If school was a better experience for children of color, maybe more of them become teachers. If school was a better place for men of color, maybe more of them would remain as teachers. If you could distill it to its simplest form, these two sentences represent the purpose of the Building Our Network of Diversity—or BOND—Project.
The BOND Project
The Building Our Network of Diversity (BOND) Project Is an organization of male educators of color and their allies who work to improve their recruitment, retention, development, and empowerment of male educators of color as well as boys of color.
The BOND Project began as a small, informal, self-started employee group for people with common interests and issues: most notably teacher retention of black male educators. Today, BOND continues to facilitate programs that support initiatives both within the school district that it began and across school districts, in the U.S. The growth and development of this affinity group have not come without many leadership lessons learned which continue to help navigate the direction that the leaders of this group continue to utilize in the work of recruiting, retaining, developing, and empowering male educators of color (MEOCs).
The BOND Project stands on four pillars: Recruitment, Development, Retention, and Empowerment.
To advocate for increased hiring of male educators of color
For the BOND Project, recruitment means to advocate for the increased hiring of male educators of color. Again, we beat the drum on this topic. We recognize that the national average of male educators of color being 2% is not enough. We recognize that workforce diversity is not only a local endeavor but a national one. We beat this drum everywhere we go, from school buildings, to superintendents’ offices, to colleges, and national conferences.
To increase educator capacity via professional development, presentations, and scholarship
The pillar of development for the BOND Project means to increase educator capacity via professional development, presentations and scholarship. The primary examples of our development and support efforts include mini professional development sessions with educators during the course of our general meetings, joint public speaking opportunities, and our platform for publishing members’ writing.
To serve as a mentoring network for male educators of color that provides support and understanding of professional advancement and retention processes
The pillar of retention speaks to the BOND Project’s ability to serve as a mentoring network for male educators of color, providing support for professional advancement, retention processes, and self-care as educators. We begin this work at the onset of one’s career, such as new teacher orientations.
As an ode to the earliest days of BOND, we cultivate informal and formal mentoring relationships between members. Partnering new educators with veteran male educators was and has been an important aspect of developing relationships, but also enhancing educators’ capacity to do the work required to support their school communities.
To promote student and educator agency to disrupt systemic inequities and advocate for equitable access to educational opportunities
Empowerment means to promote, and celebrate student educator agency, primarily within the realm of disrupting systems of oppression.
One of our key empowerment efforts is the BOND Academy. The Academy is an annual conference which focuses on professional development for all educators across the region, facilitated by male educators of color. The beauty and value of the event is in the idea that we rarely see enough male educators of color share the craft and we developed an entire day focused on providing those optics and learning. Not only does this event boast more than 20 workshops led by male educators of color, there is always a male keynote speaker who is a celebrated educator and/or change agent in his own right.
Speaking of celebrated educators, the efforts of members of the BOND Project have led to various acknowledgements over the years, which again highlights the brilliance that BOND has nurtured. Some BOND members achievements included district teachers of the year, university education contributor awards, and multiple appointments to an exclusive state task force.
We know that these educators have been doing great things in their own rights. However, the combination of energy and aura through the BOND Project only further elevated their collective work.