Syllabus: The Black Atlantic

COURSE: The Black Atlantic

INSTRUCTOR: A. Rafik Mohammed DESCRIPTION: Exploration of black identity in the Caribbean as compared to that in the U.S., focusing on the similarities and differences of the black experience between the two nations. Specific emphasis on the themes of colonization, slavery, culture and resistance.

WHERE DO I SIGN UP? The class, which was offered for three weeks in June 2006, took place in Falmouth, Jamaica.

WHAT’S THE BIG IDEA? That USD students might learn what life is like for the average Jamaican. “All but three of the students were white, and once they got away from the touristy areas, every face they saw (except one another’s) was black.”

SUGGESTED READING: A Small Place, by Jamaica Kincaid. “It’s hardhitting. She talks about what it’s like to live in Antigua, a place that’s dependent on tourist dollars, and have people treat you like you don’t exist.” Every student was required to read the book upon arrival. “It basically says, ‘These people who serve you, hate you.’ It freaked the students right out, since every villa was staffed by a maid and a cook.” The point of assigning the book was to force students to think critically about how they interact with native people when they travel abroad.

EPIPHANIES, ANYONE? “A pair of students were invited to go to church; a little girl came and sat down next to Michelle, and they talked. She said it was the first time since she got to Jamaica that she didn’t feel like a white person, but just a person.”

ESSAY EXCERPTS:“Everything has impacted me, and everything has changed me. I would like to believe I’m a better person because of it.”

“I have a better grasp not just of a culture, but of a community.” “My experiences with the people of Jamaica have been priceless. No amount of reading could have taught me what they have.”