The Black Male Institute (BMI) represents the hopes, dreams, hard work and planning of a host of individuals. Though their individual histories in the Academy stretch back decades, in some instances, the concerted effort to develop an institutional space devoted to scholarship, research, and best practices around Black male academic achievement dates back to the Fall of 2007 in the halls of UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies (GSE&IS) and its Urban Schooling division.
In 2006-2007, UCLA's GSE&IS admitted an unprecedented five African American males into its Urban Schooling doctoral cohort. These doctoral students, in combination with three colleagues from previous cohorts, formed a critical mass of student researchers whose scholarly interests coalesced around interdisciplinary aspects of Black male achievement. As these students embarked upon coursework and began their respective apprenticeships into research, it became clear that not only was this a unique moment in the history of GSE&IS but that, further, this represented a special opportunity to make a significant contribution to the national discourse on issues pertaining to the Black male academic pipeline. Through the mentoring of faculty members like Drs. Walter Allen, Robert Cooper, Tyrone Howard, and Ernest Morrell, the cadre of student researchers formed WRAAAP -- "Working to Realize African American Academic Potential" – a student-initiated and facilitated working group dedicated to developing scholarly papers for symposia at national research conferences, as well as providing the necessary supports required to successfully negotiate doctoral studies.
After several successful presentations at national conferences like the American Educational Research Association (AERA), it became clear that WRAAAP had made an indelible mark on national audiences, on GSE&IS, and on its faculty. While WRAAAP members were successfully moving ahead in their doctoral training, they also wondered about what would be in store for future doctoral students. By Fall of 2008, WRAAAP members had begun an extended dialogue with Dr. Tyrone Howard, whose substantial expertise and distinguished publication record addressing issues of Black males in education, as well as years of successful mentorship of African American scholars at the doctoral level, led to a natural desire to co-labor towards a more permanent space. Thus began the effort to develop the UCLA Black Male Institute.
Several individuals and organizations came together to support the expressed mission of the BMI, providing key financial support for its first effort – the 2009 Black Male Institute Think Tank. The two-day event featured innovative research by junior and senior scholars from across a wide range of academic backgrounds and methodological disciplines. Additionally, African American male high school students from across Los Angeles County participated in several workshops focused on academic preparation, community leadership, and identity development. In total, over 200 attendees came together to dialogue and critically examine the experiences of today's Black males.
On the heels of the success of the first Think Tank, the John T. Randolph & Dora Haynes Foundation provided key seed monies for the UCLA BMI to embark upon its very first research project, Saving Our Sons. As principal investigator of this research and Director of the BMI, Dr. Howard and his colleagues seek to research and improve the schooling experiences of Black males across Los Angeles. The study explicitly examines the effectiveness of single-sex classrooms/academies across Los Angeles County that attempt to intervene in the troubling trend of school failure for Black males.
Looking forward, the BMI is excited to further the discourse surrounding Black males in the United States and abroad. As such, the BMI seeks to identify and work with individuals and organizations committed to practical interventions, reliable research, effective programs, best practices, and responsible policy innovations that are informed by interdisciplinary perspectives in order to improve the educational outcomes of Black males. Below, you can read a bit about various WRAAAP members and their current work.
Jonathan A. Carroll
Stanley L. Johnson, Jr.