans understand race. Although, if it does it will be small, but a step in the right direction, he said.
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