The creative works and impact of Tyler Perry are at the center of a new course introduced to first-year students at Emory University in Georgia this fall.
According to NBC News, Tameka Cage Conley—who serves as an Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing—spearheaded and teaches the class, In the Language of Folk and Kin: The Legacy of Folklore, the Griot and Community in the Artistic Praxis of Tyler Perry to about 14 freshmen at the private college. The impetus for the first-of-it’s-kind course for Conley was a longstanding appreciation for Perry’s work and the passing of her family matriarch back in 2021, which spawned thoughts towards “the importance of strong female figures in Black families” and how Perry’s Madea character played a role in that.
“Ultimately, I thought it was vital to recognize that Perry was telling the stories about aspects of our communities that are usually ignored and people who are often ignored,” Conley explained to NBC News.
In a statement to The Root, she later said:
“Perry’s work has not been given the artistic merit it deserves and as an artist, humanitarian, philanthropist, visionary, and entrepreneur, he has transformed the landscape of individual and collective possibilities. In the wake of the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement and protests following the killing of George Floyd, there is a widely held notion that we currently exist in a moment of ‘Black renaissance’. I believe this class is timely during this movement and is timeless as the ancestral well from which Perry draws his inspiration.”
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Students who are taking part of the class will take a look at Perry’s significant speeches, TV shows and movies in tandem with bodies of work from influential Black authors like Zora Neale Hurston, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Ntozake Shange and more.