‘Fake slave persona’ assignment outrages students, SDSU community

Students refusal to participate in assignment has jeopardized their grades causing them to fear failing the course


Illustration by Emily Forschen

Africana Studies professor LaShae Sharp-Collins is being called out for instructing students to create a fictional slave character and to act it out in her Introduction to Africana Studies course.

Amari Jackson, a student in Sharp-Collin’s class posted a picture of the assignment on Instagram sparking outrage amongst the San Diego State community.

The assignment instructed students to, “create a ‘slave persona’ for yourself.” The instructions asked for them to include the following about their fake enslaved persona: what kind of a household they live in, what kind of a person or family owns them, what kind of work they are expected to do and any relatives they may have. The assignment specifically asked to describe the events surrounding their “slave persona’s” escape and process.

The original assignment required students to dress, act, talk, and present themselves as their “slave persona” in class, including using broken language. Sharp-Collins canceled the presentation aspect of this assignment due to the size of the class being too large, according to Amari’s post that accrued over 2,000 likes and 300 comments.

In his caption, he said that he should never have to act like and create a fictional slave narrative.

“But hey, at least my professor canceled the in-class presentations where she wanted us to act and dress in our personas,” he said.

Sharp-Collins was given a chance to comment on the situation but repeatedly referred The Daily Aztec to department chair Dr. Adisa A. Alkebulan. The editorial team reached out to Alkebulan and SDSU media relations through email and await for a response. 

Robbie Jackson, a student enrolled in the course, said the assignment “felt really insensitive” and refused to turn it in.

“Being a person who is black, (and) knowing that my family actually had to go through that was a really uncomfortable ask,” they said. “It’s like familial trauma and it’s this deeply rooted issue.”

Two other students in the same class, who asked to be unnamed in fear of retaliation from their professor, also omitted from doing the narrative. 

One of them emailed Sharp-Collins expressing their “extreme” discomfort in doing the assignment and asked for an alternative, even offered to do more work. Sharp-Collins denied their request. The student fears for their academic standing as this is the first class they are failing but does not regret refusing to participate in the assignment. 

Robbie said it is important to learn about slavery from the Africana Studies Department but pretending to have experienced the tragedy of slavery was not the way to go.