I was fortunate enough to travel to Philadelphia, PA to attend the Association of Supervision and Curriculum Development Annual Conference. One of the most fascinating sessions that I have ever attended had to have been, “Inspiring Black Males to Soar” by Principal Baruti Kafele.
Principal Kafele provided all attendees with an overview of the state of black males in the public school system and those who teach them. His style of delivery and deluge of relevant information empowered each person in attendance that had a legitimate concern about the plight of black males in the public school system.
Principal Kafele shared his three-fold focus in addressing the needs of black males by addressing the teacher and student’s attitude, the climate in which the student is forced to receive instruction and the culture of the classroom and school. He told us attitude, climate and culture were all controlled by the educators in the lives of young black males.
Principal Kafele also shared his role in his school in New Jersey. He saw himself as the father of every young man. He stated, “When the young man comes to my school, he is going to succeed because I am his teacher.” What a profound statement and declaration of commitment to announce personal responsibility and accountability for the education of the young men placed in his care. I wish every teacher who teach black males would pledge their commitment to declare out loud, “When my black male students come to my class, they shall succeed by any means necessary because I am their teacher!”
Principal Kafele understood how important his role was to the point that he became involved in the young men’s life outside of their school interaction. He learned how to live in the lives of his young students. He learned the importance of winning their hearts in order to help them become what they were destined to be from their inception in their mother’s womb.
Principal Kafele, shared three components of his vision. That vision included telling the story of the students’ African American history. Secondly, he sought to teach and provide means for economic development for his male students. Finally, he taught and modeled true manhood. If indeed the vision and mission statement of every teacher encompassed the above components, then our black boys would have the chance to excel academically and at a greater level they would understand who they are, how to thrive economically and how to pursue true manhood.
One of the tragedies of the public schools in African American communities is the absence of the positive black male role model. School boards across America should include as their mission to encourage African American male college students to teach in America’s black schools. Black boys need to see a positive reflection of who they shall be in the classroom at least five times a week throughout the school year.
Principal Kafele has offered another alternative for public schools in black neighborhoods that have little or no black male teachers. He has created a mentoring program that instills the values and character traits essential for our black boys to understand who they are.
One of the exercises that Principal Kafele teaches his young men is to look into the mirror every day and ask themselves, “Who are you?” The boys are told to answer themselves with statements that prophecy what they shall be. In addition, he tells them to ask themselves, “What are you about?” In other words, what is your purpose? Finally, Principal Kafele tells the young men to ask themselves, “Where is the evidence?” That’s a provocative question! The boys have to state what they are doing at that time to make who they say that are and what they are about a reality. I am going to ask my three boys to do this exercise and ensure that they know who they are, what they are about and what evidence they have to make all that they have declared a reality.
During one point of Principal Kafele’s presentation, his words and passion for seeing young black males succeed literally made my eyes watery. Especially when he began to talk about how he poured himself into his male students and the impact it made on their lives. He stated that he could see himself in their actions, mannerisms and their passion to be just like him. This part of the presentation hit home because I too was blessed to have a positive black male teacher in my life throughout elementary school. The man that God sent to rescue me from my communities’ prophetic destruction was Michael Van Barren.
Mr. Barren singled-handedly taught me my history, he reassured me that I had potential; he modeled how a Christian Black Male should live his life. As a result of his dedication to teaching and imparting into my life, I became everything that he was. I became the teacher. I became the scout leader. I became the church leader because Michael Van Barren was, I became. Therefore, I too share the same passion to impact the lives of young men. I understand the power of one man standing up and reaching back to pull forward young men who he sees as too precious to leave behind.
Although I do not teach in the public schools, I have found that all black males desire a real authentic black male role model. One of my former students who I taught for several years in our Christian Private School wrote an essay for his public high school Educators’ class stating how I, his only male teacher, impacted his life in a positive way. He recalled me constantly enforcing the uniform code and asking him to keep that shirt tail tucked inside. My student recalled me taking the time to be his mirror and tell him on a constant basis who he was. I declared unto him he was different and had a special calling on his life. This student declared that because of the passion he saw in my teaching, he too wanted to pursue a career in teaching and he prayed that he would be just as effective in reaching his students as I had in mentoring him. Because I was, he became the teacher.
Behold the power of one man impacting the lives of black males is the best kept secret in America. This secret needs to be broadcasted, screamed, and videoed on YouTube, posted on Facebook, tweeted on Twitter and all of the other social media means of communicating the message that there are some black men who are making a difference in the lives of black young men.
My hat goes off to Principal Kafele. You stirred up a greater desire in me to pursue that which I know has been ordained for my life and that is to make an effective impact on the lives of those who cannot help themselves.
Principal Kafele, the impact of your impartation into the lives of the young men who you shared life lessons with will outlive you and leave a strong legacy of self-worth and self-awareness. If only the world knew about Principal Kafele and Mr. Michael Barren and others who have a passion for changing the lives of young men, maybe more black males would have a chance to see a new worldview of their futures and lives.
I was so moved that I immediately bought a copy of Principal Kafele’s book, “Motivating Black Males to Achieve in School and in Life”. You owe it to yourself and the young black males in your life to receive a powerful impartation from this positive man who has dedicated his life to impacting the lives of young black males. Start by visiting his website: www.principalkafele.com.
- Kevin M. Jackson, M.A., M. Div.
- Kevin M. Jackson, A 1994 graduate of Savannah State University with a B.S. degree in Biology and a Masters degree in Urban Education from Norfolk State University and a Masters of Divinity from Liberty University. Elder Jackson is a Chaplain in the United States Navy. He worked as a Science educator for over 14 years. Mr. Jackson is the author of two books; When God Speaks and Life Lessons For My Sons. He is the father of Ephraim, Elim and Elisha and several spiritual sons. Elder Jackson is married to Nila Nash Jackson.