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The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

The Student News Site of San Francisco State University

Golden Gate Xpress

Black love celebrated in new SFSU course

As the end of Black History Month approaches, one student will continue to celebrate the Black community through her course
Natalie Rocha
Starr Washington poses for a photo in an HSS building classroom where she teaches EXCO 301.23, “An Introduction to Black Love,” on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024. (Natalie Rocha / Golden Gate Xpress)

She never saw herself as a teacher but when her minor in Africana studies had course cuts last semester, Starr Washington was inspired to develop and instruct a course in the Experimental College to earn credits. 

The third-year Broadcast & Electronic Communication Arts (BECA) student’s course, “An Introduction to Black Love,” examines self-love, romantic, and familial forms of love within the Black community.

The EXCO program provides opportunities for students to develop and instruct courses in areas of interest while also earning credits toward their degrees.  

Washington hopes that students gain a deeper understanding of how love has historically and continually shaped Black individuals and communities. 

“I never thought of myself teaching, but I’ve been getting more interested in the idea of working here being around so many amazing educators in this space — especially Black educators,” Washington said.

Dan Curtis-Cummins, director of EXCO, was happy to see Washington’s application and said the program needs more classes like “An Introduction to Black Love.” The course highlights how Black students played a leading role in the EXCO program’s early days.

“The Black Student Union — who was the leadership of EXCO at the very beginning — [has] that spirit of connecting back to where we started in the Civil Rights era,” Curtis-Cummins said.

Dr. Shanice Robinson-Blacknell, Washington’s mentor and supervisor, agreed. 

“I feel like society doesn’t teach us to love each other within our own community,” Robinson-Blacknell said. “And so I think what Starr is doing is beautiful and it should be added as a regular African studies class that they teach.” 

Washington’s Intro to Black Love hybrid course has four students enrolled that meet biweekly on Thursdays.

Ileana Rodriguez, an SFSU biology student, enrolled in the class after hearing about the course through Instagram; she wanted to take a class that interested her while fulfilling the requirements for her degree. 

“I love how passionate people like Starr are to share the wealth of their knowledge and experiences with the SF State community. What inspired me to take this course is my hopeless romanticism,” Rodriguez said. “I think that Black love is so rich and so much of Western culture has taken, or drawn inspiration, from the cultural wealth of the Black community. “

Robinson-Blacknell, who serves as senior director of culture and social justice, feels that this class serves as an opportunity to connect the Black community on campus. SFSU has several cultural and affiliation Black student groups, but few work closely together.

“We’re siloed, we’re divided. Black Greeks don’t talk to BSU. BSU doesn’t talk to Africana studies. Starr’s class can bridge that gap because it’s fostered on love,” Robinson-Blacknell said.

Washington, Robinson-Blacknell and Curtis-Cummins agree that this course, and EXCO courses in general, help drum up excitement for events happening on campus.

“My hope is that some classes can be a kind of incubator for action or for different events that people want to organize,” Curtis-Cummins said.

But closing the divide between Black organizations on campus and events may not be the only gap an EXCO course like Washington’s could bridge. According to Curtis-Cummins, EXCO courses could fill the void left by classes cut from SFSU’s spring schedule. 

“Maybe EXCO can step in and fill that gap in some way by teaching, or even just fill the gap for students who are looking for classes to take,” Curtis-Cummins said.

The EXCO application deadline for next fall will be March 22, 2024.

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About the Contributor
Natalie Rocha
Natalie Rocha, Staff Reporter
Natalie Rocha (she/her) is a staff writer at Golden Gate Xpress. She’s a journalism major with a minor in international relations. She was born and raised in the Salinas Valley where her interest in reporting began and she transferred to SF State. Last semester, Natalie studied abroad in Denmark at the Danish School of Media and Journalism where she covered stories on crime and the EU. In her free time, Natalie enjoys eating food, spending time with her family and hanging out with friends.

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