When the Empowering African-American Males Succeed: A Ten-Step Approach for Parents and Teachers book and workbook were originally published in 1992, I wholly anticipated they would be adopted by every urban school district in America and regularly referred to by classroom teachers, who, throughout the country, were struggling in their efforts to help Black males become academically and socially successful. In 1992, my wife and I had one son, who was four years old and attending preschool at the First Lutheran Church in Carson, California. At home she and I were doing with him everything outlined in the book. Our older son is now attending Amherst College and our younger son is the lone Black male in the Jr. Beta Club and who consistently qualifies for the honor roll at his middle school. At the writing of this edition they are both participating in the Summer Institute for the Gifted (SIG) hosted at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Our older son is a counselor and our younger son is attending the three-week residential program. The academic achievement and social development of our sons are the result of the strategies outlined in the original book, additional strategies contained within this book, and relationships with coaches, teachers, principals, pastors, and mentors who have provided their much-needed web of protection. However, they are the exceptions rather than the rule as Black males in public education continue to be disproportionately placed into special education, disproportionately suspended from school, disproportionately dropping out of school, and virtually at the bottom of the academic achievement gap in every category (i.e., reading, writing, math, and science).
In Nathan and Julia Hare’s book, Bringing the Black Boy to Manhood: The Passage, they note:
The Black race is like an unsteady palace, gigantic and ornate, teetering at its base while people gather around with cranes and complex machinery. The people squeal and squelch and prop the palace up, feverishly, pompously, working to repair it at its cracks and wobbly ceiling, when all the while the problem of the building’s unsteadiness is a few missing bricks and broken mortar from its now all but invisible foundation.
Enabling and empowering Black males requires a few missing bricks (mission, vision, climate & culture, curriculum & content, instruction, and assessment) and renewed mortar (strong relationships, effective collaboration, focus, and direction). While I have used my family’s experiences to illustrate points, I empathize with the added struggles of the many single-parent households raising Black males. However, if single parents are successful in forming a web of protection and support in response to their unique struggles, I believe that they can replicate our successes.
The most difficult task facing educators, parents, and mentors of Black males in the United States, Bermuda, the Caribbean, Canada, Europe, and Africa is to expand their focus beyond intervention and prevention programs to conceptualizing and implementing empowerment processes. Increasing reading and math scores is not a lofty enough aspiration. Envisioning a young man becoming an entrepreneur; CEO of Merrill Lynch, AOL Time Warner, or American Express; neurosurgeon, research scientist, or head of government provides a framework for learning how to do (i.e., run things) rather than how to get by (i.e., achieve proficiency).
The original version of this book outlined ten building blocks dealing with the critical areas required to build stronger relationships with Black males as part of the transformation of their thinking from excuses to empowerment and from low performance to high academic achievement. The information contained within those building blocks has been woven into the six components as presented in the book, Increasing Student Achievement: A Guide to School Improvement Planning: Mission, Vision, Climate & Culture, Curriculum & Content, Instruction, and Assessment (see illustration). The components are dealt with from the perspective of overall school improvement through the systemic changes, cultural shift, operational teams, and research needed to pave the way to higher achievement levels for all students. Here, the components are dealt with from the perspective of the unique needs of Black males and their families as part of a holistic set of strategies directed at closing the achievement gap and successfully empowering Black males to move through the K-12 educational system into postsecondary institutions.