Each year, only about 1,000 African Americans men earn doctoral degrees in the United States. Last month, JBHE posted an article on four Black men who were awarded doctoral degrees from one academic department a Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.
Now this accomplishment has been repeated at Ohio State University. Four Black men earned doctorates this spring in the College of Education and Human Ecology under the mentorship of Dr. Terrell Strayhorn, the youngest full professor in Ohio State’s history (See JBHE post). This is the first time that four Black men have earned doctorates in the same department in the university’s history.
Royel Johnson earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and master’s degree in education policy from the University of Illinois. His doctoral dissertation examined the influence that early arrest plays on Black males’ odds for college enrollment. He works as policy analyst in the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at Ohio State.
Leroy Long earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio, and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from The Ohio State University. His dissertation explored the influence of technology adoption and use on first-year engineering students’ academic success. This fall, Dr. Long will be a tenure-track assistant professor of engineering education at Embry-Riddle University in Daytona Beach, Florida.
Todd Suddeth earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the University of Akron and master’s degree in public policy from The Ohio State University. His doctoral dissertation examined the career decision-making processes of Black male college students. His research won the 2015 Loadman Dissertation of the Year Award. He works as a program director in the Todd Bell National Resource Center at Ohio State.
Derrick Tillman-Kelly earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Illinois Wesleyan University in Bloomington and a master’s in degree higher education from Indiana University. His dissertation focused on identity label adoption and usage among gay college students of color. He works as special assistant to the director in the Center for Higher Education Enterprise at Ohio State.
Mr. Emanuel Young, coordinator for Manhattan Business Academy‘s VEI firm, Versorna, is the 2015 New York City Teacher of the Year. Mr. Young was recognized for setting a high standard for student performance, guiding his students toward success, and fostering an excellent collaborative environment that allowed students to grow.
Meet Mr. Emanuel Young
Emanuel earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Marketing from Morehouse College and a Master’s degree in Special Education from CUNY Brooklyn College. Prior to teaching, he worked as an assistant buyer for Lord and Taylor. Drawing on his corporate experience, Emanuel has coordinated the creative efforts of the VEI clothing retailer, Versorna. Under his leadership, the firm has advanced to the citywide competition 3 years in a row and has been honored at the NYC Trade Show for “Best Website” in VE, three years in a row. His true craft in work is shown through the students he teaches.
The U.S. Black Chambers Inc. has launched an initiative to nurture the next generation of young Black male entrepreneurs, with a focus on closing the economic gap and providing positive role models in the community.
On Tuesday, Howard Jean, Chief Engineer of Young Black Male Entrepreneur Institute, Keith Benjamin, Chief Organizer/Connector of Young Black Male Entrepreneur Institute, and BenCarter,CEO ofManager Your Damn Money and former participant in the institute, joined Roland Martinon NewsOne Now to talk about the initiative aimed at developing new Black male entrepreneurs.
The Black Male Entrepreneur (BME) Institute provides both seasoned and novice millennial black male entrepreneurs with a 16 week dynamic and personalized business developmental experience. The selected cohort will matriculate through a curricula led by subject matter experts from the framework of our nation’s most competitive business institutions. The entrepreneurs will also receive business development counseling from a cadre of diverse business leaders with a culminating experience that allows cohort members to pitch to a selection of CEO’s and investors from the region. Through this experience, cohort members will exchange ideas, lessons learned and best practices with fellow entrepreneurs during formal and informal sessions as they enhance, education & empower one another.
Howard Jean told Martin, “Not having the right business training and the background — it stifles your growth and development and can discourage you and force you back into the 9-to-5 work-force.”
Jean added the Young Black Male Entrepreneur Institute came out of a need to have access to individuals who can support, give insight, and lend expertise to those who may be struggling with their businesses.
“Having the expertise of senior leaders is going to help us propel” the young men who come out of the program to “higher heights and accelerate their growth,” said Jean.
Watch Roland Martin, Howard Jean, Keith Benjamin, and Ben Carter discuss the U.S. Black Chambers’ Young Black Male Entrepreneur Institute in the video clip above.
Dr. Umar Johnson has long been considered an expert on how the American educational system uses learning disabilities to label black children, particularly black boys. He holds a Doctor of Clinical Psychology degree and is a Nationally Certified School Psychologist. He has also worked as a trainer, teaching educators and mental health care staff on a variety of psycho-educational topics, and as a child therapist. He is the author ofPsycho-Academic Holocaust: The Special Education & ADHD War Against Black Boys.
As recently reported by the Atlanta BlackStar, Dr. Johnson is now trying to take his work and message to the next level by purchasing St. Paul’s College, a HBCU located in Lawrenceville, Virginia. If he is able to raise the necessary $5 million by August 21st, he is hoping to convert the college into a boarding school for African American men. Dr. Johnson believes the residential educational facility will be a valuable tool in helping Black men overcome the educational racism that is prevalent in schools across America.
He hopes to rename the school the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy for Black boys. The curriculum would include training students based on a global business model that will enable them to pursue careers of “self-employment and entrepreneurship.” Dr. Johnson is aiming to provide young men with real world experiences, so that they will be more prepared when entering the labor market. In a statement on BlackNews.com, Dr. Johnson states that the he believes “Our children have to be taught how to make a living anywhere in this world regardless of the circumstances of the political economy in which they live. The FDMG Academy will teach our children to be masters of agricultural/agronomical science, economic/financial science, political/military science, nutritional/dietary science, family/community science and African centered spiritual/cosmological science.”
To make a donation towards Dr. Johnson’s purchase of St. Paul Paul’s College and the opening of the Frederick Douglass and Marcus Garvey RBG International Leadership Academy, click here.
The pressures of life will attempt to challenge the existence of your being, define yourself to withstand the pressure. ~ Raymond Roy-Pace
TheBlackManCan has made its way to Philadelphia, PA to bring you another Black Man making positive and remarkable contributions in the city of brotherly love. We proudly present educator and servant leader Raymond Roy-Pace Founder and Executive Director of BeU365. Raymond sits down with TheBlackManCan to discuss being a scholar-athlete, lifting as you climb, pursuing advanced degrees and advice for young men of today.
TheBlackManCan: Raymond, can you share a little about your childhood and how it shaped you into the man you are today?
RP: I grew up in an impoverished urban community in Philadelphia, PA. I spent time living with my mother and grandmother as a child. My neighborhood was plagued with the same issues of drugs, violence and lack of resources that most urban communities are faced with. Firsthand experience with some of these issues in my own home weaved a tough skin and an unrelenting will to become better than the world I was so familiar with. I would not be the man I am today without the unwavering support I received from my grandmother and my other family members. My uncles each stepped in at pivotal times in my development not only to help usher me in to manhood but to broaden my horizons and expose me to a world unlike my own.
