Faculty Spotlight: Danyelle Greene, Ph.D

Faculty Spotlight: Danyelle Greene, Ph.D

Defining and Redefining Blackness in American Cinema

For Danyelle Greene, Ph.D., watching movies as a child with her family was an analytical event. “There were always conversations about meaning and informal analyses of a film’s social, political and historical implications,” she said. “Most times I just sat and listened, but I was enthralled with the ways that film could speak to you as meaningful and entertaining.”

That fascination led Greene to grow up with a VHS camcorder in her hands, she said. She recorded her brother’s basketball games, family events, graduations and more, which, she added, helped her develop a passion to engage the world through media.

Greene, now an assistant professor in the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, eventually became a filmmaker whose research includes the study and production of African American cinema. More specifically, she studies points of unification, differences and even contradictions in the conversations that Black people have about themselves as they navigate American social, cultural, economic, religious and political life, she said. “My goal is to center the voices of Black people and Black communities.”

Before Florida Atlantic, Greene was a visiting instructor at Boston University and University of Georgia. At both places, she designed courses in her area of research expertise and interest, including courses on Black religion and film, as well as Black TV comedy. “Teaching is an important part of my role,” she said. “I believe that teaching is a practice of sharing knowledge. I learn throughout the course of a semester just as my students learn throughout the course.”

In 2021, Greene earned a doctorate in film and media studies at the University of Kansas. Her dissertation research highlighted depictions of Black Christianity in African American films. There’s an ongoing debate about defining and redefining blackness in communities. “This debate is valuable to examine, to challenge the monolithic perception of blackness,” she said. Greene earned her master’s degree in media studies and mass communication from Southern Illinois in Carbondale, and a bachelor’s degree in communication/media arts from Adrian College in Michigan.

“I grew up in Michigan in Metro Detroit. I knew nothing about graduate school or working in academia prior to going to college,” she said. But, as an undergraduate student, Greene was encouraged to apply for the Ronald E. McNair Program from the U.S. Department of Education, where she learned about the opportunities and possibilities that academic life might offer. “I had excellent professors and mentors as an undergraduate and graduate student. They were the ones who inspired me to go into academia and showed me a path to do it.”

Currently, one of Greene’s projects includes a nonfiction film about Black women and the politics of Black hair, called “Documenting Twice as Hard: Black Hair is Political.” Another project delves into the life of her 92-year-old grandmother who still drives herself to church on Sunday, rakes her own leaves, talks politics and reminisces about her life moving from the country where she helped to farm and raise her younger aunts and uncles to moving to the city of Memphis with her husband where she lived and worked while raising her eight children.

She also has a bigger film project in the works for the future. She plans to interview people who identify as Black to ask them how they would define and characterize this term. “There is no one definition,” she said, “but the conversation itself is important, and it’s something that is not often directly discussed.”

To Greene, “film and media are some of the most important and influential ways that we learn about ourselves, our society and others.”

If you would like more information, please contact us at dorcommunications@fau.edu.