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What Does It Mean to Be a Black Man in Education?

Two educators reflect on how their identity has shaped their pursuit of equity.

February 18, 2021

Alum Justin Pinn (Miami-Dade ‘13) is the director of alumni strategic initiatives for TFA Miami-Dade. Corps member Ernesto Godinez (CPT '19) teaches seventh grade math at Martin Luther King, Jr. Middle School in Charlotte. Justin was Ernesto’s high school teacher at Miami Central Senior High School. Read on for their reflections on working in education as Black men.  

What does it mean to be a Black man? A Black man in education? A Black man in this country?

It means going above and beyond to show the world what they are missing out on. It means sharing your story in hopes of influencing those in a similar situation, even if you have never met before. To be a Black man in the field of education means giving love and support anywhere you can. There is enough hardship in the world that our students see in their daily lives, and our role is to offset that with peace, love, and positivity.

We (Ernesto and Justin) share our stories to inspire, connect, and shift the narrative of what being Black is like in an educational space.

Growing up and experiencing the lack of representation of Black male role models is something we both share. We both had to learn to navigate life in a reality where we didn’t see ourselves represented. This is why we both decided to teach. 

I (Justin) joined TFA because I grew up attending lower-performing Title One schools and came to understand how the absence of male role models impacted my childhood and what I thought could be possible for those who looked like me. It was this understanding, the sacrifices of my family, and my experience as a first-generation college student that provided me the inspiration to believe that I could make a difference.

My decision to teach catapulted me on a transformational journey to explore the impact and beauty of being a Black man empowering the community I now call home—Miami. This sacred opportunity to teach presented me with another blessing: meeting and becoming inspired by one of my former students and now TFA corps member, Ernesto Godinez.

“We see the power of Black men leading! It’s why we will both never waver and will always choose to not only be present, but to also extend the ladder we are climbing so that more can  join us. ”

Justin Pinn and Ernesto Godinez

I (Ernesto) used to see myself as just a kid from the city of Miami who was full of dreams and once believed the life of a Black man was what others falsely proclaimed to be true. However, my eyes were opened when I saw a Black man in the classroom willing to be vulnerable about his childhood experiences—willing to uplift my peers and me. My eyes and spirit were awakened at what might be possible if I became that same inspirational force for others. This is why I chose to teach, and now have that opportunity to be present in the lives of my 80+ seventh graders. 

It’s Black History Month, and we are aware of, and actively celebrate, the impact that our presence has in the education space, in the lives of our students, and the communities we serve. We see the power of Black men leading! We seek to show love! It’s why we will both never waver and will always choose to not only be present, but to also extend the ladder we are climbing so that more can  join us. 

It’s why we will both always commit to and fight for One Day.