TheBlackManCan: You are the perfect example of what it means to be a scholar-athlete. How do we get more young men to realize what it means and the importance of being a scholar–athlete?
RP: To get students to understand what it means to be a scholar athlete we need to give them some of those who exemplify those qualities. Myron Rolle was a Rhodes Scholar and aspiring neurosurgeon. He spent time in the NFL but eventually choose to practice medicine. Maurice Bennett was a 4 year Academic and Football All American that passed over the NFL because he would become more profitable working on Wall Street. I provided these examples because these men created options for themselves. I am an academic and scholar athlete sidelined after a subdural hematoma (bleeding in the head). I was successful in the completion of two degrees, successful in developing my own youth development program and while also educating others in the classroom. 1 million children playing football, approximately 250 of them will make a NFL team each year. In other sports these numbers may vary but not too far off. The world of athletics has its own fan club. The same way we glorify the kid who made the buzzer beater shot in a game, we have to do the same with every positive note a teacher’s sends home and every A or B on a report card so our kids can began to see value in hard work and excelling in the classroom.
TheBlackManCan: You spent time as a case manager focusing on truancy. Can you tell is the three major issues behind truancy and what steps need to be taken to overcome them?
RP: The most consistent issues I saw facing students involved in truancy where the low expectations for students either imposed in them by the family or school. For some of the families it was hard to see value in education if they did not have it. Poor coping skills within the families in dealing with life’s issues and the lack of positive role models were also a contributing factor. So many students are experiencing “life” but they do not have the support system within the homes or schools to keep them encouraged. It is hard to open up to people when they do not feel they understand them.
Your education does not stop when the school bell rings, keep a book handy and unlock the mysteries of life. ~Raymond Roy-Pace
TheBlackManCan: How important is it to lift as you climb? How has this ideology helped you in life?
RP: I have been fortunate in my life to have incredible mentors take chances on me when I had nothing to offer but a will to work. It would be robbery if I did not do the same for others. We are more successful when we employ others to exercise their gifts because they then become resources.
TheBlackManCan: As a 5th grade teacher can you share with us what parents should be doing in the home to make sure their child arrives on grade level?
RP: Research indicates one of the number one indicators of student academic success is their reading ability. It is important for families to establish a reading schedule within their homes. Just spending 15-30 minutes a day reading or being read to would expand students’ imaginations, open their eyes to the world around them and ultimately prepare them for school. Parents should also talk to children their children because encourages them to communicate what they feel and helps them to understand why which could ultimately have a great impact on classroom and peer behavior.
TheBlackManCan: Tell us more about BeU365. What is the meaning behind the name and the mission and vision?
RP: BeU365 is a self-developed program that aspires to inspire youth through creative education, mentorship and real world experiences. The vision came from the idea of wanting to encourage young people to be who they truly are and not conform to the expectations of society. The three pillars of the program consist of creative education, mentorship and real world experiences, all of which are geared towards various aspects of helping to create positive and independent thinking. Creative education incorporates a project learning based curriculum designed to strengthen basic math skills but from a real life perspective and the facilitation workshops. Mentorship encompasses one-on-one mentorship, the speaker series, and mentoring curriculum. The real world experiences that are still in development focus on getting middle school students out of the classroom and into internships to apply what they are learning.
Wherever you find yourself in life it is not by mistake. There is a lesson to be learned in preparation for your greater. ~ Raymond Roy-Pace
TheBlackManCan: You recently obtained a Master’s degree. What did you pursue it and why is it important to show young people that they should pursue more than just a bachelor’s degree?
RP: Yes! Ma’ma I made it! (laughs) I completed my Master of Arts and Teaching from Cheyney University in December 2012 after several conversations with my mentor Howard Jean about my career endeavors. He encouraged me to consider it if I planned to make a long lasting impact in the world of education. The journey of completing my masters was invaluable because I was able to share it with my students. Particularly in our urban communities, higher education is a mystery because they have so few examples of people that have obtained degrees. Our world is changing and the status quo is unacceptable, that is to say if ever it was acceptable. The jobs of old are no longer available and to be a part of the decision making process may also mean having those credentials.
TheBlackManCanWhere do you see yourself and your endeavors in the next five years?
RP: In the next five years I see myself back in education administration as a school leader. When I resigned from running the operations of Birney Prep Academy, it was to gain the practical experience that will ultimately help me become an informed school founder. There is a lot of politics that go into running schools and having my own school I believe I can limit some of that.
Young people are looking for someone to aspire to be and we must be the ones willing to be the example. ~Raymond Roy-Pace
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important for Black Boys and Men to see positive images of themselves?
RP: We aspire to be what we see. There cannot be an expectation of young black boys to gravitate towards becoming something they cannot identify with. There are very prominent youth and men of color making a positive impact in the world however it is not exactly breaking news at ten. Young people are looking for someone to aspire to be and we must be the ones willing to be the example.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you have for young black males of today?
RP: To my young black brothers understand that your life is purposed. You have gifts and talents that the world awaits to unwrap. Wherever you find yourself in life it is not by mistake. There is a lesson to be learned in preparation for your greater. Spend time talking to those that have experienced more of life than you, there you will find wisdom. Your education does not stop when the school bell rings, keep a book handy and unlock the mysteries of life. Know who you are and whose you are. The pressures of life will attempt to challenge the existence of your being, define yourself to withstand the pressure.
Courtney English was unanimously elected chairman of the Atlanta School Board.
By Mark Niesse
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta’s newly elected school board took office Monday and unanimously voted for Courtney English to become the board chairman.
Voters chose six new representatives last fall, bringing major turnover to the nine-member board.
The school board, which also named Nancy Meister as vice chairwoman, includes four former teachers, three graduates of Atlanta Public Schools, nonprofit organizers, attorneys, and parent community leaders
It is surrounded by a handful of vacant lots and remnants of abandoned buildings, where the kids sometimes run laps at night.
“It’s not, like, really safe for us to go out there and train,” 19-year-old boxer Anthony Flagg Jr. said. “But we do it anyway. They say boxing, you’re risking your life.”
For these kids, there are risks both in and out of the ring.
Across train tracks, less than a mile away from the gym, there’s a scene of a different kind: a new Whole Foods grocery– a sign of new life for the struggling city.
“I appreciate and applaud all the efforts goin’ into [...] buildin’ the city,” Sweeney said. “But the residents themselves, they’re not gonna see that for a long time, and they’re still suffering. So places like this is a good place for kids to go. ”
“A lot of doors opened up for us,” Sweeney said. “There was a lot of people working behind the scenes, but a lot more people reached out to us.”
Sweeney, who still goes to pick up students for practice, now uses donated Zipcars to get around the city. Rides are not limited to and from the gym; the students’ parents can call for help as necessary.
