The National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, declares an education emergency and calls for higher standards that will advance proven, evidence-based practices for African Americans in early childhood education and beyond. NBCI plans to recruit and train over 350,000 mentors to build an academic framework that will support this new effort.
NBCI is launching a Comprehensive Educational Strategy: A Pathway Forward for African Americans in the 21st Century. This framework will address academic pathways and priorities for African Americans in K-12 public schools and higher education. Since the Black Church has historically served as the epicenter for educating African Americans through pedagogical and content-focused efforts, a prevailing imperative exists to reestablish these foundational relationships to generate smoother matriculation and competitive outcomes for African Americans in the K-12 and beyond pipeline.
Reverend Anthony Evans, NBCI President, says “We have the blessing and support of the black church’s entire global leadership for NBCI’s Comprehensive Educational Strategy: A Pathway Forward for African Americans in the 21st Century. One of our first steps is to bring African American academics and scholars together to set higher standards for African American children at every grade level. We will build new partnerships and to conduct in-depth evaluations of current partners to see if there are still affinity issues for consideration under this new strategy. Currently, we are conducting an educational evaluation in 200 communities across the country to answer one fundamental question – are these communities doing all they can with the resources they have, and are black students benefiting?” NBCI plans to release the observations from these community focus groups in early 2017. Additionally, it plans to conduct the largest-ever education survey covering African American parental attitudes and expectations. “This crucial data will give us the information we need to understand the challenges we face at a ground level, and will give us the ability to write and shape educational policies for the African American community going forward over the next fifty years. This is why the black church has declared an education emergency,” Evans said.
It is well known that the gap between the vital institutions of the church and education for African Americans has been neglected and underutilized for many years. Historically, the longstanding impact and tradition of these two entities has produced generations of successful African Americans who received their initial education in the church. With the launch of the Comprehensive Educational Strategy: A Pathway Forward for African Americans in the 21st Century, NBCI recognizes concerted efforts are needed to remedy the uncertain stance and persistent divide between the institutions of church and education. Unless significant efforts are undertaken, the trajectory of African Americans in childhood and adulthood becomes dependent upon incomplete approaches devoid of the unique character and capacity found in this formidable relationship. The readiness of African Americans at each stage of education is critical to the viability of our colleges, our community, and our country.
The pursuit of NBCI’s Comprehensive Educational Strategy: A Pathway Forward for African Americans in the 21st Century requires both collective and individual engagement. Scholars and academics elicit understanding to the issues and nuances affecting academic matriculation from childhood and beyond within secondary sand higher education contexts. Religious and church advocates give voice to the concerns of nuclear and extended families comprising their congregations who have unique accounts of the impact of the educational system. Given the ongoing challenges faced by Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), the shared and distinctive issues facing rural and inner-city public schools, and the dismal quality of early childhood education experienced by African Americans, establishing a partnership between scholars and academicians from the institutions of education and clergy and laymen (women) of the churches will provide a culturally-relevant, strategic approach toward generating holistic, measurable results within the comprehensive educational strategy.
NBCI strongly believes in the need for this Comprehensive Educational Strategy: A Pathway Forward for African Americans in the 21st Century and building on present relationships within educational and religious communities. The targeted objectives are as follows:
- To establish higher standards and advance evidence-based practices for African Americans in early childhood education as well as in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM), and in other related skill sets so adolescents and adults are prepared to participate in a vibrant economic workforce;
- To assure HBCUs continue to exist in a technological and innovation-focused era; and
- To crystallize the historic role of the Black Church in promoting its sacred principles and education as its highest calling to the African American congregation and society at large.
In summary, the depth and breadth of knowledge and experience scholars, academics, clergy, and church advocates alike offer regarding the persisting educational challenges and opportunities for African Americans is significant. The development of the Comprehensive Educational Strategy: A Pathway Forward for African Americans in the 21st Century, serves as an important document to provide viable standards and solutions to cultivate a generation of African Americans who can maximize their fullest God-given and human potential within the realms of this American society.