Education administrators are calling for more African-American male instructors. According to the U.S. Department of Education, black men make up only 2 percent of the nations 4.8 million teachers.
Educators believe African-American men have the wisdom and strength to handle situations in the classroom that are more challenging for women and other races. “When you have a well-prepared African American man teaching black boys, the impact can be phenomenal,” said Brenda L. Townsend Walker, an attorney and a professor of special education at the University of South Florida in Tampa. “I have interviewed African American male students who had pretty much written school off, whose teachers had given up on them, but whose lives were turned around when they got into a class with African American men. Generally speaking, they just have a better ability to relate to the students and mediate situations that others couldn’t handle.”
The idea of children having a better chance to succeed under the leadership of African-American male educators may be why Gemar Mills was able to bring his mathematics department from functioning at a mere 17 percent to 26 percent in just one year as Department Chairperson of Mathematics. Today, Mills is a 30-year-old principal at Malcolm X Shabazz High School in Newark, NJ. Thirty-six-year-old Bakari Ali Haynes is an assistant principal at Eastern Middle School in Silver Spring, MD. His impact on the youth started seven years ago when he ran an after-school program named Gentlemen of Distinction for African-American and Hispanic boys. He found that the boys were eager to spend time with him, as he was the first black male authority figure many of them had ever met.
“When they come into my office, two things get their attention right away — my academic certificates and photographs of my family,” Haynes said of his students. “They won’t come right out and ask how you get those things, but you know that’s what they want, and it’s my job to show them what it takes to get it.” Although it’s a struggle to work with youth who have no history of interacting with an African-American male, Haynes knows he’s making a positive impact on his students’ lives. “As much as they may curse you out or say they hate your guts, at the end of the day what they are looking for is someone who understands, someone who can say: ‘I’ve been where you are. This is how we’ll deal with it,’” Haynes said. “Sometimes they act out simply because they are hungry but don’t want to tell anyone.”