Tayari Jones Gail Parker Octavia Raheem
“The African American Experience” is often aligned with physical, psychological and spiritual degradation, economic destitution, and social calamity framed within ongoing cycles of violence. However, many African American writers utilize their craft to envision a life that attempts to overcome hardships through characters infused with confidence, hope, curiosity, and love. Literary critics will likely feature the characters’ unique identity and circumstances that allowed them to prevail amidst racial terrorism. We will deepen our understanding of the characters’ resilience by reflecting on how they engage in wellness practices (consciously and unconsciously) to support themselves and their communities in light of structural racism. This survey course will explore African American literature across many centuries highlighting individual, communal and systemic wellness through a Black feminist lens anchored by a conversation between three texts: An American Marriage (a Novel) by Tayari Jones (2018), Restorative Yoga for Ethnic and Race-Based Stress and Trauma by Dr. Gail Parker (2020) and Gather by Octavia Raheem (2020). The weaving of literature with wellness theories and practices offered by African American female leaders within the fields of health, psychology, cultural criticism, and history provide a unique Black feminist analysis of the craft of living a life that is whole, liberatory, and fulfilling.
Rhonda Gray is a Professor of English at Roxbury Community College in Boston, Massachusetts. She teaches courses on rhetoric and composition, literature and cultural studies reflecting research interests in Black feminism/Womanism, American history and culture, and trauma-informed pedagogy. She is the co-author of Using BEAM to Integrate Information Literacy and Writing: A Framework with Case Studies (Purdue University Press, 2019). Her Honors Faculty Handbook supported the college’s inaugural accreditation of its Honors Program in 2016. Subsequently, she participated in the National Endowment for the Humanities’ Summer Institute titled The Visual Culture of the American Civil War and Its Aftermath drawing from her study of American minstrelsy. She is a member of the Association of the Contemplative Mind in Higher Education and Black Yoga Teachers Alliance feeding her pedagogical pursuits of embodied practices to support teaching and learning in the classroom.