Vincent Cobb II and Rashiid Coleman are the founders behind The Black Male Educators Convening, an organization on a mission to triple the number of highly-effective black male teachers in Philadelphia public schools to 1,000 by 2025. Through a series of programs including a yearly conference, purpose career fair, two-year paid summer program, and membership alliance for black male educators, BMEC is sending a clear message: only 2% of teachers are black and male—and it’s not enough.
On Oct. 12 – 14, the second annual BMEC conference will be held to advance and celebrate the development, recruitment, and retention of black male educators. This year’s lineup includes Marc Lamont Hill, a journalist, author, activist, and television personality; Dr. Chris Emdin, an associate professor and author of For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood… And the Rest of Y’all Too; Ericka Pittman, chief marketing officer at Aquahydrate Inc; Shavar Jeffries, American civil rights attorney, and more. In the midst of planning the conference, we caught up with the founders to learn more about their plans to increase the percentage of black male teachers in Philadelphia and beyond.
Why do you believe it’s important to get more black male teachers in the classroom?
This is not just about numbers, skin color, and gender, this is an equity problem in our school systems that often are filled with barriers of attracting and retaining quality diverse talent.
The education workforce is predominantly white and our public school districts are increasingly black and brown. Students deserve to see a more realistic representation of society and when they see us (BMEs), they see more possibilities of what they can be. Research shows that black boys from low-income neighborhoods are 39% more likely to graduate and attend college when they have been impacted by a highly effective black male teacher. Suspension rates go down and black students are more likely to do better in school, overall. Representation in the classroom matters!
Reportedly, only 2% of teachers nationwide are black men, in what ways is your organization planning to increase this number of black male teachers?
We elevate the voices of the 2% through our advocacy work with policymakers and systems leaders where BMEs get the opportunity to share the solutions and voice challenges in schools through policy roundtable talks on key barriers to black men getting into the profession. The Fellowship has partnered with over 20 organizations to develop targeted programs to dramatically bolster the representation and retention of black men throughout the career life cycle of an educator. This includes:
- The fellowship membership alliance – a brotherhood of socially conscious educators dedicated to bringing justice to the classroom.
- Purpose: A career fair – an annual opportunity for prospective black male educators to connect with the region’s top recruiters.
- Protégé: high school student chapters growing the next generation of black male educators.
- The Du Bois Awards recognizing outstanding black educators across greater Philadelphia’s public schools.
- The agenda: public policy & research to help shape the discourse promoting the recruitment, development, and retention of black male educators. Read our latest research here.
Besides increasing the number of black male teachers, what other changes would you like to see in the educational field?
We must incentivize the pipeline to attract more quality talent to the field. School districts, teacher colleges, educator residencies all realize that if we want to see more diversity then we have to offer more opportunities that will increase pathways into education beyond the traditional routes. Overall, the education profession has been degraded by teachers themselves who often talk about the terrible work conditions, unfair pay, and high stress but I think we re-frame the work to see teaching as an opportunity for social impact and change. Teaching is a revolutionary act. Schools are ground zero in our collective struggle against the nation’s long history of inequity.
You are hosting a conference in October. Who should attend this event?
BMEC is focused on bringing together the best and brightest minds and influencers to ally with our mission regardless of what sector you come from. This is a convening that is just not for black men but for everyone who believes in equity, social justice, and re-writing the narrative that teaching is a worthy profession. We are looking for all black male educators, college students and high school students along with school leaders, policy makers, activists and community members who can help advance our cause in increasing the number of black men in schools. TWO PERCENT IS NOT ENOUGH! This must be a collective effort even with corporate partners and celebrities who see how having one black male teacher in a student’s life can make all the difference.