Confronting Black Terror with Dr. Tisha M. Brooks

“To travel is to confront terror.”–Dr. Tisha M. Brooks

Assistant Professor of English, Dr. Tisha M. Brooks, recently gave a lecture as part of the Black Studies Lecture Series. The topic of her lecture was black mobility and terror in Jordan Peele’s film “Get Out.” An American satirical horror released in 2017, the film is about a young black man (Chris Washington) who travels to upstate New York to meet his white girlfriend’s parents (Missy and Dean Armitage) for the first time and showcases his terrifying encounters with white people during the journey, including being racially profiled by a police officer on the car drive and being auctioned off for sale at the Armitage family home. To further invoke this sense of terror, the film opens with a black man (Andre Logan King) being assaulted and abducted while walking through a white suburb at night, making parallels to the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin.

After seeing “Get Out,” Brooks sought to present a different perspective about the film. “To travel as a black person is to confront what bell hooks refers to as the ‘terror of white supremacy’ and I want to make visible the historical connections between the past and present in the film. This experience of mobility is still very much an issue that black people face today,” commented Brooks. Amelia Williams, senior and Undergraduate Research and Creative Activities (URCA) Assistant, worked with her on the project. “Working with Dr. Brooks was a great experience. We were able to highlight many of the subtle messages Jordan Peele presented in this film and as our research continued, I realized we were focusing on the fascination of white people with controlling the black body,” she said. Williams noted how working on the project enabled her to stimulate difficult conversations related to race/racism in and outside of the classroom.  

Brooks’ research and teaching interests lie in African American literature, Women’s Studies, and Religion. Through her work, she seeks to help people understand the significance of black travel and how black mobility has and continues to be informed by the legacy of slavery. “Black people have travelled all over the country and the world engaged in political, spiritual, and cultural work. While they have long used mobility as a pathway to freedom, their writing also documents persistent experiences of racism, anti-black violence, and the struggle to find a home where they can be fully free.” Bridging her interdisciplinary interests in black travel writing and spiritual autobiography, Brooks has been working on a new area of research, initially funded through a Seed Grants for Transitional and Exploratory Projects (STEP), that explores the intersection of spirituality and mobility in black women’s writing. “Travel writing fascinates me because I am interested in the connections across time—the experiences of black travelers in the past are still very relevant for us today,” she commented. She plans to publish her research in a book entitled, “Spirit Deep: Recovering the Sacred in Black Women’s Travel,” which is under advanced contract with the University of Virginia Press.

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