Students of every race benefit from diverse representation in their educational leadership during their formative years. Black students with at least one Black educator in elementary school are more likely to attend college.  And for very low-income Black boys who have at least one Black educator, 39% are more likely to attend college. This effect is even more meaningful when boys have a male mentor, and having a Black male educator is a great way to meet these needs.

But did you know that only 2% of our nation’s educators are Black men? The ratio of Black male educators to schools leaves less than one Black male educator per school.

Minnesota faces an even more severe lack of Black male and diverse educators. As few as 1.54% of the state’s educators are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), yet an estimated 34% of K-12 students are BIPOC.

The Creation of UpLIFT

An annual publication produced by his nonprofit organization UpLIFT Movement.

In his experience as an educator from more than 29 years as an educational aid, special education teacher, instructional coach, and administrator, Jonathan C. W. Jones saw firsthand the effects of the shortage of Black male educators in the Twin Cities. Not only did students lack the benefit of diversity in educational leadership, but a lack of connection between the few Black male educators in his state caused issues with recruiting and retention.

During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Mr. Jones took a turn with his for-profit company, Ideation4. UpLIFT was created as an innovative product for his company but quickly developed based on the engagement of his first cohort of Black men. It was decided that there was a need to have a separate nonprofit for this work. The UpLIFT Movement is now producing the UpLIFT publication and is quickly growing into a national network of Black education professionals.

Thrive and Excel

Just as he created UpLIFT to help others thrive and excel, UpLIFT began to thrive and excel right away. It became so large that Mr. Jones had to establish a separate nonprofit to better focus his time, efforts, and funding. The first issue celebrated 41 Black male educators. Each edition combines vivid visuals and reflections in combatting oppressive experiences through the innovative affinity movement.

How UpLIFT Works

Although each edition of UpLIFT offers a space for Black male educators to tell their stories and inspire one another, the UpLIFT Movement goes even further. It is an affinity group which functions like a support group and mentorship. The Black male educators profiled in each edition of UpLIFT lift one another up by providing encouragement and career advice in virtual quarterly meetings.

To keep the groups close, the profiled members of each edition join a cohort for lasting bonds and focused support. This provides an even closer connection for effective mentoring.

With a variety of backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives, there is something to learn from each cohort member. In these connections, members of each cohort can help to retain members of this rare and indispensable group.

The importance of the UpLIFT Movement is expressed by a leading anti-racist trainer, author who provided the forward of the inagural issue of UpLIFT,:

“Black educators continue to jump high hurdles and break down formidable barriers to ensure Black representation in the field of education. The inaugural cohort of UpLIFT is a testament to the power, perseverance, and spirit of a Black community dedicated to maintaining our rightful place in the education of American society.”
Dr. Tracey A. Benson, Author, Unconscious Bias in Schools 

UpLIFT Movement is destined to be a national networking hub centered on encouraging and supporting a more diverse educational workforce.

To ensure UpLIFT’s continued growth, there are several ways to offer support.

How to Support UpLIFT

Join Denison in supporting the UpLIFT Movement, so that it can thrive and excel. UpLIFT Movement is a qualified 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization. The four main ways you can support UpLIFT:

Mr. Jones is still working to address the lack of funding for nonprofit organizations led by and for people of color with his for profit company , Ideation4. He leads grant writing workshops, coaching, and consulting to solve the problem of inequality in funding. Learn more about his services and solutions at Ideation4.

At The Gathering, September 2021