Prompted by the lack of encouragement for Black males to enter the education profession, a group of Black teachers are on a mission to recruit more African-American instructors.
Philadelphia-based organization The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice is hosting “Stay Woke: The Inaugural Black Male Educators Convening” this month in an effort to raise awareness about teaching through social justice, The Philadelphia Tribune reported. The conference is set for Oct. 13 – 15, and is expected to draw hundreds of attendees from across the country. All are welcomed to attend.
“We talk a lot about the role of an educator,” co-chair and Fellowship founder Sharif El-Mekki told the newspaper. “The conscious educator can do a lot to really change social injustices, institutionalized racism and oppression. Educators play a huge role.”
It is no secret that Black and other minority educators comprise a small percentage of the nation’s teaching force. In fact, data from the U.S. Education Department shows that Black males represent just two percent of America’s educators. Locally, in the Philadelphia School District, the number is a bit higher, sitting at 4.5 percent.
“We definitely need to make sure the education space is more diverse,” said Vincent Cobb, Fellowship CEO and co-founder of BMEC. “(Teaching) is rewarding work, hard work, tough work — but at these convenings they really feel refreshed. They leave knowing that there are folks who really care. Teaching diversity really does matter.”
Both El-Mekki and Cobb said they don’t remember anyone encouraging them to become teachers growing up. They said they were only approached about teaching after they had graduated or finished college. Now the duo, along with the help of other local leaders, are working to change that.
Both the Fellowship and local school district have spearheaded efforts to recruit more Black teachers, with El-Mekki promising earlier this year to increase the number of Philly’s African American male educators three-fold by 2025. He has also launched an initiative to mobilize 1,000 Black men to show up on the first day of school and serve as positive examples for local youths.
“If we have a high percentage of Black boys dropping out of our comprehensive high schools, that’s a leak,” said El-Mekki, who also serves as principal of Mastery Charter School, Shoemaker Campus. “If we have folks not prepared for college, that’s a leak. Our Black boys aren’t being told, ‘You’re a great leader, why don’t you lead in a classroom?’ ”
Featured speakers at this month’s convening will include Marquette University education professor Howard L. Fuller and Robert Simmons, vice president of strategy and innovation for the Campaign for Black Male Achievement, The Philadelphia Tribune reported. Both will touch on their experiences as teachers at the conference.
“Far too often Black men in teaching get placed into the toughest schools and classrooms and become known as disciplinarians as opposed to instructional leaders,” Simmons told the paper. “After consistently being dismissed as not having the intellectual chops to lead in the academic ecosystem, many Black male teachers check out and become disengaged from teaching as a profession.”
In addition to Fuller and Simmons, the event will also feature noted leaders like former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King, Jr., former executive director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, David Jones, and former D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.
For more information on The Inaugural National Black Male Educators Convening, please visit 1000×2025.org.