There is power in gathering together in support of a common cause. When a few hundred educational leaders, all men of color, gathered to share their expertise at the national convening of Men of Color in Educational Leadership, the full genius of their collective acumen and strength was palpable.
In 2017, two leaders in education—Harrison Peters and Steve Gerring—formed MCEL to facilitate safe, transparent and productive discussions about matters of race in the public education system. The many challenges faced by men of color who have established careers in education often follow similar themes.
Presenting a concentrated group of men who are facing the same roadblocks to success with a common purpose and vehicle to elevate each other became the primary function of the group. Mr. Peters and Mr. Gerring based their organization on the tenet of supporting the quality, care, and quantity of male leaders of color in public education.
Fast forward to January of 2022 at the national convening event, the collective drive to serve children and point to more positive outcomes for underserved, underestimated minority students was strong. Breaking bread together as they shared ideas were education leaders, assistant principals, principals, administrators, and superintendents, discussing the strength of black and brown children across the country and the deficit in their access to quality learning.
“The national convening of Men of Color in Educational Leadership was beyond powerful,” said organization President & CEO, Harrison Peters. “To see men stand together and stand up with new solutions and ideas for improving our children’s access to quality education was huge. Seeing them empathize, support, and coach each other took the event to another level.”
Over the next decade, MCEL and New Leaders will support the One Million Teachers of Color campaign which strives to add 1M+ educators of color in schools throughout the country. Moreover, the campaign will seek to position 30,000 more leaders of color as well. In today’s public schools, half of all students identify themselves as people of color.
With that in mind, it’s unbelievable that 40% of the public schools in the United States have no teachers of color and only 20% of all principals identify as people of color. Within those numbers is an even more alarming statistic—only two percent of all teachers are men of color. The problem is not new, but the movement to change those facts is growing.
Research supports the measurable impact leaders and educators of color have on students, particularly those of color. With the current rate of attrition as other leaders retire or transition out of education, the time is ideal for growing the representation of educators and leaders of color.
As the leaders convened, the common share was the isolation and exhaustion that comes with being a singular male leader of color, or one of just a few within a school district. The need to connect with colleagues and find quality mentorship was clear, and attendees spoke to the importance of engaging with the community and collectively developing, recruiting, and retaining teachers and leaders of color. The bonds of trust and vulnerability that resulted from the convening event was a clear path to future action for the collective group.
MCEL is moving forward with intention to create convenings and other opportunities for continued professional development and networking. With such a brain trust available in that space, leaders leaned into the wisdom of others around the room, and the conversation continued from personal needs to the front-facing needs of students of color in today’s school environment. With the disproportionate rates of expulsions, arrests, and other corrective action in and out of school for students of color, especially males, creating new solutions and approaches to education is vital. Further, creating quality, unbiased instruction that is contextually relevant, safe, and engaging for all students is a great challenge.
With the pandemic looming in the near past, understanding how to engage and reach students remains at the forefront of all education conversations. Leadership development and helping students move forward starts with today’s leaders, and when leadership is disconnected and marginalized because it represents a minority subset, then attention must first be given to those leaders. MCEL will continue bringing men of color in leadership together to support each other and ultimately affect change for the student populations and communities that are underserved and, ultimately, underestimated.