I tell the story all the time. Back in the day when my brother, cousins, and I played school, I always wanted to be the student. I always wanted to sit in the desk, and have to raise my hand to talk, and fake like I was for real doing schoolwork. I did not want to teach. I wanted to ask.
Time is funny. Now, I stand at the front of the room, talking loud and with my hands, walking and running from the board to the back row, laughing at my own corny jokes, bending my fingers in funny ways. Still asking.
But, now I teach too; and when I do, I teach what I like—which means I mostly teach about black folks, blackness, and the black American experience; and sometimes Mississippi; and sometimes stratification and inequality; and sometimes storytelling, in-depth interviewing, and qualitative method(ologie)s.
In some ways, my classes are regular. I lecture. Students take notes. I give exams. I struggle with Blackboard. I am eternally behind on grading. In other ways, my classes are something else. There is always music playing, and I prefer to teach with the lights off, or dimmed. We read complex theory onto current events onto popular culture. What would C. Wright Mills say to Meek Mill, Barbara and Karen Fields to Kendrick, Chocolate Cities to Lauryn Hill, J. Cole to Afro-Pessimism, Stankonia to Afro-Futurism, Yo Gotti to Zandria Robinson, and so on. Final projects range from podcasts to Ted (style) Talks to Syllabi.
I always give my classes themes. What if the Mississippi Delta was Appalachia? What if stories were songs—what would a Mississippi Jukebox play? My Race, Place, and Space course is a trip. It's also a journey to and through the Race Maps of the United States. My southern studies classes are always about Other Souths—the Black South, the Big Freedia South, the Gucci Mane South, the Stank South, the Country South, the questionable South. My classes are questions. What if history was a Mixtape? What if we told stories on the Underground. What if we were all like former Texas state Representative Barbara Jordan—Inquisitors—asking truth of power, even when power just want to lie and party and bullshit and party and.