By Ayodele Harrison – Senior Partner of Education and Director of BMEsTalk for CommunityBuild Ventures
“I’m spying.” Two words typed in a virtual call chat box of a Black Male Educator affinity space by a non BME. A little context. On May 13, 2020, I hosted a Black Male Educator (BMEs) virtual game night. This was a free event, but required registration to receive the link virtual call. On the registration web page under the description, it is written that this game night is for BMEs only. When you click the ticket button to register, each registrant is asked to identify themselves as a BME by checking a box. Ok, so from the name of the event, the description of the event and the final question on the registration form, it is clear that this is for BMEs only. But sure enough, some people don’t seem to get it. And what I am finding, most often it is those people who consider themselves allies and supporters of Black Male Educators. Since BMEs represent less than 2% of k-12 educators in the US, it is rare that we (BMEs) are able to gather and connect in affinity. But when we do, somebody always got to poke their head in to see. Those somebodies have been White men, White women and Black women. BMEsTalk has hosted 3 in-person events and 2 virtual events for BMEs. Two of the 3 live events were interrupted and 1 of the virtual events was interrupted. Damn! Can brothas get some peace. If this is how we (BMEs) are interrupted when in affinity, I can only imagine what is happening at our places of work.
Oh, wait! I don’t have to imagine it, I lived it. Being asked my opinion in a departmental meeting, then my advice not taken seriously. Being asked to mentor young Black boys who are struggling to adjust to a majority White high school, without receiving additional pay. Being asked while sitting at a faculty lunch table, “Is your neighborhood safe?” That’s just the first few snowflakes of the avalanche felt over the last 20 years working in the field of education. And we wonder why retaining Black Male Educators men is a challenge. It ain’t always the salary or lack of advancement. Spend some time asking a BME if they feel emotionally, intellectually, and/or socially safe on their jobs.
Ayodele shares more on his podcast.