Affirming Black Male Excellence

July
2020
Abdimalik A. Buul, Professor Counseling San Diego City College
Trevor L. Bracket, Professor Counseling Pasadena City College
Jeremy E. Hart, Professor Counseling Mt. San Antonio College
Christopher V. Williams, Professor Counseling Riverside City College

The African American Male Education Network and Development (A2MEND) organization is a non-profit organization comprised of African American male educators who utilize their scholarly and professional expertise to foster institutional change throughout the educational system—for the sole purpose of augmenting success rates for African American males. Recently, the organization has commenced and facilitated a series of free webinars intended to succor California Community College faculty, staff, and administrators in navigating onerous discourse pertaining to anti-blackness and police brutality in the wake of the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and the lynching of Black men in California. A2MEND has a wealth of knowledge and experience. Therefore, the organization is uniquely positioned not only to facilitate, but to lead this particular conversation as we collectively transition from a moment of avowal to a movement of solidarity and sustainable change. For this reason, during these trying times—A2MEND has established and proffered dynamic and systemic programing focused on cultivating and advancing the inherent discernment that Black minds not only matter, but they deserve to be optimized to their full potential.

This is not a novel or revolutionary agenda; it has been well over thirteen years since the inception of the first annual A2MEND Summit that convened hundreds of Black educators and students with the overarching goal of investigating best practices for constructing institutional and systemic change. For years, conference themes, keynote presenters, and workshops have both tackled the systemic and institutional barriers of the educational system and have proposed copious strategies to keep the proverbial knee off the necks of Black students and faculty. The common hallmark of these sessions is the habitual call to action that ensures this work remains at the forefront.

Leading by example, the A2MEND program has been an instrument of change. For over a decade, the program has piloted a transformational mentorship program that pairs Black community college males with A2MEND board members as well as student charter programs in thirteen California community colleges. A2MEND unequivocally believes the impact of mentorship, identity development, and academic support for African American males in higher education are critical factors in their academic success and professional trajectory. Effective mentorship incorporates affirming a sense of belonging for mentees in addition to providing guidance for crucial issues such as career choices.

A2MEND has been a trailblazer in pushing the envelope for justice and equality. For many, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” is conspicuously inadequate. We know Black lives matter. Therefore, going beyond the rudimentary baseline, A2MEND encourages and galvanizes others to postulate that Black lives not only matter; they should be affirmed, valued, and respected. Propelling and elevating the discourse to a deeper level of consciousness, A2MEND mentees have taken ownership of their educational spaces from forming a sense of belonging to belonging. Through outings, skill-building workshops, and cultural enrichment trips to African countries, the men of A2MEND invest in the cultivation and maturation of African American males. These engagements foster higher levels of self-efficacy, motivation, and elevated long-term goals. 

The A2MEND mentor/mentee relationship is one of reciprocity and personal growth for both parties. Mentees value the time and efforts put forth by A2MEND towards their success in life. As the nation suffers from anti-black misandry and the irrational fear of Black men, this mentorship program provides solace in its ability to help transform the lives of so many Black men. This mentorship program has displayed extraordinary results evidenced by distributing nearly $500,000 in scholarships and mentoring over 400 Black males. These extraordinary results include justice impacted students transferring to UC Berkeley, Moorhouse, Harvard, and various other Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU). 

Most recently, the mentees completed a series of spring workshops stemming from mental health to employment readiness and technological trainings on platforms such as Canvas and Zoom. The mentee program is one component that A2MEND board members and mentees have committed to almost every Saturday this spring. In addition, understanding the saliency of identity development not only to the self-efficacy of our students but to their overall self-esteem, mentors and mentees have travelled to the continent of Africa for the past several years. These educational excursions have affirmed the African part in the term African American, as mentees have returned with a sense of purpose and drive that is unparalleled.

Culturally relevant pedagogy taps the surface of student success when reflected in the curriculum. Joshua Daniel, a mentee from Antelope Valley College, describes his experience: “I see my people in a different light compared to others. I didn’t read about the churches of Lalibela from a book, I didn’t hear about Gorée Island from a friend, I was there. My feet touched sacred soil. Years of colonization have stripped our Mother continent of her resources. But they can’t strip a mind that is founded on African principles.” A2MEND seeks to actualize this pedagogy by creating global change agents who are not only deeply rooted in their identity, but who are motivated and prepared to help create sustainable change in the world.

In 2015, the A2MEND organization decided it was time to elevate their passion for increasing retention and success rates for African American male students to new heights. The preponderance for increased equity and equality for African American students within the country and particularly in community college campuses has continuously been a point of emphasis for the A2MEND organization and the state Chancellor’s Office. In an unprecedented display of advocacy, the A2MEND board decided it was time to take immediate action and created the first ever Student Charter Division and approved five community colleges to have student charters on their campuses.The goal of the Student Charter Division is to provide a structure that directly supports the social and academic success of African American students on campus.With the creation of each student charter, A2MEND designates a coordinator who is responsible for working specifically with Charter Advisors and Campus Administration.

Currently, the A2MEND organization has thirteen student charters and has continued to approve five new student charters a year. A2MEND is hands-on and disseminates resources to support every newly formed student charter. The organization takes initiative by providing advisors with a recruitment curriculum and a three-day training seminar. The ultimate goal and the mission are to create a space that allows students to connect with one another, while also forming a lasting network of relationships with other Student Charter Advisors around the state.In the effort to build community, students are also invited and encouraged to participate in numerous conferences throughout the year, such as the annual A2MEND Summit and annual Leadership Conference. These charters have had a profound impact on the development and maturation process of Black males. Joseph Merchain, former foster youth student and A2MEND Charter president at Pasadena City College stated, “It has helped me develop in ways that I could never imagine from navigating the college process, streets, and workforce, and now I can provide those skills to those that don’t have it. I have received, and I want to give it back.”  

The impact of this work is not merely exclusive to students. For faculty counseling members and A2MEND board members, working within the California Community College system—these efforts are not circumscribed to our students alone, but our colleagues as well.The profound learning that exists in interacting with Black males allows us as practitioners and educators the opportunity to transition from theory to practice. When young Black male administrators Dr. Edward C. Bush and Dr. Scott Thayer founded A2MEND fourteen years ago, they envisioned augmenting the deficit mindset that has had deleterious impacts on our Black males by creating an asset approach celebrating their brilliance and challenging institutions to do so as well. This is how we transition from compliance-equity curriculum to revolutionary transformative practices.

In the midst of a pandemic within a pandemic: Covid-19 and racism—our Black males deserve an antidote that is potent enough not only to survive, but to thrive. A2MEND is at the forefront of this community healing work and encourages you to visit our various social media platforms and websites to partake in ensuring that Black minds are affirmed, valued, and respected. This summer and fall semester, A2MEND will host a series of webinars to share practical steps in ensuring Black male excellence is affirmed within the California Community College system.

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