At Democracy Prep, an important factor for the work that we do as educators is understanding context. Teaching—historically and presently—is a landscape dominated by white people, many of whom teach students of color. In the United States, Black men are one of the least represented populations in the teaching profession.
We are proud that so many of our educators are people of color. As an organization with a mission to provide a high quality education to every single child, regardless of circumstance or zip code, we know that representation matters. One of the greatest priorities within our Strategic Plan is to be an anti-racist organization by evaluating our systems and practices through an anti-racist lens. To us, that means ensuring that we have a staff that is representative of our students. We want our scholars to see themselves reflected in their teachers. When our students walk into school, we want them to enter a space where they feel welcomed, seen, heard, and valued. To do that, students need to feel represented by the adults in the building. That is exactly why uplifting Black men educators all over the country is fundamental to transforming the education ecosystem for the better.
The Center for Black Educator Development is an organization that “address[es] educational inequities to improve academic and social outcomes for all students through increased teacher diversity.” Every year, they host an event known as the Black Men Educators Convening (BMEC). The goal of this event is to provide:
“A communal, empathetic space to discuss the deep emotional, intellectual and trajectory-altering work revolutionary Black men educators do on a daily basis. Our agenda of distinguished speakers, panel discussions, and workshops will inform, inspire, and activate Black men educators and others in the education ecosystem to continue changing the outcomes for both students and educators.”
We had the pleasure of sending 10 of our very own Black men educators to take part in this immersive experience:
• Abdul Odigie, 2nd Grade Teacher
• Bryan Stroud, Principal
• Christian Johnson, Assistant Principal
• Derek Ntiamoah, Biology Teacher
• Eric Pearson, Social Worker
• Francis Frimpong Jr., Administrative Manager
• Josef Robinson, Principal
• Joshua Joyce, History Teacher
• Justin Richmond, Assistant Principal
• Rashaad Washington, Science Teacher
For our participants, two words came to mind describing their time at BMEC: Inspiring & Enlightening.
For Rashaad Washington, a science teacher at Bronx Prep Middle School, he saw BMEC ‘22 as an opportunity to understand the critical role that Black men educators play in the classroom. He stated, “Being in education can be lonely, especially as a Black male educator. I wanted to see first hand the impact that Black male educators have within the educational system.” To Mr. Washington, BMEC was an example of Black excellence coming to life and a manifestation of the deeply vital work that Black men educators do each and every day to enhance the landscape of education for the better. His favorite part of BMEC was attending a panel discussion led by students who are preparing for their journey as teachers as well as learning from experts about what we must do to retain Black men educators.
Another incredible part of BMEC was that our 10 participants hail from 7 different schools, many of whom met each other for the very first time. As a school leader, Justin Richmond, Assistant Principal of Harlem Prep Middle School, got the chance to interact with and learn from school leaders from other Democracy Prep schools. He expressed, “It was great to connect with other school leaders to have critical conversations regarding race and how to use what we learned to best lead a school.”
As many educators know, the work of a teacher lends itself to many growth areas. When you’re feeling particularly stuck, it’s always reassuring to touch base with the folks that have your back. Therefore, we want our educators to know that they can always leverage the teachers, leaders, and professionals within their school building and Democracy Prep network to learn new perspectives and implement them to drive and improve their practice.
The single most important first step in building great scholars is having great educators. An educator’s journey to becoming a master of their craft never truly ends, and that’s why we believe that an investment in our teachers is an investment in our scholars.
Thank you to the Center for Black Educator Development for creating a space with the purpose of sharing a wealth of knowledge and elevating the voices of our educators. The Black Men Educators Convening is one extraordinary example of how partnership, connection, and action can mobilize us all to do our part to change the lives of the students and communities we serve.