Education is an indispensable tool for a more socially just, equitable, and liberated society. While schooling has historically reproduced systems of oppression that marginalize Black and Brown children, educators are key change agents in educational systems. Preparing a strong Black educator workforce impacts not just Black and Brown children, but all children, contributing to a more just, equitable, and prosperous society. The Black Educators Initiative (BEI) aims to do just that.
Calling to Serve
We draw on the rich history of Black educators--from African griots, to Freedom Schools, to present day educators--who have shown us what teaching as social action can make possible for our children when we understand teaching as a context for the lived praxis of social justice work. It is our intention to ensure that Black educators will positively impact our children's academic, social-emotional, and whole child success. This, in turn, positively impacts communities and society. We call community members to serve as teachers in an act of affirmation, resistance, and change.
Building Beloved Community
We are engaged in collectively building a community of practice. We must build strong, interconnected systems that celebrate Black educators, support them, and create fertile ground for their success and retention. We recognize that this requires strong relationships at national, state, city, and community levels; this is not work that can be done in isolation from the communities we serve. We collectively support Black educators who make a difference in the lives of our children and communities. We are committed to celebrating the assets they bring to the classroom, and are working tirelessly to address barriers to teacher preparation and retention for those who are called to serve. The work is supported by $25 million in funding to prepare Black educators in Baltimore, Dallas, and Washington, DC.
Supporting Fellows and Residents
Fellows and residents at Urban Teachers are supported by a Community of Elders--experienced Black educators--who have both the lived experience in the Black diaspora, but also stand in defiance of anti-Blackness to affirm the assets of Black educators. Through a network of mentors who support fellows and residents in navigating systems of education that have largely marginalized Black children and educators, the Black Educators Initiative embraces the legacy of Black educators as change agents and advocates for justice in America. Additionally, we offer distinct professional development opportunities that focus on the needs of Black educators wellness and mental health as well tutoring to successfully navigate PRAXIS, or other certification exams. Currently, the Black Educators Initiative is partnering with noted African American studies scholar, Dara Walker, PhD, to launch a a semester-long seminar that will provide future urban educators with analytical frameworks that will prepare them for the current moment that we are witnessing. Over the course of the fall semester, seminar participants will develop and sharpen their historical thinking through engagement with leading historians and education activists. From the study of the role of racial geography in education movements in urban spaces to the use of intersectionality to examine the role of black boys and girls as education theorists of the Black Power movement, such frameworks will allow participants to actively and critically think about their role in the classroom in what is quickly becoming another key historical moment in urban education.
All residents and fellows at Urban Teachers are provided access to various student loan supports, grants and scholarships. We actively update this portion of the Urban Teachers website as things become available. The Black Educators Initiative encourages interested applicants to check out the UNCF Black Educators Fellowship. Through this fellowship, eligible applicants may qualify for up to $5000 in scholarships and up to $25000 in loan forgiveness. For more information about this specific opportunity and others at the UNCF, please explore the scholarship opportunities on their website.
Building on the Rich Legacy of Black Educators
The Black Educators Initiative embraces the rich legacy of Black teachers. While our current efforts at Urban Teachers focus on recruiting and retaining Black educators for schools in Baltimore, Dallas and Washington DC, we stand in solidarity with all organizations that actively pursue efforts to increase the number of Black teachers in our schools, while also combating anti-Blackness in schools and in educational organizations. The Black Educators Initiative has partnered with a variety of organizations in an effort to elevate the voices of Black teachers.
In collaboration with InDemand in Detroit, the Black Educators Initiative has established Barbershop Talks in communities throughout America, to elevate the voices and experiences of Black teachers. Check out the first episode. Future episodes will be hosted in Baltimore, DC, Dallas and Atlanta.
The Black Educators Initiative Speakers Series embraces the voices in the Black diaspora actively working to challenge systems of oppression while also working to support Black teachers. Please check out our YouTube channel that highlights the work of Sharif El-Mekki and Rosa Clemente. These monthly events will continue to be held.
The Black Educators Initiative is collaborating with the Teachers in the Movement Project at the University of Virginia. The Teachers in the Movement Oral History Project at the University of Virginia embarks upon a collaborative project with the Black Educators Initiative of Urban Teachers, that aims to collect the narratives of Black teachers in Baltimore, Maryland who taught between 1950 and the present. The project hopes to understand Black teachers’ pedagogy in social movements from Civil Rights, Black Power, and Black Lives Matter, and to learn why Black teachers chose teaching as a profession.