By Anthony Shoecraft and Adrian Henderson
One of the best ways to improve the life outcomes for Black boys is to transform our education system. That’s why at Kingmakers of Oakland (KOO), we take pride in curating powerful conferences for educators that empower them with equity and asset-based tools and frameworks. Our recent Fall Forum conference, Data Rules Everything Around Me (DREAM), was centered around data-driven strategies that engage, encourage, and empower Black youth and families.
At the conference, education leaders from across the nation shared best practices and proven strategies that can be incorporated directly into the classroom to create thriving ecosystems of teaching and learning. Attendees had opportunities to build with and learn from like-minded educators who work to cultivate effective learning environments to educate Black youth.
Forums like this one give us the opportunity to bring together expertise across our communities and discuss effective ways for our students to thrive in school and in life.
Here are three key takeaways from this year’s Fall Forum:
1) Representation Matters
Dr. Mia Williams’ panel, Mentorship Matters, and Bro K.O Wilson’s panel, Rehumanizing Black Teacher Recruitment and Retainment through Data, highlighted just how important representation is inside the classroom.
Public school teachers are overwhelmingly white and female, while 52 percent of public school students are people of color. For reference, 79 percent of public school teachers identify as white while only seven percent of teachers identify as Black. By comparison, 47 percent of students identify as white; 27 percent as Hispanic; 15 percent as Black; five percent as Asian; one percent as Pacific Islander, American Indian, or Alaska Native; and 4% identify as two or more races.
The percentage of Black male teachers is even less encouraging, making up just two percent of public school teachers in the US. Black male teachers also face unique hurdles in the education system that result in an especially high turnover rate. As discussed in the Rehumanizing Black Teacher Recruitment and Retainment through Data panel, because there are so few Black male teachers, white teachers often see them as “Black whisperers” to Black boys and are pigeonholed into disciplinarian roles because of their ability to manage a classroom. This in turn hurts their opportunities to advance in their careers and sometimes makes them feel undervalued and unappreciated.
These statistics – part of a culture of whiteness and white supremacy – are troubling because research has shown that having teachers and mentors of color directly supports the academic success of Black students, especially Black boys from under resourced communities. For example, Black students increase their likelihood of both graduating from high school and enrolling in college when they have just one Black teacher in elementary school.
At KOO, we see firsthand the positive impact students experience when they have instructors and mentors that look like them. We’re proud to see the Kings in our program flourish.
2) Women of Color are Shaping the Futures of Black Men
The Women of Color Holding the DREAM panel led by educator and author, Dr. Rachelle Rogers-Ard, highlighted the powerful women who are leading efforts to transform districts across the country. Women make up the largest population of teachers of color so they play a significant role in unpacking and dismantling racist structures in the school system.
We got to hear directly from the women who are addressing the school district to help fight for Black boys. They are constantly battling the culture of whiteness within their daily experience as teachers of color in a predominantly white system. On top of that, they often face gender discrimination because of the notion that women of color shouldn’t be leading efforts for black and brown males. Despite these hurdles, they are leading initiatives that are focused on ensuring black boys and teens succeed. We must continue to support women leading these efforts.
3) There is Power in Coming Together as a Community
Fall Forum 2022 was the first time KOO hosted an in-person conference since the COVID pandemic started in 2020. Convening a placed-based Fall Forum again was an incredible reminder that there is no replacement for being together in community.
As an intergenerational event, there was a space for adults and youth to both feel challenged and uplifted and to learn from one another.
For educators, Fall Forum created a space to advance their leadership skills and develop strategies and tools to shift their practice in service to create the necessary conditions that enable Black boys to flourish. The dynamic conference also created an important space for attendees to connect, network, and feel heard and understood. Attendees took with them invaluable experiences and new skills and insights to apply when they return to the classroom.
Additional opportunities to learn
For those that missed Fall Forum this year or just want to review what they learned, there will be an opportunity to watch Fall Forum and a few of our other professional development trainings on demand starting in January 2023. Be on the lookout for a link to our upcoming online learning center with a plethora of tools and resources to advance your leadership skills.
Additionally, our next conference is just around the corner! Our Spring Symposium 2023 will take place March 23-25 – save the date!