Tyler Perry is beloved to the point that there is now a college class centered around the filmmaker.
NBC News reports English and creative writing assistant professor Tameka Cage Conley is leading 14 freshmen students as they take on the “In the Language of Folk and Kin: The Legacy of Folklore, the Griot and Community in the Artistic Praxis of Tyler Perry” course at Oxford College of Emory University.
Conley was inspired to create the course as she has always been enlightened by Perry’s influence in entertainment.
This becomes the first college course in the country that centers on Perry’s recognizable contributions and works, as he has been a staple across many homes in the country.
For Conley, she recognizes Perry has played a pinnacle role as a storyteller within Black communities that she believes usually go unnoticed.
“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, 45, said, according to NBC News.
Conley’s vision would not be possible without getting a green light from the dean of Oxford College, Douglas Hicks, who now serves as the president of Davidson College in North Carolina.
“I was thrilled because I knew that it was monumental,” Conley told NBC News.
The class officially kicked into gear in August.
Since then, students have been introduced to the discussion surrounding topics like Perry’s 2019 BET Ultimate Icon Award acceptance speech with Cornelius Eady’s poem “Gratitude” and Perry’s eulogy at Whitney Houston’s 2012 funeral with elegies by Black poets such as Jericho Brown, Danez Smith, and Nicole Sealey.
Learners are also diving into Perry’s origins.
As AfroTech previously told you, before Perry acquired his billion-dollar fortune, he once was living out of a car as he was struggling to navigate the entertainment industry in Atlanta, GA. The course discusses his early struggles and how he prevailed to become one of Hollywood’s most notable Black filmmakers.
“His origin story is very touching,” said Tolu Olaleye, a student in the course, according to NBC News. “The aurora and presence that he gives when he speaks make people sit and listen and be like, ‘Oh, I can do whatever I put my mind to.’”
Olaleye’s sentiment affirms the importance of Conley’s course. The educator’s wish is for students to be reminded to reach for the stars and to be okay with releasing their untold stories to the world.
“I want these young people to have a safe space to engage every element of who they are without feeling like they have to leave anything at the door,” Conley said. “They can bring their full selves to the classroom, as we sit at the table together. And so I thought that Tyler Perry is the person who enables me to be a conduit for them to feel safe.”