• MHCC Now Offering Multiple Courses Focused on the African American Experience

    GRESHAM, Ore. – Students who attend Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) this Fall will have the opportunity to take literature and human development courses specifically focused on the African American experience.

    African American experience

    This Fall and Winter, African American Literature (ENG 257) will be offered for the first time in the college’s history. A new take on Human Development (PSY 237) will also provide insight into the impact that institutional racism has on overall development. The classes can be taken in tandem or independently and an African American History class is in the works for Winter Term as well.

    “When the protests and Black Lives Matter movement started happening in Portland, the social sciences and humanities divisions at the college made it a goal to decolonize our curriculum,” said Sara Rivara, dean of humanities and social science at MHCC. “Every student has the right to see themselves in the curriculum.”

    MHCC’s African American Literature course will include readings that span the full range of genres from folklore to fiction and nonfiction, poetry, song lyrics and more. Works covered will span centuries from slavery to contemporary writers and feature authors such as Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglass, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison. It will also feature Audre Lorde, Randall Kenan and contemporary writers who are highly acclaimed such as Nikki Finney, Roxanne Gay and Portland’s own, Mitchell Jackson.

    “The only way we can know about another person’s life is to read about that life or hear those people speak about their lives,” said Scarlett Saavedra, who will be teaching African American Literature this Fall.

    That is one of the reasons why Nereyda Alcantar, a second-year MHCC student, is looking forward to taking Saavedra’s literature class.

    “I’m excited to read other people’s perspectives and read what they were feeling at the time because so much of what we learn in school is through a white person’s perspective,” she said. “If you read something by a Black person, you are getting inside their head and learning how they were feeling. That is so important to learn about, especially right now.”

    MHCC has offered Human Development courses for years, but this Fall will mark the first time one will focus specifically on the psychological impacts of institutional racism.

    “It looks at how we develop physically, socially, cognitively and emotionally across the lifespan. We will still cover Human Development overall, but I am going to tie in articles, videos and speakers that will highlight the impact of systemic racism on the different developmental stages,” said Nicole Bragg-Scott, who will be teaching Psychology 237 this Fall.

    For example, during the portions of the class that focus on the pre-natal and birth stages of development, Bragg-Scott plans on bringing in a Black OBGYN to speak to the class about how Black mothers tend to have disproportionately higher death rates and infant mortality rates. Other portions of the class will focus on topics such as addressing achievement gaps in STEM and literacy in Black communities in Portland, as well as across the country.

    “That’s important to learn about too – that Black people aren’t just this damaged, hurt people. We have accomplished a lot in spite of everything,” Bragg-Scott said.

    Bragg-Scott and Saavedra designed the curriculum of their courses to be complementary, so students are encouraged to take them together, but both instructors note that they can be taken independently and still provide ample value and insight.

    “When you learn and read about different perspectives and different views, it can’t be anything other than helpful to your overall life experience,” Bragg-Scott said.

    Fall Term begins on Sept. 21 and registration is open at https://my.mhcc.edu/ICS/. Students who would like more information about African American Literature (ENG 257) or Human Development (PSY 237) can contact sara.rivara@mhcc.edu.