For Teacher Appreciation Week, I interviewed Chris Chatmon, Executive Director of Kingmakers of Oakland. I wanted him to share what makes his program, his Kings and, especially, Black educators special.
Kingmakers’ innovative strategies are improving academic outcomes for Black boys and helping them build a sense of belonging in school and community, and an essential part of what makes Kingmakers work is its unwavering commitment to recruit, train and retain a new generation of Black male teachers.
My interview, lightly edited, is below.
Gisele C. Shorter: Tell me about the origins of the African American Male Achievement Initiative. How did that work eventually evolve into Kingmakers of Oakland?
The American public education system has largely failed to foster environments where the innate greatness of Black boys is even acknowledged, much less fully expressed or realized. They are often viewed as problems to be contained, which is evident in the criminalization of their behavior. Black boys are suspended and expelled at three times the rate of white students. They are overrepresented in special education and underrepresented in challenging course work like Advanced Placement (AP) classes, a disparity owed to implicit biases carried by educators and others who assume Black boys aren’t ‘college material.’
That’s why the work happening in the Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) is so exciting. OUSD knew it was failing Black boys, so it turned to Chris Chatmon, who had nearly ten years of experience successfully removing barriers to success and closing opportunity gaps that prevent Black boys from reaching their full potential, and the district’s Office of African American Male Achievement (AAMA) was born.