“They are my family, all of ‘em,” Sweeney said. “I wouldn’t drive across the planet, you know, if they wasn’t.”
Inside of the gym, a new ring stands, complete with a life-sized wall decal of Sweeney and the boxers. A few feet away from the ring, the tutoring area boasts new furniture, fresh paint, and updated computers.
Teach for America Detroit started a partnership with the gym, assigning seven teachers to work alongside the gym’s pre-existing tutors to help strengthen the gym’s academic program.
“Seeing kids using boxing to give them more confidence and focus on their self-esteem, I think education can be used the same way,” Teach For America Detroit community coordinator Lauren Coleman said. “Our goal is to provide students with at least an hour a day [of] tutoring and prep, and also … college and career readiness.”
Another major change is on the horizon: The gym has raised more than $175,000 in donations toward a new facility that Sweeney hopes will be able to accommodate some of the gym’s more than 150 kids that remain on the waiting list.
“That’s one of the things we can’t afford to do, just keep kids waitin’ around,” Sweeney said. “If they’re just sitting around, I mean, nobody’s helping them at that point, you know?”
Today, that help also comes in the form of mentoring and improved self-esteem.
“I think I’m turning into a role model,” Flagg said. “It makes me feel good on the inside, that kids be askin’ me for help with their homework and for advice. I never thought I’d be givin’ anybody advice.”
“You know, boxing is a male-dominated thing,” said boxer Christal Berry, 15. “I think it gives me a lot of power, because I feel really good, I feel strong.”
Parent club leader Sheba McKinney, whose daughter and son visit DBG every weekday, said the gym gives her peace of mind.
“It gives [the kids] an outlet of something to do, so they’re not just out in the streets,” she said. “This gives them something to work hard for.”
Sweeney and the kids have also found appreciation and recognition within their community. The Detroit Pistons recently invited every kid and volunteer to a basketball game, after which they received a monetary donation from the Meijer store for winter coats.
Despite the positive changes over the past year for the gym, Sweeney says there’s much more to be done—and a much larger need to fill.
“Right now, the kids need it more than ever,” Sweeney said. “Detroit is still a rough place, you know. With all the progress that we’re makin’, we can’t forget the fact that a lot of people are still suffering.”
Jessica Hauser, the gym’s executive director, believes the gym’s growth and progress thus far is proving to be a good lesson for the boxers.
“It’s okay to struggle,” she said. “It’s okay as long as you’re working towards your dream and that you can make it happen … And I think that’s what the [new gym] will show them. That hard work does pay off.”
Make Music Count is the new creative Mathematics curriculum that teaches each lesson through learning how to play a song on the piano. Each musical note that is played is derived by solving an algebraic equation. Here is a new method teachers can use to excite students about learning mathematics. Mathematics will be seen as fun while also strengthening students understanding of solving algebra equations once they Make Music Count!
“If you want to see what may well be the most optimistic, inspiring and downright thrilling movie released all year—then absolutely do not miss . . . Brooklyn Castle.”—Andrew O’Hehir, Salon
This public-school powerhouse in junior high chess competitions has won more than 30 national championships, the most of any school in the country. Its 85-member squad boasts so many strong players that the late Albert Einstein, a dedicated chess maven, would rank fourth if he were on the team. Most astoundingly, I.S. 318 is a Brooklyn school that serves mostly minority students from families living below the poverty line. Brooklyn Castle is the exhilarating story of five of the school’s aspiring young players and how chess became the school’s unlikely inspiration for academic success.
Katie Dellamaggiore’s Brooklyn Castle has its national broadcast premiere on Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 at 10 p.m. (check local listings) on the award-winning PBS documentary series POV (Point of View). The film will stream on POV’s website, www.pbs.org/brooklyncastle, from Oct. 8- Nov. 6, 2013. The film is part of the new PBS INDIES SHOWCASE, a four-week series of independent documentaries airing on Monday nights from Sept. 30-Oct. 21.
The late I.S. principal Fred Rubino pointed out that extracurricular activities are not really “extra,” because they teach “the whole child.” Beginning in 2000, under the tutelage of chess teacher and coach Elizabeth Spiegel and assistant principal John Galvin, the school expanded its small chess program and began competing in national tournaments. The results have been stunning: more than 30 national chess titles, including the 2012 U.S. High School National Championship, a first for a junior high.
Meet the students:
Justus Williams, 11 years old, is a prodigy, already one of America’s highest-ranked young chess players. Yet he is plagued by a tendency to freeze, stymied by the expectations created by his success.
Thirteen-year-old Rochelle Ballantyne, who broke the gender line of what had been an all-boys chess club, has the potential to become the first African-American female master in the history of chess. She is the first-ranked player in the school.
Pobo Efekoro, 12, is the big, boisterous, warm-hearted leader of the team. When the school’s budget for afterschool programs is cut, he runs for school president with the goal of mobilizing a student protest to get the cuts restored.
Twelve-year-old Alexis Paredes’ approach to chess is like his play—meditative and thoughtful. The second-ranked player at I.S. 318, he sees chess as a way to an education and a lucrative career that will allow him to support his Paraguayan immigrant family.
Patrick Johnston, 11, is a sensitive beginner who wants to raise his ranking to middle level. He has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and has taken to chess to develop concentration and patience.
For these kids, chess is more than a game, and winning is more than a matter of trophies. Brooklyn Castle is a clear-eyed look at a school program that has made a huge difference to students. It is equally a celebration of youth’s determination to dream, if given the chance.
“I had always been interested in making a film about Brooklyn, but I wanted to tell a story that people didn’t expect,” says Dellamaggiore. “We’re hoping, too, that the story in this film will make some lawmakers think twice before cutting funds for extracurricular activities.”
About Katie Dellamaggiore, Director/Producer:
Katie Dellamaggiore is a documentary producer and director whose work has appeared on MTV, A&E, HBO/Cinemax and VH1. She has held various production and outreach roles on award-winning documentaries, including 39 Pounds of Love,To Die in Jerusalem, 51 Birch Street and American Teen. Dellamaggiore co-produced After the Storm, a nonprofit theater and film project aimed at inspiring young people in post-Katrina New Orleans, and for A&E Classroom directed, produced and shot UR Life Online, which explored sexual solicitation and cyber bullying and received an Emmy nomination for single-camera editing. In 2010, she and her husband, Nelson Dellamaggiore, co-founded television and film production company Rescued Media. Brooklyn Castle is Katie Dellamaggiore’s feature directorial debut.
Brooklyn Castle is a production of Rescued Media in association with Indelible Marks and Chicken and Egg Pictures. The film is part of American Graduate: Let’s Make It Happen, a national public media initiative made possible by CPB to identify and implement solutions to the dropout crisis and help parents and teachers keep students on the path to a successful future.
