“You can’t be what you can’t see.” This quote has become synonymous with the work that is being done at The Fellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice, an organization designed to combat the stereotypes of what it means to be a black man in the United States by creating a space for more black men in education.

An underrepresentation in classrooms

It's not just black students who benefit from having more black men teaching them — everyone will benefit from the destruction of stereotypes.

There has been a major change in the U.S. public education system over the past few years. Since 2014, a majority of students in America’s public school system — 51 percent — have identified as persons of color, compared to the 49 percent of self-identified white students. Despite the changing demographics of the U.S. student body, the teaching workforce is still 80 percent white. But for black males, there's worse news: They make up only 2 percent of the national teaching workforce, in a country where approximately 19.5 million black men make up 6 percent of the population, and a significant portion of the student body nationally. The time for this to change is now.

We created the Black Male Educators for Social Justice Fellowship as 17 brothers who came together to be there for one another, provide support and share ideas. We are a brotherhood of educators concerned about representation and social justice issues in our nation’s public schools, and there were many ideas at the table that we still work on today.

In an age where tech and STEM are more “profitable” ventures, we saw 1100 people come out to the second Black Male Educators Convening, which was thought up on a living room couch three years ago on a yellow legal pad. The first event attracted 150 people, when we were only expecting 50.

Diversity matters 

 A 2017 study by Johns Hopkins University found that black students who have at least one black teacher in elementary school are much more likely to graduate from high school and go to college. The researchers found that black students who had just one black teacher by third grade were 13 percent more likely to enroll in college, and those who had two black teachers were 32 percent more likely to go to college. It was also found that having at least one black elementary school teacher reduced the probability of dropping out by 29 percent for low-income black students and by 39 percent for very low-income black boys.

It's not just black students who benefit from having more black men teaching them — everyone will benefit from the destruction of stereotypes. Black men are visible dribbling basketballs and scoring touchdowns, but more should be seen shaping the youth of today.