After wrapping up a happy hour for BMEs, I stopped in my tracks and replayed the words that were still ringing in my ears, “This is a space and place where you can be yourself and stretch your soul.”
JT Hall, a Black male assistant principal in Philly, had expressed precisely what I had been hoping for since starting BMEs. Hearing his words nourished my own soul and reignited the fire inside of me for creating spaces where Black men can have authentic fellowship.
Virtual happy hours and affinity-based groups are more than just an opportunity for like-minded people to hang out and socialize – they hold the power to change lives and strengthen communities.
Not Just Here for the Free Snacks
If you’re like most people, you’ve found yourself in a gathering where your interest didn’t go far beyond the free snacks in the corner. While I definitely understand that feeling, racial affinity groups offer so much more than stale coffee and donuts to fill your appetite. In my research with education-based racial affinity groups and professional development, I’ve found that Black teachers, educators, and students all benefit from these opportunities in two major ways:
Increased Capability to Practice SEL
SEL, or social-emotional learning, isn’t something that always comes naturally to educators, but it doesn’t have to be that way. I’ve seen this capability improve when BMEs participate in affinity groups and learn new ways to cultivate self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, and relationship skills. By sharing teaching methods and practices with one another, educators can return to their workplaces with new skills and fresh, effective approaches.
Black Teacher Retention and Recruitment
The disappointing truth is that many black male educators are leaving the education field because of burnout and being asked to fill roles far beyond typical teacher duties without any additional compensation. When black educators make a practice of getting together with one another, they find a safe place to unwind and express their frustrations, instead of bottling those frustrations inside. This camaraderie is not only helping BMEs stay in their professions, but encouraging young Black men to enter the education field knowing they have a built-in support system.
A Place for Everyone
Whether you’re looking for a place to hang out, a place to find peace and heal, or a place to recruit a team to fight an inequitable system, an education-based racial affinity group is a phenomenal place to start. Come for the free snacks if you want, but I guarantee you’ll stay for the professional development, new skills, and increased impact that you’ll gain from the experience.
Like most BMEs, I got into the profession to change the lives of students. If you did the same, joining a racial affinity group with a focus on education is one of the best ways I’ve found to multiply the profound effect you have on the young lives you’ve been entrusted with.
To learn more about BMEs and how to join a racial affinity group, visit our website.