Christopher Emdin, associate professor at Columbia University, delivered the keynote speech.

— Photo by Samaria Bailey / Tribune Correspondent

The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice hosted its spring regional Black Male Educators Convening at Temple University on Saturday afternoon.

Organizers said the convening, which brings Black teachers, administrators and counselors together to share their experiences and best practices, is designed to recruit and retain Black male educators, who represent only two percent of the nation’s teaching force.

“A lot of Black males have said that they feel isolated in their school buildings. They don’t feel like they have the proper support and connection with other Black male educators that empower them to do the work every day,” said Vincent E. Cobb II, CEO and co-founder of BMEC. “So we try to form these sessions regionally so we have a chance to connect and meet with other teachers.”

After breakfast and opening remarks, the convening opened with a keynote speech by Christopher Emdin, associate professor at Columbia University and author of “For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood and the Rest of Y’all Too.” He encouraged the educators to use students’ culture to reach them.

“We talk all the time about wanting to get Black males to teach, but all the examples of Black male educators we put in front of them are those who’ve lost their authenticity, or that hood past or that ratchetness — and so you can’t expect a Black boy to want to be a Black man when that Black boy sees that Black man as inauthentic. Because what it means, then, is you are telling that Black boy, ‘I want you to be other than yourself,’ and nobody grows up wanting to be other than who they are,” Emdin said.

“The system robs us of the piece of us that’s the most magical and we have to do work to retain our magic as well as have a command over what the system views as valuable. We spend too long teaching young folks that to be educated means to lose what makes you special, and so the work is to have them learn how to do both. Because when we do that, we will get more Black male teachers. We will get more Black teachers to stay and we could re-imagine what education looks like.”

Breakout sessions of the convening focused on social justice, isolation and burnout and classroom management.

“Our [education] system is not failing. It’s succeeding at exactly what it was designed to do — fail our kids … particularly Black and brown children,” said Chandra Pitts, CEO of the education nonprofit One Village Alliance. “In Delaware, instead of bringing mental health professionals, they bring in school resources officers. They ensure police contact … feeding the school to prison pipeline.”

Pitts, who facilitated the social justice workshop, said issues such as these have to be addressed by whole communities.

“It’s going to take cross-sector stakeholders that are engaged in a truly public education system — the business community, intellectuals, teachers, students, parents, everyone.”

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