With the Latinx population in North Carolina continuing to rise, this fall Western Carolina University introduced a Latinx Learning Community.
English lecturer Melissa Birkhofer, English associate professor Paul Worley and associate professor of Spanish Lori Oxford are each teaching a course for the learning community, which they hope soon will transition into an academic minor.
“We’re excited about the Latinx Learning Community,” Birkhofer said. “We have about 18 students in the community. We’re also glad that it ties in with the One Book selection ‘The Book of Unknown Americans’ and the campus learning theme, ‘Defining America.’ ”
This fall, Birkhofer is teaching “First-Year Seminar: Introduction to Latinx Studies and Visual Cultures.” Students are learning about Latinx communities and cultures. Discussions are centered around literature, migration, art, music and theory. The students also will research and design materials related to the trilingual photo-essay exhibit “We Were Migrants: Chronicle of Indigenous Migrants from Chiapas, Mexico” that will be on display in Gallery 130 of the Fine Art Museum from Sept. 17 through Oct. 12 for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Worley is teaching “Writing and Rhetoric Themed Course: Latinx Studies Focusing.” Students are examining topics of immigration, transnationalism and belonging through a rhetorical lens. The course ties in with the Latinx Learning Community’s overall topic, “Explorations in Latinx Cultures.”
In the spring, Oxford will teach “North American and Caribbean Literature,” in which students will examine a wide range of readings from Spanish-speaking communities in North America and the Caribbean. The focus will be on works from ethnic groups that are most visible within the U.S.
Birkhofer said the Latinx Learning Community also ties in nicely with the Josefina Niggli Latinx Speakers Series, which kicks off Thursday, Sept. 6, with the screening of “DOLORES,” which is presented in conjunction with Vecinos Farmworker Health Program and is a One Book and DegreePlus event. It is a documentary about Dolores Huerta, who co-founded the first farm workers union with Cesar Chavez, yet her contributions have gone largely unrecognized. The screening will be at 4 p.m. in the A.K. Hinds University Center theater.
Wednesday, Sept. 26, features the Donny Brito May poetry reading at 6 p.m. in the UC theater. Donny Brito May is an indigenous Mexican poet and winner of several Mexican national poetry awards. He currently teaches Maya language and culture at the Intercultural Maya University of Quintana Roo, Mexico.
On Thursday, Sept. 27, at 3 p.m. in the UC theater, there will be a screening of the documentary “Maya Faces in a Smoking Mirror.” The screening is presented in conjunction with the “We Were Migrants” photo-essay. It is about Maya culture and community identity confronting contemporary development, exploitation and commodification.
From Oct. 15 to Nov. 2, there will be an exhibit titled “Day of the Dead Interactive Altar” displayed outside of the Intercultural Affairs office in the UC.
For more information about the Latinx Learning Community or the Josefina Niggli Latinx Speakers Series, contact Birkhofer at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-227-3272.