A conversation with CEO Evalaurene Jean-Charles
What is Black on BlackEd?
“We’re a Social Media platform and podcast advocating for reform in the Educational System.”
So tell us a little bit about how you started Black on Black Education?
“So I had the opportunity to intern for Center for Alternative Sentencing and Employment Services, better known as CASES in New York. They try to give Judges options for youth in terms of sentencing, so rather than send them to be paroled or send them to jail to await trial they can also send them to CASES to be surveilled in a productive manner. At CASES we would help them get their high school equivalency, jobs, or access to college. That kicked off, a passion in me, and cemented that I should be doing work in Education, rather than Psychology. Following this experience, I heard someone talking about a program on Saturday where a local school was offering black history lessons, and I became curious. This spurred my own research and slight obsession with looking at what Education looks like for black youth and what it would take for them to make educational gains despite inequities.
When I began to explore, I realized there was a need for this type of platform. We have The Shade Room, TMZ, and all these outlets that give us content about our people, but we’re losing out on things that are more positive or more forward focusing. I mean I love the shade room, and I love hearing about a hot girl summer, but I also want young kids digesting things that are inspiring and empowering. I want to show them multiple ways to success, and that was BOBE does.”
What was your school experience like with teachers and how did that support your learning?
“I definitely had teachers that were awesome, my 1st grade teacher was so hard on me, and I hated her, and now that I’m older I realize how impactful she really was. I was struggling to read A level books at the beginning of the year, but through her pushing and practice I was at M by the end of the year. I was a better reader, because of her. My 3rd grade teacher was amazing, she wasn’t just there in the classroom either. She would come to my church recitals, and always asked how my mom was. She took an interest in me as a person. In high school, that trickled out. I had some good teachers, but lacked real deep meaningful relationships with them. I was the kids that made teachers laugh, I called them by their first names, I was the extroverted student. I had one teacher see me babysitting outside of school, and ask me if those were my kids. That hurt. I didn’t feel like I could be authentically myself as one of the only people of color in that school, rather I always had to be on and overachieving. Going to a college that was much more diverse, helped me to find my voice. I am getting farther away from code switching experiences, and I don’t want to be someone who has too, I’d rather be my full self, and college has helped me to get there.”
What's one challenge for a female entrepreneur of color?
“I don't feel troubled as a black female entrepreneur, but the struggle is the remnants of that. It’s not knowing who I need or what the next steps to take are. I've never had anyone in my K-12 experience encourage entrepreneurship, so I am trying to break down a wall and learn what to do at the same time. I am trying to figure out how to get to where I want to go, but I feel as if I don’t always have the resources to get there.”
What gift would make all the difference?
“A shoutout on Instagram from Diddy, Jada or Will Smith, or any other major influencer. I think that influence matters, but right now I am lacking influence, capital, and time so getting that shine would put us in the position to have the conversations we want to have and allow it to reach so many more people.”
What issue keeps you up at night?
“I think it’s history class, I think it’s the fact that our history is so rich and incredible, and multifaceted, and we’re almost never taught that in the history classroom. We’re not asked about it on the test, and that says it doesn’t matter. This is not the fault of teachers, but the system. When I began learning about about Malcolm X, Mae Jemison, Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, I felt robbed. These people are amazing, and they were hidden from me. I was able to see people who looked like me, valued education, and I learned that the world needed us to get to where we are today. Let’s not show kids light skin cleopatra, and assume that's a fact. Education is empowering. I want students to see all that they can be, but they get disserviced when they don't see leaders of color.”
Where do you see Black on Black Education in 5-10 years?
“I see us conducting research projects on best practices for students of color. I also see us hosting our first annual education conference, having more convos like this, but creating a space to do it together.”
What do you want our readers to know about you?
“I want them to know I am super accessible, please reach out to me! I want to talk to as many people as possible who are doing the work, because its hard and it's a lot. The more voices, the better we start to understand where people are coming from and their perspectives and I value all opinions whether they’re similar to mine or not.”
With each new school year, we continue to hear from educators that are frustrated by the lack of parental involvement in some schools. We wanted to share some practical ways leaders, teachers, and schools can mobilize their parent community and increase turnout and engagement.