PBS INDIES SHOWCASE
As part of its commitment to provide viewers with year-round access to the creative work of independent filmmakers, the PBS INDIES SHOWCASE is scheduled during the weeks between the seasons of the award-winning series POV and INDEPENDENT LENS and will feature films from both. While PBS features the work of independent filmmakers throughout the year, the SHOWCASE is designed to spotlight their work and increase audience visibility for this important genre.
Produced by American Documentary, Inc. and now in its 26th season on PBS, the award-winning POV is the longest-running showcase on American television to feature the work of today’s best independent documentary filmmakers. POV has brought more than 365 acclaimed documentaries to millions nationwide. POV films have won every major film and broadcasting award, including 32 Emmys, 15 George Foster Peabody Awards, 10 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards® and the Prix Italia. In 2012, POV achieved a new milestone, winning five News & Documentary Emmy® Awards. Since 1988, POV has pioneered the art of presentation and outreach using independent nonfiction media to build new communities in conversation about today’s most pressing social issues. Visit www.pbs.org/pov.
POV has the honor of receiving a 2013 MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, the desJardins/Blachman Fund and public television viewers. Funding for POV’s Diverse Voices Project is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Special support provided by The Fledgling Fund and the Lucius and Eva Eastman Fund. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.
In this lyrically infused talk, Crystal Belle challenges listeners to reconsider issues related to freedom and education. Drawing upon personal experience, Belle compares the success of an African-American female to the experiences of African-American males undergoing a series of trials and tribulations, both attending an inner-city public school system and coexisting within the same home environment. Belle is an educator, freelance writer, and poet and is currently a Doctoral student of English Education at Teachers College.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.*
Founded in 1995, The Brotherhood/Sister Sol (Bro/Sis) provides comprehensive, holistic and long-term support services to youth who range in age from eight to twenty-two. Bro/Sis offers wrap around evidence-based programming. The organization focuses on issues such as leadership development and educational achievement, sexual responsibility, sexism and misogyny, political education and social justice, Pan-African and Latino history, and global awareness. Bro/Sis provides four-six year rites of passage programming, thorough five day a week after school care, school and home counseling, summer camps, job training and employment, college preparation, community organizing training, and international study programs to Africa and Latin America.
We are locally based, with a national reach, as Bro/Sis publishes assorted curricula and collections of our members’ writings; trains educators from throughout the nation on our approach; and our leadership is invited to speak and present at educational and policy convenings and conferences across the country.
Our theory of change is to provide multi-layered support, guidance, education and love to our membership, to teach them to have self-discipline and form order in their lives, and then to offer opportunities and access so that they may develop agency. Learn more about us by visiting here.
TheBlackManCan is in Cheyney, PA to interview Howard Jean at Cheyney University about The Call Me MISTER program. Check out what this EXTRAordinary Black Man had to say about the program and his experience engaging people to give back to their communities.
TheBlackManCan: Howard, you are currently the Program Director for The Call Me MISTER program at Cheyney University. Can you tell us what this program is all about?
HRJ: The Call Me MISTER program, started in 2000 at Clemson University by Dr. Tom Parks and a team of visionary leaders, was created to addresses the shortage of African-American men as elementary teachers. Call Me MISTER is a teacher leadership program that provides a dynamic curriculum and scholarships, which enhance a pre-service teacher’s experience. This enables them to gain experiences that produce highly qualified teachers who are also serve as mentors. Each MISTER is obligated to return to their community as teachers for each year they receive in Call Me MISTER support.
Call Me MISTER is not just a program but a lifestyle commitment to embark on a mission to diversify the face of classrooms in America, change how African-American men are perceived by America and most importantly, improve the quality of how our children are educated in America. Since the program’s inception, the mission has been to re-instill a sense purpose and passion in the classrooms through African-American men who are teachers and mentors. We are dedicated to producing, as Bill Cosby said upon his visit for a brunch we sponsored in his honor, teachers who not only focus on the textbooks but instill hope, creativity, faith, love, respect and compassion to each child they come in contact with. Because our MISTER’s are products of these communities they intend to serve, they “overstand” the rationale and motivations of our youth, which will allow them to address issues at the core. Many times we focus at crucifying the product of the problem and not the core of the problem.
TheBlackManCan: Why is it important to increase the number of African American teachers in particular African American Males?
HRJ: Increasing the participation rate of African-American men in the education system will create a social ripple effect which can repair many of the problems that we all are faced to deal with. Incorporating African-American men in the development of the next generation of leaders allow African-American men to become investors in society. These future leaders, regardless of their race, will be positively impacted by an African-American man, which either breaks down walls or creates no space for walls to be built as it relate to race relations. Furthermore, having African-American men in positions of leadership in the education system gives them a platform to serve their community. Digesting the cold facts that, have a higher incarceration rate, participate higher in the unemployment rate than the college going rate are overrepresented in special education programs across Americas schools and 50% of black males do not graduate high school. Call Me MISTER seems to address this cultural pandemic with societal implications with the placement of African-American men as teachers, mentors, and role models.
TheBlackManCan: You are the founder and C.E.O. of S.E.I.L. (Success through Education, Inspiration, and Leadership). What led you to start this organization and what are the mission and goals?
HRJ: S.E.I.L. (Success through Education, Inspiration and Leadership) was started with the help of 5 friends and family members I attended high school with who left home to pursue an education and returned shortly after graduating from college. The original members or S.E.I.L. are my twin brother (who is also a teacher and graduate of the MISTER program), Hayward Jean, Travis Johnson, L.J. Brown, Bruce Hickson and Carlos Cato. We, possessing the urge to start early in impacting our community, came together to form S.E.I.L. I conceptualized the organization from a philosophy that success can be achieved by understanding the importance that education, learning, religion, inspirational messages and leadership plays. Initially the goal was to place the African-American male at the center of our programs and initiative so that the community can build around and with them. The mission grew to focus on various disadvantaged areas of our community without direct focus on any particular race or gender.
Our goals are to simply provide support, resources and experiences to members in our community through programming and mentorship. The mission is to raise the involvement of community members, broaden the perspective and provide empowerment strategies for growth and development in tangible and intangible areas.
The only thing that separates them form you is their work ethic and accepting the challenge to be great! ~Howard Jean
TheBlackManCan: You truly have a national reach, you also helped found and currently chair Success for Life which is based in South Carolina. What led to the founding of this organization?
HRJ: Through my work with S.E.I.L. and the radio talk show “Brothers Let’s Talk About It” where members of S.E.I.L. and I discussed issues that affected our community from a younger perspective (all of us being 22 to 23 years old) and coming up with solutions on air attracted the attention of others who shared similar interests to help impact the community. Mr. Rhonda Ray, CEO, asked that I chair her board and being a participating co-founder, which humbled me because of the task at such a young age. Success For Life Inc. is geared towards providing supporting to students in the Aiken County Public and Charter School systems with programming, tutoring and scholarships. We have impacted students at each of the 7 high schools in Aiken County with a scholarship for students who are products of single-parent households; of which I am also a product.
