African-American Males Conference Inspires Participants to ‘Run the Marathon’By Eleanor Lee Yates
DURHAM, N.C. The statistics presented at the African-American Males in Education conference held late last month were downright painful at times. But for the 650 educators, counselors, students and community leaders in attendance, the statistics, informational sessions and assemblies were more inspirational than depressing.
The conference, “Collective Works and Responsibility: A Community Response to African-American Male Success in Post-Secondary Education,” was a partnership between the North Carolina Community College System, the Historically Minority Colleges and Universities Consortium and North Carolina Central University.
Nationally renowned author and scholar Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu, cited recent figures indicating that Black men are becoming increasingly rare on college campuses, even historically Black ones. At one HBCU, the ratio of Black women to men is 8-1.
For many students, college plans can get derailed as early as elementary school. According to Kunjufu, almost half of the students in special ed classes are Black, while only 3 percent are enrolled in gifted classes. He also said Black students don’t see enough teachers who look like them, citing a 66 percent decline in the number of Black teachers since the 1950s. Today, White females make up approximately 83 percent of the country’s teaching force.
Conference participants also went beyond the statistics to discuss programs that have met with success in educating Black males, including gender-specific teaching methods and extracurricular learning programs. Kunjufu praised single-gender classes, in which Black youth often posted much higher grades than peers in co-ed classes.
He also urged parents to be stricter with their children and encouraged conference participants to serve as mentors and positive role models for Black male students.
The conference also featured a Microsoft PowerPoint demonstration by students from the James H. Ammons African American Male Academy in Durham. The students, dressed in ties and maroon blazers, talked briefly about what they found meaningful at the academy, including the study of different careers. Students and faculty at NCCU serve as mentors for the Ammons students, offering tutoring and discussions on real-life issues such as drugs. At the program’s Saturday Academy, held three times a month, students delve into weighty subjects such as geographic information systems. One parent praised the leadership and communication skills the students have learned, as well as the network of resources to which they have access.
The conference also showcased the North Carolina Community College System’s Minority Male Mentoring Project, which seeks to encourage students to transfer to four-year institutions after earning their associate degrees. Another program that has shown some success in closing the achievement gap is the Lumina Foundation for Education’s Achieving the Dream project. The multi-year initiative is focused on improving the educational outcomes of community college students.
One of the sessions explored how students with criminal records can overcome education and employment barriers. Another examined strategies for instilling positive leadership traits in Black male students.
One of the highlights of the conference was the lecture by Bishop Eddie Long, senior pastor at New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Lithonia, Ga. The NCCU alum, whose sermons are televised on Black Entertainment Television, shared his personal story of being a high school dropout. His teachers consistently told him he was not smart enough to go to college. Some years later, he obtained his high school diploma and went on to earn advanced degrees.
“There is power in words, both for the good and the bad,” he said. Much of Long’s speech focused on the challenges facing many young Black men, including the easy money available selling drugs and the stress of early fatherhood.
Dr. James Ammons, chancellor of NCCU, challenged the conference participants to work hard for positive changes among all young Blacks.“This will take time,” he said. “This is not a sprint, but a marathon.”
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