Next spring, the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln is offering a class that aims to explore what it is like to be a Black person living in Lincoln.
Joe Starita, a journalism professor, is teaching the class ‘Being Black in Lincoln.’ Eventually, 15 students will write profiles of 12 different Black residents of Lincoln. The class will begin next spring and the applications to join the class have closed.
“As a white person, you may have a completely different experience than a Black person,” Starita said. “It is these dual realities that we want to explore in this class. We want to hold a mirror up to the community of Lincoln.”
According to Starita, the inspiration for the class originally came from a student who stood up in one of his classes. The student explained her experience as a Black woman in Lincoln, and how different her experiences are compared to her white classmates.
“We’re going to show the complexity of Lincoln and revealing truths that ordinarily escape a lot of people who live here,” Starita said. “We are going to try and bring everybody the same tent, so they can see ‘Wow, I never could have imagined that that would happen in my community.’”
To be in the class, students had to submit a detailed resume and fill out an application that included a 400-word essay to show off their writing skills, according to Starita.
LaDaysia Smith, a freshman undecided major, heard about the opportunity to join the class through her Social Justice, Human Rights and the Media class.
“I wanted to join this because UNL is a [predominantly white institution] and I thought this was an exceptional opportunity to hear the voices of Black peoples living here,” Smith said in an email. “The name of the class really pushed me to join. It honestly stood out to me that there would be a class centered around experiences like mine.”
Starita hopes to push students out of their comfort zone and give them the best experience he can in the classroom.
“I want them to have confidence that they can do things that they are not used to doing,” Starita said. “I want this group to work as both individuals and as a team. I want them to understand that this is one of the really important ways that you can make a difference in your own community.”
Starita said he hopes to get all 12 of the profiles published in the Lincoln Journal Star. According to him, these profiles will expose a completely different world that many people don’t know exists.
Smith said she is really looking forward to the class and cannot wait for it to start in the spring.
“I’m looking forward to being an active listener to the stories and narratives provided because the problems and experiences of people of color, in general, tend to be overlooked and ignored,” Smith said. “I also hope this class puts things into perspective for people who are not Black and living in Lincoln.”
Starita said he wants the class to be as raw and real as possible, and to make a difference in the community.
“I just really want this class to peel away those dual realities in Lincoln and expose the different worlds we all live in,” Starita said.