A Radical Reimagination of Black Male Student Success
By Laura Murrell
Director of Communications, Community College League of California
Friday, April 29, 2022
In March, League staff attended and sponsored the 15th Annual A2MEND Summit. Since its inception, the A2MEND Annual Summit has been focused on making a difference in the lives of African American male students by supporting community college education.
This year’s theme, A Radical Reimagination of Black Male Student Success, was a call to action for colleges, educators, and advocates to fundamentally change how we think of Black male student success. As California’s community colleges move beyond the pandemic, many recognize we need to do things differently. To create better outcomes, we must elevate our thinking to reimagine Black male student success.
We asked A2MEND Board Member and League President Dr. Byron D. Clift Breland his thoughts.
League: What is the biggest challenge Black male students face in higher education?
Breland: Lack of staff, faculty representation in both student services and student instruction as well as a lack of non-traditional methods of engagement. Many of our Black males, like larger community college populations, are impacted by the major enrollment decline; however, traditional methods of outreach and recruitment are not conducive to helping them return or enroll for the first time in college. Additionally, the current environments at many of our campuses are not conducive to fostering a sense of belonging. There needs to be more support in place to retain and promote Black faculty and staff who are engaged in supporting Black student achievement.
League: What can community colleges do to support Black male student success?
- Provide resource allocation for programs and services that support cultivating meaningful, value-added relationships with key institutional agents (e.g., A2MEND Charters, Leadership Programs, etc.).
- Create better pipelines to transfer students to HBCUs
- Remove financial barriers to college success (e.g., free textbooks, removal of parking fees, free tuition, etc.)
- Affirm their black male existence in hiring practices and curriculum
League: A lot has changed since March 2020. How has A2MEND’s work evolved since the start of the pandemic?
Breland: We created the A2MEND Institute. The A2MEND Institute provides professional development training that challenges institutional leaders to engage in and implement five necessary components for anti-racist work:
- Courageous Conversations
- Competency, and
- Systemic Change
The institute features today’s leading social justice warriors and anti-racist theorists such as Dr. Cornel West, Dr. Joy DeGruy, Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, Tamika Mallory, Dr. Ibram Kendi, Tim Wise, and Dr. Marc Lamont Hill.
We also ushered in The COALITION a diasporic group of Black, Latinx, and APIDA community college educators who seek to leverage their collective cultural herstories and professional experiences to establish a multi-organizational multi-ethnic powerbase. The primary objective of The Coalition is to interrogate and disrupt the mantle of white supremacy and institutionalized racism within the structural framework of the California Community College system, and in turn, build a new system that in its onset is designed for the success of students of color. A current initiative we are working on is the Aspiring Radical Leadership Institute (ARLI).
League: What can the state do to improve the graduation rates of our Black male students?
Breland: The state can continue to increase funding for the work of A2MEND and implement recommendations from A2MEND report card.
League: What are some innovative approaches to Black male student success that need more attention?
- Drum/Healing Circles – The Drum Circle is a trauma reduction and prevention modality that promotes healing and resilience, cultivates individual and social well-being, and develops leadership through the transformative power of drumming.
- Study Abroad Trips to Africa – In order to expose African American males to their history/culture, A2MEND has committed to taking mentees to Africa for the past 3 years. The trip has been life changing for these students who come back with a renewed sense of purpose and resiliency that carries over into their academic self-concept.
Dr. Byron D. Clift Breland currently serves as chancellor of the North Orange County Community College District.