Representation is everything. A former Philadelphia principal is setting out to diversify the education sector by increasing the number of Black teachers in classrooms. According to Black News, nonprofit leader Sharif El-Mekki received a $300,000 grant that will go towards recruiting educators of color.
El-Mekki has been a fierce advocate for equity and justice within the education system. He served as the principal of the Philadelphia-based Mastery Charter School. He also founded a nonprofit organization called The Center for Black Educator Development which aims to empower Black students through culturally competent education. The organization focuses on the development of teachers who utilize education as an avenue to fight for social justice by providing them with workshops and resources. The Center for Black Educator Development also runs a summer program for grade school children dubbed the Freedom School where youngsters learn about the arts, literature and Black history.
The grant was donated to the organization by NBA player Tobias Harris. Harris—a small forward who plays for the Philadelphia 76ers—has been dedicated to bettering the education system in Philly and increasing the representation of African American teachers. He has donated $1 million to charities and organizations focused on education. “The numbers don’t lie that show that a young Black male that has an African American teacher is 40 percent less likely to drop out come high school,” Harris said in a statement. “I truly believe if you invest in the education, in the schools, you invest in the community, we’ll see more young leaders come up and children come up with an education base and be able to fulfill their dreams in whatever they want to do.”
El-Mekki says he wants to use his organization to spread awareness about the lack of Black educators and inspire more people of color to pursue careers in education. Although having Black teachers improves the educational success of Black students, there is a huge lack of diversity in the teaching workforce. According to the Department of Education, 18 percent of educators are people of color and Black males make up a mere 2 percent of teachers.