K. Chandler - Chicago Defender - Chicago, IL, USA

“The sad reality is that a young boy could go through his entire education without ever having a teacher who looks like me.”

— Reg Weaver, NEA president of the 2.7 million-strong education organization.

Increasingly, education advocates from around the country are pointing to a direct correlation between the egregiously disproportionate prison statistics of Black males today, along with the dearth of young Black American males who are successfully completing college, and the fact that only 2.4 percent of this nation’s 3 million elementary and secondary public school teachers are Black men.

In an effort to change that bedeviling situation, the Call Me MISTER program — named in honor of actor Sidney Poitier’s memorable line, “Call me Mr. Tibbs” in the 1970 hit movie, In the Heat of the Night – was established in 1999 by Clemson University in South Carolina along with three Historical Black colleges, Claflin University, Morris College and Benedict College.

The Call Me MISTER program, which is short for Men Instructing Students Toward Effective Role Models, was designed to recruit, train and assist Black men academically and financially in obtaining their South Carolina teaching certification in order to exert a positive influence on young Black American males and respond to the critical need for more Black male teachers in many of the state’s marginally performing schools.

“Although inspired by the Hollywood movie version, in terms of the development of the Call Me MISTER program we recognize that our legacy comes from the fact that it was unlawful for Black men to be called by their surname,” stated Program Director,. Roy I. Jones, referring to the pre-and-post Civil War era when Black men were abjectly demeaned and often brutalized in the South, as well as in other parts of the country.