Empowering Black Boys through Asset-Based African-Centered Lessons

Imhotep group student presentation for the Student Showcase 2023

By Matin Abdel-Qawi

Esteemed community of educators, parents, and advocates! I have been an educator, mentor, and advocate for serving Black boys and families for thirty years. I remember starting as a teacher at Claremont Middle School in 1995 and building my teaching skills, educational career, and professional acumen in Oakland Unified School District (OUSD). Eventually, I became a principal of two high schools, East Oakland School of the Arts and Oakland High. I was also the first Program Director for African American Male Achievement, and I was most recently the High School Network Superintendent.  I am also a parent of three grown children, so I have worn many hats in the youth development arena. 

As I reflect on three decades of dedicated service to the education of Black boys in public schools; I’ve witnessed what works, and what doesn’t work, to serve our students. We know youth must feel loved as humans so they can start to understand their value, especially when poverty is prevalent. At Kingmakers we engage, encourage, and empower our youth to cultivate their esteem and be the wind beneath their wings. 

Students don’t care what you know until they know that you care.

 We fundamentally believe that all Black boys are brilliant, beautiful, and possess innate greatness. Which is the first critical step for them to believe it too. It is with these insights and data-driven feedback that we have seen the profound impact of our asset-based African-centered pedagogy and curriculum that empowers Black boys in classrooms across our district partners. Our kings become lifelong learners, with the foundation of culturally responsive lessons that drive their thirst to learn. 

This paradigm shift, centered on acknowledging and addressing systemic racism, has proven to be a beacon of hope and transformation for our young Black Kings. At the core of this approach is the commitment to fostering a sense of belonging and cultural identity. By recognizing and celebrating the rich diversity within our community, we create an environment where Black boys feel seen and heard. This, in turn, ignites a profound sense of self-efficacy, as they recognize the value of their unique perspectives and contributions.

One of the remarkable outcomes of incorporating KOO Curriculum is the development of a collective responsibility among students. They learn not only to navigate challenges individually but also to uplift their peers. This shared commitment to each other’s success strengthens the fabric of our school community, creating a supportive network that extends beyond the classroom.

students present their learning at the Student Showcase 2023In embracing KOO Curriculum, we empower our Black boys to confront and dismantle the barriers that may hinder their educational journey. By equipping them with a deep understanding of their history and the tools to navigate a complex world, we sow the seeds for future leaders who are resilient, confident, and unapologetically proud of their cultural heritage. 

As we continue to champion a learning environment rooted in KOO Curriculum, let us collectively embark on a journey of fostering not just academic excellence, but the holistic growth of our Black boys. Together, we can build a brighter future where every young mind thrives, irrespective of their background.

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