Black educational excellence is rooted in an ethos of deep care, cultural competency, and commitment to ensuring children are educated with the core narratives, values and vision of their community.
Extensive research has demonstrated that Black children experience a myriad of benefits when quality educators who share their racial identity drive their learning. And yet, the education sector in New Orleans and across the country continues to marginalize and under-invest in Black educators.
The mission of Black Education For New Orleans (BE NOLA) is to support schools and Black educators to create better education outcomes and opportunities for Black children in New Orleans, ensuring the foundation of a thriving Black community, now and forever.
While our organization is dedicated to this mission, we must provoke a radical reimagining of the education ecosystem during this pandemic to ensure that Black and Brown children are never left behind in this city, state, or country. The increased pressure on educators and the traumatic experiences exacerbated by this pandemic are a perfect storm for under-resourced schools to struggle further.
Black and brown children from underserved communities who constitute the majority of our public school system disproportionately suffer the consequences of COVID’s compounding challenges. And we are not talking enough about the impact on Black educators who tend to lead high-poverty schools attended by students with the highest concentration of needs, and the lowest access to resources to adequately address them.
So, what do we do? We need “groundwater” and not “fish-level” solutions. The educational inequities we face, exacerbated by the COVID crisis, cannot be addressed with programmatic interventions alone. In September, BE NOLA released the “Black Brilliance: Field Notes on Black Education in New Orleans.” The report provides an inside look at Black educator experiences in New Orleans with data analysis, a historical overview of local Black education history, and a strength-based look at five Black-governed, Black-led school leaders in New Orleans who we can all learn from.
Investing in Black Educators
The progress we are striving for in the education landscape cannot be met without investing in and committing to Black educators’ growth and development. The report offers some specific recommendations on how to do that and observes that a commitment to supporting Black creation, or Black governance in education—understood by us to be schools that are created, governed and led by Black people—is a critical factor in building a politically, economically, and socially strong Black community.
In New Orleans, 82% of public school students are Black, whereas only 14% of charter management organizations have a Black CEO and a majority-Black board. Black students, Black educators and Black schools continue to be marginalized, under-funded, and under-supported, compared to their white counterparts in the city. These “education debts as Gloria Ladson Billings notes,” aren’t unique to New Orleans but are part of an algorithm of disenfranchisement repeated in communities across the U.S.
With our “Black Brilliance” report and subsequent campaign, BE NOLA strives to center the voices and experiences of brilliant Black educators in New Orleans who believe Black children deserve representation, resources, stability, joy, excellence and justice in their schools. We need to support them.
For more information on BE NOLA, please visit blackedunola.org.