Groundbreaking Change Is Happening in the Education Space With Black and Brown Leaders at the Forefront

Apr 17, 2019 12:00:00 AM

by Tanesha Peeples

We’ve got 22 million Black and Latino students in our schools, but there are relatively few teachers of color in the classroom. Dozens, maybe hundreds, of education nonprofits across the country work to improve public schools every day, many of them with stated missions (explicit or implied) to help Black and Latino students, yet almost none of those organizations are led by people of color. That’s a problem.

We need more people who look like us making decisions for us and our communities. So when I see an organization like Education Leaders of Color, aka EdLoC, of which I happen to be a member, supporting other organizations with Black and Brown people at the helm, it gives me hope.  

To most of America, these leaders are still hidden. But I see them and I see how much we need them. I see Sharif El-Mekki, a Black principal in Philly addressing the need for more Black male educators in classrooms through his organization The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice. I see Sarah Carpenter, a Black grandmother of 13 and one of the founders of The Memphis Lift getting other parents fired up and ready to go, demanding that education leaders in their city hear their voices. And they’re joined by student activists like Marshe Moss who’s taking a stand against racial profiling in random searches in Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) schools.

These leaders and organizations are critical to changing the trajectory of education for kids of color. There’s an urgency for more like these to exist in our communities—and that’s where EdLoC comes in.

EdLoC is a national membership organization that convenes Black and Latino leaders in the education field to elevate our voices and influence efforts to improve education. They lead with their Third Way Values which include ending generational poverty, creating sustainable change and schools we want for all children, advancing multiple solutions and going beyond education. And these values manifest themselves in EdLoC’s commitment to support their members’ innovative non-profit endeavors through a grant called The Boulder Fund.

This year, The Boulder Fund awarded $900,000 to nine organizations to launch or expand their initiatives to bring transformative change in education for students and families of color.

Families in Schools recognizes the value of and is working to strengthen partnerships between families and schools to support student achievement. They work in low-income and underserved communities to provide programs and professional development that fosters authentic parent engagement by building the skills, knowledge and confidence of both parents and staff on how to work together. [pullquote]Their work stems from the belief that access to quality education continues to be the gateway out of poverty and the road to the American dream.[/pullquote]

Marvin Pierre is passionate about closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for boys of color and is doing just that at his Houston Texas based organization, 8 Million Stories. It’s a four-month program that offers GED classes, enrichment and job training as a means to deter youth from the school-to-prison pipeline.

Brothers Empowered to Teach (BE2T) is just that—brothers empowering brothers to teach. BE2T’s mission is to provide opportunities and examples for underserved, marginalized student populations through the inspiration and incentivization of men of color that choose careers within education—starting in the city of New Orleans.

Through his organization, Energy Convertors, Charles Cole created a platform that allows students of color to participate in a paid fellowship where they learn how to lift their voices through digital media and public advocacy to improve schools. The ultimate goal is for them to be able to navigate a broken education system and make it work better for them, their goals and their peers.

Latinos for Education’s mission is connect Latino leaders in the education field and develop an ecosystem that will lead in breaking down barriers to educational opportunity for the next generation of Latino students.

Los Angeles School for Creativity & Technology seeks to empower the next generation of creative, innovative problem solvers in computer science and entrepreneurship. It was designed in response to community concerns about the outdated school system and the overwhelming presence of chronically underperforming schools serving Black and Latino students in South Los Angeles.

Cheryl Camacho, special assistant to the commissioner on equity at the Massachusetts Department of Education, created Influence 100. Her project has a goal to aggressively increase the racial/ethnic diversity of Massachusetts superintendents, senior policy leaders, and the bench to these roles by 100 in 10 years.

In the Denver area, Moonshot EdVentures developed a learner-centered system that’s led by individuals who share and empathize with the experience of the students and communities they aim to serve. Their vision is for all children to become lifelong learners who persist through life and meaningfully contribute to their communities.

And finally, Wayfinder Foundation’s goal is to give voice and support to high-impact but undiscovered advocacy leaders in various communities and build a network of advocates who unapologetically fight for social justice.

Groundbreaking change is happening in the education space with Black and Brown leaders at the forefront. Shirley Chisholm once said, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.” Not only have we brought our chairs but we’ve taken it a step further and created our own tables.

Congratulations to all of the 2019 Boulder Fund recipients and thank you to Education Leaders of Color for creating space for us to fellowship and opportunities to impact our communities.

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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