Many of my students were African-American and I wanted to show them a text that valued black lives for their very blackness.
In other words, I did not want them to see narratives of black people as a deficit (as is frequent in mainstream media), but a narrative that described strengths stemming from blackness.
Others pointed out lyrics such as “My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana/ You mix that negro with that Creole make a Texas bama” and “Earned all this money but they never take the country out me” that highlight the strength Beyoncé feels in her race and regional background.
Some students brought up how Beyoncé has been criticized for her daughter Blue Ivy’s afro hairstyle (Eggert), who is featured standing proudly in the video.
As such, I focused on critical thinking, reading, and writing skills and tried to make the material challenging yet accessible and engaging. Achebe’s novel is a classic taught in many world literature classes, and it tells of the Igbo tribe in Nigeria both before and during British colonization.
In this complex text, no one is purely “good” or “evil,” and one of the things I hope students take away from it is that even if you do not like someone (Okonkwo, the main character, is a difficult person to love as he is often angry and violent) no one has a right to tell another how to live.
A few students had written them before or had an idea of what they were, but not all.
I asked students to look for visuals that stood out to them, and to notice lyrics of interest.
The course “Politicizing Beyoncé” was created by Kevin Allred in 2010 (
It is an interdisciplinary course that pairs texts on topics such as black feminism with Beyoncé’s music.