TheBlackManCan: You are currently writing a Book “Be the CEO of YOU”, can you share some information on this project?
HRJ: “Be the CEO of YOU” is the production title of a current project which will circulate around the book. My book simply started out as a daily text message. I sent texts focusing on what was revealed as it related to accomplishing goals and restructuring my life to a group of friends affectionately named “Movers and Shakers”. My text messages went from one page texts to two page texts to three page texts and so on. I received positive feedback and turned them into a daily email. I added more names to the distribution list and which began to be circulate around offices of colleagues and friends. My messages became the core of morning meetings for teams and etc. I felt that my perspective and voice on success and maintaining focus could help others as it was helping me, so I started writing the book. I maintain the organic feel of my writings through maintaining the same method of typing the thoughts into my BlackBerry .
I am confident that“Be the CEO of YOU” will help people reorganize, restructure and achieve success in all areas of their life. I will share and connect with people through all mediums of communication in order to make the message accessible by everyone which makes it a 3-dimensional product. When we hear CEO, it resonates leadership, importance, status and many other positive adjectives. When we see the word “YOU” there are mixed emotions. In my opinion, that shouldn’t be the case. At the core of everyone lies a dream, purpose and mission in life. That dream, purpose and mission has to be managed like a company and taken seriously as if it is worth millions of dollars. By transferring the same esteem into various areas of our life, the product will yield SUCCESS. Because the project is still being developed, I cannot share too much but I share tangential thoughts on my twitter page, @Howard_J and website, www.howardrjean.com/sampleone (which is currently under construction). I look to have everything in place by the end of this year and on the road and in shelves throughout the year of 2011.
TheBlackManCan: You have a strong record of giving back to the community in-particular the one you grew up in. Why is it important to be socially conscience?
HRJ: Giving and receiving is a cycle in life that many people have misconstrued. Two reasons motivate me to give back: our fallen ancestors and the future generations.
Our ancestors who gave their lives for us to be here did it blindly. I say blindly because they could not imagine the terminal ending that they were sacrificing their lives for but did it with hope and faith that their contribution would be for the better. Hope and faith are two of the most underused but most powerful words in the English language. The courage, confidence, and will to maintain hope and faith in spite of whatever may be going on should never go unnoticed.
Secondly I am motivated to give back because of the future generations to come. Legacy building through legacy giving is something I feel that we all should take part in. Passing down wealth is imperative but also passing down the virtue or giving, benefits an entire society. I believe that actions of “good” will not only support people in their current state but also perpetuates an ideal and plants seeds of philanthropy and humanitarianism.
TheBlackManCan: What words of advice do you want to leave with today’s youth?
HRJ: I’d like to share a message that I share with groups across the country as an empowerment speaker, “Embracing your celebrity, celebrating your own identity” ™. They should embrace the celebrity that lies within them and celebrate their own identity. The youth of today sometimes spend more time studying and idolizing their favorite actor, musician, artist, etc. They can share with you the details of their favorite celebrity’s life to the last public appearance but rarely spend the same amount of time learning about who they are or loving themselves. They sometimes lose themselves into the reality TV phenomenon, leaving their own lives empty with no purpose, substance, or zest. I want to tell the youth the same air, same thoughts and same time it takes your favorite celebrity to perfect their craft or create, you have access to the same tools. They became who they were because they embraced who they were and enjoyed being themselves, in most cases. Your life is just as valuable as theirs and can have the same impact they have in their field. The only thing that separates them form you is their work ethic and accepting the challenge to be great! The same greatness that lies in them lies in you also.
I would like to commend you and your team on the work you are doing, taking the work of these great men you are connected to from the silos in which we work to a medium that can connect us all. I salute you brother, Godspeed.
Read more about Call Me MISTER here. You can reach Howard R. Jean at www.howardrjean.com and @Howard_J.
League of EXTRAordinary is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Men who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society. Nominate a Black Male today on the contact page or email@example.com
The people you meet in high school and college will often be the ones who stay with you throughout your life and help you move forward, so choose those people carefully. ~Akil Bello
TheBlackManCan is back in the Big Apple to interview Bell Curves’ Vice President of Educational Development, Akil Bello. Check out what this EXTRAordinary Black Man had to say about his passion and his advice for all you standardized test takers out there!
TheBlackManCan: Akil, education and test preparation are your passion, how did you find your way into this career?
AB:I actually stumbled into this career. I was in my second year of college pursuing a degree in architecture when I decided to get a part-time job. I ended up proctoring SATs for a national test preparation company, which eventually led to teaching SAT, and then teaching graduate level tests. TheBlackManCan: In 2003 you founded Bell Curves along with your brother and father. What were inspiration and future goals of Bell Curves?
AB:The impetus on my part was the realization that the way I was currently working, a part-time tutor, was both unrewarding and not conducive to long term stability. My goals were to provide quality test preparation and information (the greatest lack in low income communities) to those who needed it most rather than those who could most afford it. TheBlackManCan: Where does the name Bell Curves come from?
AB:The name was significant and inspired by 3 separate connections to test preparation and education. First it was a reference to a scoring system used in many educational settings, I’m sure we all had college classes that were graded on a curve. Second, it was a reference to the standard deviation distribution of standardized exams, which is most often distributed on bell curve. And finally it was a dig at The book The Bell Curve, since as successful black men we offered prominent counter-examples to the claims it made. TheBlackManCan: You are listed on GreatBlackSpeakers.com. When did you realize your talent for speaking?
AB:As I did more and more teaching over the past 20 years, I grew aware that I was very well received and that I had a talent for speaking. Over the last 7 years or so, I’ve had access to larger and more diverse audiences for presentations about various educational and test prep issues and discovered that I really love being on stage and engaging with an audience. TheBlackManCan: How important is goal setting and time management when it comes to Test Preparation and more importantly life?
AB:Planning, goal setting, and time management are the key to accomplishing most goals effectively. It is especially important for educational endeavors since so many education activities have fixed deadlines (applying to colleges, registering for exams, applying to grad schools, applying for jobs, submitting financial aid paperwork). Developing good habits of setting objectives, creating a timeline, and following through will benefit students tremendously in life.
TheBlackManCan: Who are some of your role models that have helped shaped who you are today?
AB:My father, mother, and brother are probably my earliest role models. My parents are lifelong educators and taught me so many things that I’m just realizing now as an adult. My brother is one of the smartest people I know and his perspicacity inspires me. Finally, last year I saw a speaker Reginald Butler and he truly motivated me to start working toward refining my skills as a speaker and consultant.
