Former first lady Michelle Obama speaks as she is interviewed by Sarah Jessica Parker during an appearance for her book, “Becoming: An Intimate Conversation with Michelle Obama” at Barclays Center Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018, in New York.
Photo: Frank Franklin (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

It’s no secret that education draws inspiration from our biggest cultural influences. From Georgetown’s “Sociology of Hip-Hop: Jay-Z” course, to Rutgers’ “Politicizing Beyoncé”, to Vassar College’s “Because Dave Chappelle Said So”, the exploits of countless public figures have found a home in higher education. And the latest to have her achievements transformed into a curriculum is our forever first lady, Michelle Obama.

Lauren Christine Mims, a former assistant director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, was enthralled by Obama’s best-selling memoir Becoming.

“Reading Becoming was like sitting on the couch with your best friend and having one of those soulful conversations about life,” Mims told Black Enterprise.

So much so, that she realized the impact it could have on other black girls struggling to finding their place in the world and decided to create a curriculum to further their learning and development.

“I disrupt the traditional practice of talking about black girls in pejorative ways and center them and their unique experiences to study how we can support them,” Mims said. “For example, my research highlights what ‘Black Girl Magic’ means to black girls; the role teachers play in supporting or stopping the success of black girls; and more about what they are learning and how it makes them feel.”

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According to Black Enterprise, the curriculum includes reading Becoming, watching films featuring black girls in leading roles, and participating in “important conversations, like about what it means to feel like your presence is a threat or that you do not belong”.

“We will discuss Maddie Whitsett and McKenzie Nicole Adams; two 9-year-old black girls who died by suicide after being subjected to bullying,” said Mims. “At the end of the course, students will apply their knowledge to draft new research proposals, policies, and practices.”

However, outside of the classroom, Mims named four ways that we can do our part in supporting the development and agency of our black girls:

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  • Create supportive, affirming, and loving environments by listening to their needs and centering their unique experiences of Becoming;
  • Advocate for, adopt, and enforce school policies and accountability practices that recognize the brilliance of black girls and ensure they are not being pushed out of school.
  • Address the bullying, harassment, and discrimination of black girls and ensure that all students have access to mental healthcare;
  • Care for your own mental health and well-being.

Ultimately, Mims hope is that the Becoming curriculum will create space for black girls to flourish in a world that often attempts to revoke their humanity.

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As Black Enterprise notes:

Becoming isn’t about arriving somewhere or achieving a certain aim,” yet there is so much pressure in college to define your identity and pick a career path. It can take a toll on you. Know that you are brilliant and never “underestimate the importance you can have because history has shown us that courage can be contagious and hope can take on a life of its own.”