Last Saturday, I got an opportunity to see a rare sight: A Black education leader leading an empowerment conference for Black educators. The event was at Detroit’s Henry Ford Academy in Midtown. Curtis Lewis, Ph.D., is the founder of Black Male Educators Alliance of Michigan. This group’s objectives are to recruit more teachers of color and support/empower them as they navigate the troubled waters of becoming a teacher.
The importance of this mission is not lost on me. I’ve had great educators in my life of all shapes and colors. But the teachers who had the most impact on me were Black male teachers. I’m a Detroit Public Schools graduate. So, I can remember my 6th grade Science teacher, Mr. Horst. He didn’t just teach me to appreciate Science. He taught me things that are not in the curriculum. I learned the importance of studying to get the best grade and how to help others in my class who needed help. He taught me that being a man didn’t mean making others feel inferior. It is a lesson I have lived by since I learned it in middle school.
Another example is Mr. George Long. He was my counselor at Detroit Murray-Wright High School. By this time, I was all over the place, just not sure what kind of man I wanted to be. And every time I got off track, whether it was being put out of class for something I did (that was dumb) or refusing to comply with school rules, he would be right there to put me back in my lane. Everything I ran on him or by him was turned to nothing, because he already knew what I was trying to do.
He knew because he went through the same issues and feelings when he was a kid growing up. Every time I tried to run “game” on him to get out of class, he ran the game right back at me. “Young brother, I’ve played this game already. Go to class and learn a new one.” He was one of the fathers in the village that helped me figure it out!
We need more Black men in education to help young Black men figure it out. These men are charged with an awesome responsibility, to educate and help raise a group of men who don’t get the same support other men receive, but are targeted for failure and crime.
Saturday’s conference focused on sessions to help Black teachers figure out where they are in their careers and where is the most need for their work to recruit and empower more Black male teachers. I applaud the work of the Black Male Educators Alliance. This was a great opportunity to celebrate Black History Month. I look forward to their next conference in May.