La Tasha Levy via Facebook

Most people only know the phrase “Black Lives Matter” as a slogan and a hashtag; they don’t understand the true meaning behind the movement. There are many rumors, misconceptions and misrepresentations of what it is about, but the folks behind a new class at the University of Washington aim to change that.

La Tasha Levy told UW Today that at first she was worried that her class would be out-of-date because everyone has seen the signs, heard the slogan, and either watched or participated directly in marches to protest racism and violence against black Americans, but she realized that’s what made her class important: going beyond Black Lives Matter as a slogan.

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Levy’s class, “#BlackLivesMatter in Media and Popular Culture,” is offered this spring at the university.

“Black Lives Matter has almost become a household name,” Levy said, “but it’s not clear the extent to which people are plugged into the analysis of race, the disparities in housing, employment and police violence—all the intellectual arguments that are part of it.”

According to UW Today, Levy’s course is one of only a few of its type in the country, and one of only two offered in the state of Washington. Many colleges and universities have had symposiums, guest speakers and teach-ins, but few have an actual for-credit class.

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Levy’s class has an enrollment of 36 students who meet twice weekly to examine readings and videos about issues such as the history of black liberation efforts, the role of LGBTQ people in Black Lives Matter, criminalization of youths of color, the effectiveness of protest and what it means to be a movement ally.

At the beginning of the quarter, the class began by identifying and exploring the backgrounds of Black Lives Matter founders Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors and Opal Tometi, and that discussion expanded into students sharing opinions and insights from observations and their own experiences.

For their final project, students are required to create an educational resource for children, teens or adults that raises awareness, deepens understanding or counters misinformation.

Levy believes that balancing personal anecdotes and opinions with intellectual analysis is an important part of the learning process.

“It’s a politically charged topic, and some students might be shy because they don’t want to say the wrong thing,” she said. “But this isn’t about advocacy for Black Lives Matter. I don’t want to shut down opposing viewpoints or critical viewpoints. I want them to think about challenges and obstacles and shortcomings, and how we learn from those.”

Read more at UW Today.