Building a community around men of color in college

The annual National Consortium on College Men of Color (NCCMC) Working Group Meeting, which is hosted by the Community College Equity Assessment Lab at San Diego State University, (SDSU) continually provides a significant opportunity for faculty, administrators, staff and students to come together somewhat like a “think tank” of people of color who have a vested interest in the development of men of color at community colleges.

Having had the opportunity of attending for three consecutive years, I have both observed and experienced the progression of the Working Group and the evolving number of its participants. In the first year, we were in one physical location for the entire two days of the conference. On the first day we convened, we were eager to hear keynote speaker Shaun Harper. He presented a mindful and motivating address that further shaped our coming together. He significantly expressed the importance of what we were doing at our individual institutions, and the continuity of developing opportunities to address the gaps that are unique to the experiences of men of color pursuing higher education.

Throughout the remaining workshops and critical learning experiences, attendees engaged in networking opportunities and an openness to understand, learn and grow even better and stronger programming initiatives to serve our male students of color.

Identifying and addressing gaps

The second year, the Working Group moved to a larger part of the SDSU campus. Keynote speaker Estela Mara Bensimon shared her experiences of the importance of actively bringing equity to our work in every way. The equity gaps are strong and prevalent.

Many institutions that provide programming to community colleges in support of men of color initiatives do so with both deficit and best practice models that don’t adequately address the gaps within the lived experiences of men of color. If these programs don’t begin to assess the need for understanding and addressing these visible and unaddressed gaps in the educational process of men of color, then we will never fully address the disparities that pertain to recruitment, retention, academic success and completion/transfer.

The second year’s evolution reflected several breakout sessions, one of which was my own. I thought it was important represent the community college, which was lacking in the previous year.

This third year of NCCMC reflected an even stronger body of participants in the consortium, with Eboni M. Zamani-Gallaher as the keynote. She addressed the importance of consistency in our efforts to truly address the totality of the experiences of men of color, in their quest for higher education and more optimal human experiences. The number of workshops had grown, and there were specific breakout sessions for participating institutions that brought students.

I remain excited about the continual growth and efforts of NCCMC and its impact on community colleges that are using its research and efforts to increase meaningful and holistic programming to address the needs of men of color.

About the Author

General C. Johnson
is interim director of TRIO support services at Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus in Oregon.