Enjoy your time as students, as annoying as it maybe it’s the last time in your life when you won’t have to worry about where the food is coming from or where you will sleep. ~Akil Bello
TheBlackManCan: Out of all the test that you help people prepare for, which one is the most challenging and why?
AB:The LSAT I think is the most challenging. It is truly a test of logic and reasoning. Those are skills that are difficult to develop over the short-term and most require people to rewire how they think in order to gain points. The other tests have elements of simple information retention, which make them a bit easier to see improvement in their score.
TheBlackManCan: What three pieces of advice would you give to anyone preparing a standardized test?
AB:1. Prepare! All standardized tests have sample tests available in stores or free online, there is no reason to every put a test score on record before you know approximately what you would score. 2. Invest in your education. Don’t choose your prep option by price alone, evaluate the quality and its suitability for you. Not everyone will do well prepping with a book, because they can’t ask questions. While many courses cost $1000+, if that investment gets you to Columbia University instead of Community College X, you will recoup that investment 1000% after you graduate because of the job opportunities that degree will afford you. 3. Start early. No matter what test or what level of school you are pursuing preparation for that starts no later than a year before you plan to go. TheBlackManCan: What words of advice would you like to leave with youth?
AB:Enjoy your time as students, as annoying as it maybe it’s the last time in your life when you won’t have to worry about where the food is coming from or where you will sleep. Work hard and learn, that’s your only job for now. Develop good habits and a strong work ethic and join groups of like-minded people. The people you meet in high school and college will often be the ones who stay with you throughout your life and help you move forward, so choose those people carefully.
TheBlackManCan: If our readers want to contact you about Test Preparation, how can they reach you?
League of EXTRAordinary is where we at TheBlackManCan highlight Black Men who are making positive and remarkable contributions to society. Nominate a Black Male today on the contact page or firstname.lastname@example.org
In “‘Athleticated’ Versus Educated: A Qualitative Investigation of Campus Perceptions, Recruiting and African American Male Student-Athletes,” C. Keith Harrison (2008) conducted a study to explore students’ narratives about the college recruitment of high-profile Black male high school student-athletes. Harrison had participants to watch a scene about college athletic recruiting fromThe Program (1994). The research questions posed in this study are as follows: (1) Are the recruiting visit perceptions by students about student-athletes based on stereotypes and athlete biases? (2) How will students respond to images that represent the intercollegiate athletic ritual(s) to sign major recruits in revenue sports (i.e. football and/or basketball)? (3) What type of discussion and dialogue about academics and athletics does the qualitative data (narratives) reveal?
A mixed-method research design was used. 202 students at a highly selective Midwestern university participated in this study. 73.6% of the participants are White, 13.4% Asian, and 9% Black, 3% Hispanic, and 1% identified as “Other.” Visual elicitation was employed to stimulate a discourse between the interviewer and the interviewees. A survey questionnaire was used. Hierarchical content analysis and inductive analysis were employed to analyze open-ended responses to questions posed on the survey questionnaire given to each participant after viewing only one scene from The Program. Participants’ responses emerge from viewing this one scene.
The findings of the study indicated that both Black and White students identified Black male student-athletes in the film to be more athletic or “athleticated” than educated. Both Black and White students viewed the Black male student-athletes on the film as sex objects. For Black participants, two dominant themes were found: “athleticated” and “sex object.” For White participants, four major themes were determined: “athleticated,” “sex object,” “media stereotypes,” and “unrealistic depiction.” The most prominent themes for both Blacks and Whites were “athleticated” and “sex object.”
Harrison (2008) found important gaps in the professional literature about their being limited empirical investigations of the recruiting inventory of the student-athlete and how the general student body views the student-athlete’s recruitment process. Since this study extended knowledge about the two aforementioned gaps in the literature, it helps to give some understanding of them.
Harrison (2008) does not offer the reader an understanding of whether this was each participant’s first time viewing the film, which is crucial to understanding potential influences on their responses to questions posed. One significant weakness of the study is the scholar did not allow the participants to view the entire film, which impacts their ability to properly contextualize the scene the study engaged. The study does not offer specific details about the responses Hispanic, Asian, and “Other” participants divulged.
Future research needs to resolve how the views of the recruitment of Black male student-athletes of the general student population impact their educational experiences at predominantly white higher education institutions. Additionally, future research should be devoted to understanding how the perceptions of the recruitment of Black male student-athletes impact their interactions with faculty at predominantly white higher education institutions. Finally, future research needs to replicate this study and allow students to watch the entire film and then ask them questions about the particular scene used by this study.
Harrison, C.K. (2008). “Athleticated” versus educated: A qualitative investigation of campus perceptions, recruiting and African American male student-athletes. Challenge: A Journal of Research on African American Men, 14(1), 39-60.
A significant body of empirical research has demonstrated that Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline (Hawkins, 2010; Jackson, 2003). One has to wonder how this can be a reality when there are so many successful Black men in America. Unfortunately, many Black men are not taking Black male academic underachievement as serious as they need to take it. Imagine if White male students academically lagged behind all students throughout the educational pipeline—it would be declared a national emergency. Why will we not declare Black male academic underachievement in the Black community to be a national emergency? Do Black people not really care about Black male academic underachievement? Of course, we do! The challenge for members in the Black community is to resolve the best way to lead a coordinated national effort to begin to tackle this critical problem. This article contends that mentorship is crucial to dramatically ameliorating Black male academic achievement.
Mentorship is the most immediate, practical, and effective tool that we have in the Black community to tremendously improve Black male academic achievement. Yes, there are many important factors that contribute to the national academic underachievement of Black males, but we, Black men, have the power to address this problem ourselves. We cannot depend on others outside of the Black community to educate our children—we have to do it ourselves!
When we are discussing community development and building, we need to include improving Black male academic achievement as a part of this conversation. Community organizers need to organize Black men and women around helping Black male students to experience higher academic achievement. Those discourses about Black male students do not have to be inundated with examples about Black male students who are academically underperforming. Harper (2005) offers us an opportunity to focus on those factors that contribute to high-achieving Black male students. Instead of us always concentrating on what is not working for Black male students, let’s start devoting more of our attention to what is working for Black male students who are experiencing academic success. Harper’s study provides us with critical insights into what factors have enabled high-achieving Black male students to be academically successful.
Discourses about Black male students that only involve the negative dimensions about them ultimately lead to them being viewed as “problems.” When one perceives Black males as “problems,” he or she reifies them. Black male students are human beings—don’t treat them like objects. Let’s work to engender the factors that have contributed to the academic success of the Black male students that Harper’s (2005) work promulgates.
