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Three universities, one purpose: International scholars come together to discuss Black boys in education

May 16, 2021

By Perry King

Video: Watch the recording of “Black Boys Education: Currency, Practices and Social Interventions.” This virtual conference brought together scholars from Canada, Jamaica and Kenya to discuss Black boys in education.

“Let us pray.”

As the virtual conference on Black boys in education began with prayer, it ended with takeaway points of action that scholars could take to their communities.

“We ask your blessing now upon those persons whom you have raised up to host and participate in this—the Black Boys Education webinar,” continued Jamaica-based Minister Bosworth Mullings. “We thank you, Lord God, that you have placed this burden on their hearts—to find solutions to help this group of persons who need so much your help and their contribution to society.”

The webinar, titled “Black Boys Education: Currency, Practices and Social Interventions,” brought together scholars from OISE, the University of the Commonwealth Caribbean (UCC), Mico University College, as well as scholars from Kenya. Jamaica’s Minister of Education, Youth and Information, Fayval Williams, was also in attendance. OISE Professor Njoki Wane also addressed the attendants.

“There were three sites for the conference—one at OISE, one in Jamaica, one in Kenya—to look at the success stories of how to teach young Black males, how to reach them, pedagogical approaches,” said U of T Provost’s Postdoctoral Fellow Ahmed Ilmi, a co-organizer of this conference who has served on the University’s anti-racism task force.

“What are the struggles, but also, how are parents, how do educators, how do different societies deal with the flat wheel problem that they have? Within the context of their geographical locations, what is it that they're doing and how do we tell those success stories?

“As the world confronts anti-Black racism, it is important that society as a whole engages questions about the education of Black males—the most underrepresented and organized group.”   


Ahmed Ilmi is the University of Toronto's Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow, and co-organizer of the Black Boys Education conference. Ilmi's postdoctoral research explores how Black boys are being socialized in Canada’s K-12 classrooms (photo by Marianne Lau). 


Ilmi’s mandate, with this conference and his ongoing educational research, is to push for more university-wide Black student representation. This conference, funded through a SSHRC grant, presented intergenerational, multicultural and nuanced perspectives about how to create better educational outcomes and address underachievement.

But, above all, the conference was a reminder that this conversation is necessary.

“I just want to say thank you because when we started having a conversation on Black boys was like a wake-up call—where are our Black boys?” said Professor Wane, in her opening remarks.

“Not that we're minimizing the importance of placing girls in the centre, because girls education has always been pushed to the margins—but we just realized that our boys were missing in action.

“And when we came together and work together to you know to start a research on this, we also felt that it was important also for us to acknowledge all the good projects and the excellence in Black boys education so that we're not just constantly all the time talking about that now, Black boys are not performing.”

Depending on the logistics dictated by the pandemic, additional conferences about Black boys in education will be organized at OISE and in Kenya.

This conference was apart of Ilmi’s ongoing research as Provostial Post-Doctoral Fellow. 

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