CHICAGO ( – Effective schools for the education, cultivation and development of Black boys must have a creative environment, offer discipline and teachers fueled with a passion to motivate students.

These points among others were major themes discussed at the Black Star Project’s National Conference on Educating Black Males.

Over 250 predominately Black, educators, parents, and school administrators from around the country gathered not just to discuss the failure of many American schools in educating Black males nor to lament on the horrible national statistics of how many Black males fail to graduate high school.


The goal of the mid-May conference was to begin discussing techniques and methods proven to work and move toward implementing some of these methodologies into more classrooms.

Fighting for the proper education of Black children is a stand the Nation of Islam and its patriarch, the Honorable Elijah Muhammad sacrificed for as early as the 1930s and 40s. Mr. Muhammad set up an independent educational system, Muhammad Universities of Islam, because he saw a void in the existing system as it relates to Black children.

A power-packed panel of educators shared effective concepts and ideas at this year’s one-day Black Star Project seminar. Presenters included author and scholar Dr. Jawanza Kunjufu; president and founder of Providence St. Mel Paul J. Adams III; nationally certified psychologist and activist Umar Abdullah Johnson and author and associate professor Dr. Alfred W. Tatum.

“There is a relationship between self-esteem and academic excellence,” shared Dr. Kunjufu, author of 32 books including “Reducing the Black Male Drop Out Rate” and “Understanding Black Male Learning Styles.”

When Black children are taught their culture and history it makes a difference said, Dr. Kunjufu.Teaching Black history all year around, including history prior to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade to engage students is also important, he added.

Teachers must understand not only various learning styles but also the different learning styles between boys and girls several presenters pointed out. To engage Black male students in reading, find culturally relatable text through poems, short stories and documents shared Dr. Tatum, a reading specialist.

“Black boys do not become better readers with pep talks … they’ve been pep-talked out,” Dr. Tatum told the audience.

“For students who have trouble with reading there is a tendency to turn down the volume of text or expose them to less,” said the associate professor at the University of Illinois and author of “Teaching Reading to Black Adolescent Males: Closing the Achievement Gap.” The text must be essential and useful to them and not required just because it is on their reading level said Dr. Tatum.

Dr. Tatum is also director of the UIC Reading Clinic and hosts an annual African American Adolescent Male Summer Literacy Institute.To increase reading comprehension, have students describe or draw an image of what they read or ask them what they liked or disliked about certain pages in the text he suggested.

Several of the strategies and concepts presented at the conference have roots based in the teaching of the Honorable Elijah Muhammad such as separate classrooms or schools for boys and girls.

During his presentation, Dr. Kunjufu, acknowledged Mr. Muhammad for his valuable insight on education. “I’m a Christian but I give credit where credit is due,” said Dr. Kunjufu, referring to Mr. Muhammad’s work.

Teacher training and accountability was also discussed during the conference, with Mr. Adams saying that a retooling of the entire profession of teaching is long overdue. Mr. Adams is president and founder of PSM and Providence Englewood Charter School, both in Chicago.

In his book, “A Torchlight for America,” Minister Farrakhan explains education has to be the proper cultivation of the spirit and talents of individuals through the acquisition of knowledge.

“It’s imperative to teach people about themselves, their history, their bodies and their nature so that they can become self-masters. Master of self is the key to mastery of all disciplines because in some way every discipline is present within ourselves,” he writes.

Educational specialists from Illinois, New York, Florida, Wisconsin, Louisiana, Connecticut, Indiana, Iowa and Pennsylvania participated in this year’s conference hosted by The Black Star Project, headed by its executive director Phillip Jackson. Established in 1996, the organization’s goal is to improve the quality of education of Black and Latino students by eliminating current academic disparities.

Phyllis Black, a head start teacher at Paul Revere Elementary School in Chicago, attended this year’s conference with co-workers. She says they are dedicated to finding out what they can do to become better equipped to help Black male students.

“We just want to do better, you know we really want to do better and put our heart into it and we do a lot but there is still more that we can do … Like our speakers were saying there’s emotional issues and sometimes we don’t know how to address those issues,” Ms. Black said.