I mentor 50 students across the United States, mostly Black males. For most of them, I only need to send them an email, text, or call them once a month just to make sure that everything is going okay. They may ask me for advice about certain problems they are confronting, to look over a paper for them, pen a recommendation, and/or etc. This does not take much of my time. Some of my mentees, however, consume much more of my time and this is quite fine. I may have to tutor them weekly, heavily critique their papers often, give them lengthy advice frequently, and/or etc. Now, I’m just one person and I’m mentoring 50 students. If I could only get every capable Black man to mentor just one Black male, then we would not have to witness so many of our Black males dropping out of school, experiencing academic failure, and/or being incarcerated or put in juvenile detention centers.
At “The Think Tank for African American Progress” in 2008, a scholarly national conference held in Memphis, Tennessee, I served as a panelist and presenter of a scholarly paper about ameliorating Black male academic achievement. As both a panelist and scholarly paper presenter, I posited that one of the most important reasons why Black male academic achievement is not being improved is we don’t have enough Black people evincing the will to aid with bolstering their academic achievement. At first, many people at the conference thought my argument about not enough people in the Black people having the will to assist Black male students with improving their academic performances was too simplistic. However, as they begin to offer their solutions and positions about Black male academic achievement, they were able to see that everything they were saying came back to my argument about the importance of having more people exhibiting the will to augment Black male academic achievement.
We don’t have to wait for a government program to help Black male students to ameliorate their academic achievement. Capable Black men need to start mentoring Black male students so that they can be on a path for academic success. Even if mentoring a Black male student does not amplify his academic achievement, you will have given him a true chance to improve his academic performance. You probably will help in many other ways. The key thing is to act. Act now!
Harper, S.R. (2005). Leading the way: Inside the experiences of high-achieving African American students. About Campus, 10(1), 8-15.
Hawkins, B. (2010). The new plantation: Black athletes, college sports, and predominantly White NCAA institutions. New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Jackson, J.F.L. (2003). Toward administrative diversity: An analysis of the African-American male educational pipeline. The Journal of Men’s Studies, 12(1), 43-60.
The extant professional literature has extensively evinced that Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline (See Jerlando F.L. Jackson’s “Toward Administrative Diversity: An Analysis of the African-American Male Educational Pipeline”). Limited research exists on what impact the level of love teachers have for the profession has on Black male students’ learning outcomes. People will ask how are you going to measure love for the profession. One of the important ways to measure a teacher’s love for the profession is to ask him or her how important of a problem is it to him or her that Black male students academically underperform all students throughout the educational pipeline. Next, one can ask the teacher what is he or she doing to ameliorate this problem. I think that gaining answers from teachers on those two questions are important steps to gaining a qualitative understanding of where teachers stand on the problem of Black male academic underachievement.
Given that America has been a historically racist nation and continues to be a racist nation, I contend that it is vital to engage White teachers with queries that seek to understand how they feel about the quandary of Black male academic underachievement. In no way am I trying to call all White teachers racists. It’s just a reality that most students are educated by White teachers in America. The existing scholarly literature needs to benefit from qualitative research that examines the perceptions of White teachers about the problem of Black male academic underachievement. We need to understand what percentage of them really views this as a serious problem. We also need to know why White teachers think this problem exists. These questions need to be asked to White teachers because we need to uncover the level of investment they have in Black male students throughout the educational pipeline.
It is very possible that one of the foremost contributing factors to Black male academic underachievement could be many White teachers’ lack of a strong investment in Black male academic success. As we look to further identify the most significant factors that contribute to Black male academic underachievement, we cannot be afraid to ask questions that might be offensive to people. If people get offended when you are solemnly exploring questions aimed at buttressing Black male academic achievement, then that’s just tough for them. It seems that there are not enough people getting offended about Black males academically lagging behind all students throughout the educational pipeline. That’s what we need to get offended about! Therefore, if you get offended when I start asking you whether or not you really love Black male students, then you will just have to be offended.
I am not going to let Black teachers off the hook either. If you really love the members of your community and are looking to uplift your community, then what are you doing to advance Black male education? What are you doing to support positive educational experiences and outcomes for Black males? What are you doing special for them to meet their special realities? I don’t want to hear this crap about having to treat them the same as everyone else. If you have that kind of mindset, then you really don’t care about them because they are not just like everyone else—they are the most academically underperforming students throughout every grade level.
I encourage you to do whatever you can to help to ameliorate Black male academic achievement throughout the educational pipeline. We can keep more Black men off the streets, out of gangs, out of prisons, and off of drugs when we take the initiative to dedicate ourselves more to ensuring that they have positive educational experiences and outcomes. I will continue to posit that the American education system is failing until I see a substantial improvement in Black male academic achievement throughout the educational pipeline. Black boys and men are worth more than the gargantuan profits they can produce for you on football fields and basketball courts.
Antwone Fisher (2002) offers one powerful example of how effective Black male mentorship looks in praxis. This film marks the debut of Denzel Washington as a director. Washington also stars in the film as psychiatrist Dr. Jerome Davenport. Derek Luke (Antwone “Fish” Fisher) begins his Hollywood debut in this film. The inspiration for the film emerges from the true story of Antwone Fisher (the screenwriter) and is based on his autobiographical work Finding Fish. The film is produced by Denzel Washington, Nancy Paloian and Todd Black.
The story centers on Antwone “Fish” Fisher (Derek Luke), a young man in the Navy with a deeply complex and troubling past. His father was murdered before he was born and his mother was incarcerated soon after his father’s death. Fish’s teenage mother, Eva Mae Fisher (Viola Davis), gave birth to him while she was incarcerated. While she was in jail, Antwone was put in an orphanage until his mother was released. Unfortunately, she never claimed him when she was released from jail and he was placed in foster care at the age of two. His foster parents, who claimed to be Christians, were Mr. and Mrs. Tate (Ellis Williams and Novella Nelson). Mrs. Tate’s claim to be a Christian was exposed by her many years of mental and physical abuse of Fisher until he departed from her home at 14 years old. Antwone also experienced sexual abuse and molestation by an African American woman who Mrs. Tate left him in her care when she had to leave for work. Mr. Tate is oddly absent from the home while all of the dominant action takes place. Presumably, he’s out working long hours. Antwone leaves his foster home in search of freedom from mental, physical and sexual abuse.
Fish lives on the street for a few years before he resolves to join the United States Navy to chart a new course in his life. As is understandable, his turbulent childhood causes him to struggle with an unbecoming temper. He gets into fights with a few sailors and is demoted, fined and restricted to the ship for 45 days. As a part of his punishment, his commanding officer mandates that he receives physiatrist treatment from Dr. Jerome Davenport (Denzel Washington). Through Dr. Davenport’s work with Fisher, he’s able to achieve success and liberation from his oppressive past, and is able to enjoy a relationship with a woman—despite how his childhood sexual abuse and molestation complicate having a relationship with a woman and her touch.
