Column: This week in pop culture, Beyoncé 101

Posted on Oct 11 2016 - 8:01am by Akim Powell

Math, Science, English and Beyoncé. Yes, Queen Bey.

One of the greatest performers of all time is now a college course.  If you don’t know who Beyoncé is, then you obviously have been living under a hard rock for the last 20 years.

(Graphic by Marisa Morissette)

(Graphic by Marisa Morissette)

This actually isn’t the first time students have had the choice to study Beyoncé in a course. Back in 2014, when Queen Bey released her first visual album “Beyoncé,” Rutgers University offered a course “Politicizing Beyoncé” taught by Kevin Allred, who believes Beyoncé is much more than just an artist. Students who took the class discussed her “skin-baring outfits and risqué performances” and her alter ego Sasha Fierce.

Perhaps you might remember the uproar Beyoncé made when she released her infamous “Lemonade” album this past April, which made every human being rethink his relationship status and self worth. The album focuses on empowering independent black women and embracing the African-American culture. You might remember Beyoncé’s 2016 Super Bowl halftime performance, where she made headlines performing “Formation” alongside her backup dancers dressed in Black Panther attire. Critics called the performance “outrageous” and also called the Black Lives Matter movement a “joke.” Many people have speculated that the performance was aimed toward police and to promote violence.

Despite the controversy of the performance, the album Lemonade was so inspiring that the University of Texas at San Antonio now has a class specifically for Beyoncé. The class is located in the English department and is welcome to students of all races dedicated to “Black Women and Beyoncé.”  The mastermind behind this brilliant idea is professor Kinitra Brooks, a genius who thought to mix pop culture with education.

As Brooks notes in her fall semester syllabus, the class has three mandatory meetings per week. It consists of synthesizing and decoding the “theoretical, historical and literary frameworks of black feminism” throughout the 12 tracks of the most iconic album of our generation’s time, “Lemonade.” The course will begin with “Formation” and end in December with “Up All Night.”

One can speculate the class will be full to capacity, not only with Beyoncé fanatics but just by individuals who want to better understand the true meaning of “Lemonade.” Brooks encourages students to bring friends along.

Beyond just listening to the music, students have the opportunity to make deeper connections to the piece as a whole and the underlying meanings. “Lemonade” addresses different issues in America that most people would feel uncomfortable to discuss in a classroom setting. This includes police brutality, issues faced by black women in America and the history surrounding slavery. That’s why Brooks simply asks that students are “willing to be uncomfortable” and to overcome that “uncomfortability.” She lets students know that it is okay not to be ready to discuss heavy topics.

During this process, she expects them to grow as students and to be stronger critical thinkers. Despite the sometimes uncomfortable or hard-to-discuss topics, this is an experience unique to this time and atmosphere in the country. Not to mention, these students are certainly at the right school at the right time to take the course.

Although you would think the class would be a relatively easy college credit for the “Beyhives,” Brooks makes sure this class isn’t a brisk walk in the park. She pushes students and motivates them to “work harder than ever before.” She also reminds students that “studying race, gender, class, and pop culture theory is incredibly fun and incredibly hard.”

Mixing college and Beyoncé together could possibly be the best combination ever and spark some important conversation.  We could all probably learn something from Beyoncé.
When life gives you “Lemonade,” make a college course of it… literally.