Javon Thomas was among more than 200 or so educators attending the second annual Profound Gentlemen community impact assembly last Saturday, March 11, at Sedgefield Middle School in Charlotte. The organization, founded by Charlotte educators Jason Terrell and Mario Jovan Shaw, presented awards to several teachers among its more than 500 members across the country for outstanding work in helping nurture other young educators.
“Profound Gentlemen is a nonprofit organization that helpsmale educators of color,” Thomas, a PG impact leader, tells Creative Loafing in this video clip. “We create a cradle-to-career pipeline for our boys of color.”
Terrell and Shaw founded Profound Gentlemen when they saw a dearth of male role models of color in the nation’s education system. Only 2 percent of American teachers are black males (only 5 percent in minority-heavy Charlotte schools). What's more, the retention rates for black male teachers are lower than they are among other demographics. Terrell and Shaw knew why. Part of the problem is the eight to 12 hours a day teachers spend at work, taking parents away from their own families for a relatively low-paying job. That can be a particularly tough sacrifice for men of color, who already face numerous other challenging cultural impediments. Add to that the lack of interaction with other males of color, and the teaching environment for young black males can feel downright oppressive.
Terrell, 26, and Shaw, 27, decided to do something about it. Theybirthed the idea for Profound Gentlemen while roommates working with Teach for America, and got the program up and going in 2015. The program has since landed the duo on Forbes magazine’s 30 Under 30 list of social entrepreneurs earlier this year.
Thomas, a ninth-grade English teacher at Friendship Academy in Washington, D.C., was an early recruit. “This is our second community impact assembly. Each year wehold a community impact assembly in March where all the gentlemen from our whole network [meet],” Thomas says in this clip. “We have guys from Memphis, Washington, D.C.; we have guys here in Charlotte, in Alabama; we have guys in Georgia, as well.
“The guys from our PG network — we all come together wherewe’re involved in different sessions that are facilitated by the guys along with some outside leaders as well,” says Thomas. “We just kind of help each other out and share best practices on how to deal with things going on in schools, in education.”
Stay tuned to CL for more on Terrell, Shaw and ProfoundGentlemen.