Claremont, Calif. (March 9, 2017)—Black Lives Matter: Lifespan Perspectives, a new book edited by Pitzer College Professor Halford Fairchild and co-authored with undergraduates from his Introduction to African American Psychology course, examines issues that affect people of African descent around the world. It is the second in a series of textbooks that Fairchild has produced with students from Pitzer and The Claremont Colleges.
“This book celebrates the Black Lives Matter movement and explores the perils that confront people of African descent,” said Fairchild, who is professor emeritus of psychology and Africana studies. “It also represents a paradigm shift in higher education. The most important advance in this project was the shift from teaching students information to teaching students how to be producers of knowledge.”
The book opens with Fairchild’s exploration of the philosophical ideas underlying the field of Black psychology. The next four parts of the book are divided into life stages, ranging from birth to old age. Here, student-written chapters tackle topics including infant mortality in Sub-Saharan Africa, prenatal care for low-income African American women, the school-to-prison pipeline and the challenges of being a Black student at a predominately White college. Eleven of Black Lives Matter: Lifespan Perspectives’ student-authors were Pitzer undergraduates.
Fairchild and his class set out to create a book that encompasses international issues and experiences shaped by the African diaspora. He invited students to write about “any part of the world that grabbed their interest and attention.”
Brendan Nwankwo ’16 said he wrote a chapter on infant mortality in Nigeria in part because he has family in the West African nation. “There was a good amount of literature on children’s mortality in Nigeria and many other African nations,” Nwankwo said. “This was troubling to me, so I decided to draw attention to the crisis.”
Black Lives Matters is the second in a series of three books Professor Fairchild produced in collaboration with students during the 2015-16 academic year, the last year he taught at Pitzer before retiring. The first book, (Re)Solving Violence in America, was published in January 2016; the third, Social Psychology and World Peace: A Primer, is scheduled to be released this spring. Each book turns undergraduates, some in their first year of college, into authors. Fairchild says educational theorist Paulo Freire’s challenge to educators “to make students more producers of knowledge than consumers” shaped his approach to teaching.
“Instead of pouring information into students and testing their understanding and retention, I taught them to ask relevant questions, acquire and synthesize research, and produce cogent—and publishable—written analyses,” Fairchild said.
Taylor Mensik ’18, who wrote a chapter on community violence, said Fairchild’s Introduction to African American Psychology was “unlike any other class I’ve had in college.” “Writing an article for publication was a very different experience than other writing assignments because you are writing something that will not just receive a grade, but will potentially inspire others.”
Psychologist Thomas A. Parham, who is the vice chancellor of student affairs at the University of California, Irvine, writes that the book successfully captures “the voices of our younger generation.”
“In harnessing the sophisticated yet weathered sounds of a veteran psychologist’s experience and combining it with the freshness of student voices eager to take flight amid the plague of social injustice sweeping America, these essays are a symphony of compelling narratives.”
Over the span of the book’s 362 pages, Black Lives Matter: Lifespan Perspectives takes a global, multi-faceted approach to understanding the interconnected issues underlying the movement, and the meaning, of the phrase “Black Lives Matter.”
“That meaning is captured on every single page of the book,” Fairchild said. “Another thing that’s throughout the book is the idea that all lives matter. The students and I extended some of the discussion not just to Africans and African Americans, but to the totality of humanity, particularly discriminated-against minority groups.”
The anthology was used as part of a course at University of California, Riverside, this past semester.
Black Lives Matter: Lifespan Perspectives was published by Indo American Books and is available on Amazon. Professor Fairchild is donating all proceeds from this series of books to the Yuri Hosoi Fairchild Endowed Memorial Scholarship and The Halford H. Fairchild Endowed Scholarship in Africana Studies, two endowed scholarships Fairchild established at Pitzer College.