Dr. Davenport is depicted as a strong leader, smart, disciplined, and compassionate. He’s willing to move from just doing his professional work to using that professional work for charitable service. Davenport sees a need in ameliorating the life of this young brother who is vexed by his childhood. While it may be easy for some people who have never had similar childhood experiences as Fisher to say he simply needed to get over his past, it’s far more complicated than that and this type of thinking lacks sophistication and compassion.
We need more black men to assume a real life mentorship role as Dr. Davenport does in the film. Davenport did not have to go beyond his professional sessions with Fisher, but he understood his linked fate to Antwone. He understood that when young black men like Fish are struggling, he’s struggling too. Dr. Davenport reflects a potent sense of community and he uses mentorship as a vehicle for promoting community improvement.
Although the film ends with your typical happy ending, its exploration of the life of Antwone Fisher brings to the national scene many of the experiences young black males confront. Unfortunately, many young black males resort to negative means of coping with these experiences. Too many black men are neglecting an opportunity to improve the plight of underprivileged young black males.
Dr. Davenport was instrumental in helping Fisher to become a reflective thinker and learner. He taught Fisher how to think about his past experiences in empowering ways rather than in depressing ways. Although Dr. Davenport is a psychiatrist, black men don’t need to be one to have an auspicious impact on the behavior and educational experiences of black males. It was not so much Davenport’s educational background that enabled him to instigate a change in the life of Fisher; it was more about his will to answer the call of leadership and responsibility of mentorship. Asa Grant Hillard, III always reminded black people about the importance of having the will to make change happen, and how vital having this will is to ameliorating black male academic achievement.
When one situates Fisher’s entrance into the Navy in our present moment, he would be required to complete his high school diploma. Joining the Navy in any period in American history promotes learning and positive progression. While we certainly want to increase the number of African American men who enroll in higher education institutions, there are other successful paths for them to select, which, of course, include military service. What’s important is for more black males to be redirected from being ravished by nihilism to paths of advancement, which learning—both formal and informal—must be central to those paths.
More committed African-American male mentors, such as Dr. Davenport, can aid in more black males moving from embracing nihilism and replacing it with achievement. Antwone Fisherprovides one valuable example of positive and effective black male mentorship and the redeeming value of mentorship at its best.
While most White people involved in the field of Education will say that they support improving Black male academic achievement, some of them become skeptical when Black teachers play a significant role in helping Black students to ameliorate their academic achievement. It’s natural for Black teachers to have a special passion for boosting the academic achievement of Black students. Because of the impact of slavery and Jim Crow and their residual effects, many Black people understand the need to passionately advocate for other Black people. Most Black teachers, if not all, want to provide all students with the highest quality education possible, regardless of their students’ race and ethnicity. Unfortunately, some White people situated in the education sector do not truly want to see Black students succeed.
Some White people in Education do not trust Black teachers to be able to increase the academic achievement of Black students without cheating for them. Now, most of the White people who cannot believe that Black students’ academic achievement can be increased without cheating for them will not directly tell the Black teachers that they think they cheated for their Black students. It is fallacious to think that just because a Black teacher teaches Black students he or she will cheat for those Black students. Now, you don’t hear a significant number of Black people running around saying that White teachers are cheating for White students just because they are White.
Some Whites’ skepticism toward the improved academic achievement of Black students that has resulted from the teaching of Black teachers dramatically intensifies when it is a Black male teacher helping Black male students to ameliorate their academic achievement. It seems like some Whites think that Black male teachers are not only going to cheat for Black male students, but also cheat so much for them that their grades end up being astonishingly higher than they have ever been. When Black male students are making tremendously high grades, it offers a serious counternarrative to the lies and negativity that some Whites like to propagate about Black male students and Black male academic achievement.
Black parents and White parents who are committed to the improved academic achievement of all students need to strengthen their support for Black male teachers who evince a zeal for enhancing the academic achievement of Black male students. When one truly understands that extensive research has proven that Black male students at every level of the educational pipeline academically underperform all of their peers, then it becomes reasonable to understand why a Black male teacher would develop a special passion for improving the academic achievement of Black male students. With such vexing academic underachievement at all levels of the educational pipeline, Black male students need everyone who is truly concerned about education in America to give them greater support and attention.
You cannot be seriously committed to education reform in America when you’re not devoted to the improvement of Black male academic achievement. We should view Black male academic underachievement as a national crisis. If White male students at every level of the educational pipeline were academically underperforming all of their peers, we would have been declared their academic problems a national crisis. For some reason, Black male students have not been privileged enough to have their academic struggles be promulgated as a national priority.
Although the Black community must make the improvement of Black male academic achievement a serious national priority, stronger efforts to involve more Whites in this effort is necessary. We have to think critically about ways to engage more Whites in the effort to ameliorate Black male academic achievement. Moreover, we have to think more deeply about how make strengthening Black male academic achievement a national priority for Black people. While some Whites will always remain skeptical of Black teachers working with Black male students to enhance their academic achievement, there must be larger efforts to support the continual efforts of Black teachers to improve Black male academic achievement.
Last week I was a presenter at the National Association of Independent Schools, “People of Color Conference”, in San Diego, California. A diverse group of educators from across the country gathered to learn about best practices in diversity and multicultural practice. My presentation focused on academic success strategies for African American boys and young men. The presentation generated lively discussion. Drawing from the literature and my own experiences working with families and schools, I focused on 5 success levers that parents and educators can “pull” to improve academic achievement. I encouraged participants to urgently assess and intervene using these levers. Here is a review.
1. Consistently High Expectations – Parents and educators who have consistently high expectations influence their children/students to have high expectations for themselves. The opposite is also true. Frequently articulate high expectations and make sure that your child/student understands that you want his best effort. It is never too late, but the earlier the better.
2. Focus on Academic Skills – While good grades are important, what is more important is that your child/student develops the right academic skills for the next level. Mastery of basic academic skills is necessary to be able to do abstract thinking skills in middle school, which is necessary to do the inferential skills in high school, etc.
3. Social Skills – Just like the world of work, students are expected to work effectively with different groups. Quality friendships reduce the chance for feeling isolated or depressed. Students are also expected to work effectively with adult authority figures.
4. Racial Socialization – Help your child/student understand how to effectively navigate racial and gender stereotypes as early as middle school. Incorporate positive images in their everyday environment via books, media, etc. Talk with them about current events effecting African American males.
5. Social-Emotional-Mental Health – Intervene early if there is evidence that your child/student is having social, emotional, or behavioral difficulty. Know that ignoring issues with attention/oppositional behavior/depression, will only lead to those issues getting worse. They also serve as a barrier to learning. Consult with a professional if social-emotional-mental health issues interfere with your child/students day to day functioning at school or home.
Of course, these levers work best when there is a positive parent-teacher relationship. Frequent communication and home-school teamwork goes a long way in establishing strong academic success patterns.
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