The International Colloquium on Black Males In Education
Hidden Battlegrounds
Dr. Jerlando Jackson — who is also the founder of UW-
Madison’s Wei LAB — is co-founder of The
International Colloquium on Black Males in Education.
being held November 5-8 in Milwaukee.
Part 1 of 2
By Jonathan Gramling

About 10 years ago, a lightbulb went off for Dr. Jerlando Jackson and a colleague who were asked to
write a paper on the underachievement of makes across the globe. Jackson had been viewing the work
that he did in a silo in terms of what he thought was a unique U.S. experience. Through writing the
paper, Jackson and his colleague saw the universality of some of the issues that Black males face and
decided to convene a meeting that would bring all of those voices — scholars from across the globe —
together to discuss the issues. They obtained funding from World Universities Network and held a
colloquium in Leeds, England, a requirement of the grant.

“The experience was just transformative in a way that you could see the light bulbs going on,” Jackson
said in his office in the UW-Madison Education Building. “It was very intriguing to see how it went off at
the University of Leeds because they had never had a serious discussion about the Black males on that
campus. It didn’t occur to them that was a thing at all. I remember asking a question. ‘Do you have a list
of Black male staff and faculty that we can look over to see if they could be on the program?’ And the
response was, ‘Let me go and find out if we have any.’ Eventually they had about five Black undergrads
who attended. And one of the five was a UW-Madison student who ironically was on study abroad at the University of Leeds. One of the five was actually one of ours.
You could hear them talking about what it meant to see individuals like them at their institution. We probably had about 8-10 students from here who went. And they
just talked about what it meant to set foot on foreign soil. And some of those gentlemen went on and decided to go to grad school and they hadn’t thought about that
before. Some of them went and started businesses. We had one who joined the internship programs that the embassy provided. It felt like it would be a disservice if
we didn’t do the colloquium again. We had never intended for it to be more than a one-time deal and now we’re on eight. We are already looking at nine. It’s every
year, generally in October.”

The eighth International Colloquium on Black Males in Education will be held in Milwaukee November 5-8 at the downtown Marriott Hotel, only the second time that it
has been held in the United States. Milwaukee is a very apropos place to hold the colloquium.

“We announced the reason we were going where we were going and didn’t reveal the city,” Jackson said playing into the theme Hidden Battlegrounds. “We launched
out a three-tiered set of questions. Where in the United States would you think the highest incarceration rate of Black males is? Then we included a bunch of
information. And then we asked who has the worst achievement gap for Black males in education followed by which is the most segregated city in the U.S. And then
we presented a host of other information to get people engaged. The host city had all of these things. For some, it might have been anti-climactic and for others it
might have been clearly an awakening, but nobody would have derived at Milwaukee, which means in Milwaukee, it is also hidden. We are not aware and paying
attention. Those are very significant issues. Some of us in Madison should be ashamed that we are in this state and we have those stark realities right down the
highway and we aren’t alarmed and we aren’t playing a role. I was delighted when it was clear that we were going to come to the United States this year and we
ultimately ended up with Milwaukee because I think one of the greatest services, by simply saying we are going and having people come who never would come
and think about Milwaukee is we have a lot of hidden places where we have some big-time battles. And they are being lost because you don’t know that you should
be putting your effort and energy into it.”

There are basically two phases to the colloquium. Monday-Tuesday is devoted to engaging the community in which the colloquium is being held. And then on
Wednesday-Friday, the more traditional conference is held with the presentation of papers and talks. Organizers of the colloquium want to take advantage of 500
researchers coming together to give something to the community they are being held in as opposed to coming and going and no one knows the colloquium was even

“On Monday, we do a policy roundtable where we identify 40-50 policy influencers who are in the best position to make a difference,” Jackson said. “When we do it
next month — and we have done it in previous years in different countries — we present the best available data that we have access to and share with them policy
initiatives that have worked either in the U.S. or some other space and then try to develop a cohort or collaborative arrangement among those in attendance so that
they will work together to host our visit. We try to have them think about legacy efforts and projects.”

On the second day, representatives from the colloquium meet with men, women and students from the community to provide them with information that might aid
them in the personal and professional lives.

“On Tuesday, we do a couple of academies that are focused on students,” Jackson said. “We do a college academy that we take into a k-12 setting. The panel
presenters are focused the values of a college education, the challenges of applying and the best practices of identifying places they may go to find funding, make it
through college and graduate. We have a similar one focused on graduate school, which is a 3/4th day effort geared for individuals who are either already working
on or have an undergraduate degree and are trying to think about graduate school.”

They also hold community forums for individuals not invited to the Monday session or weren’t interested in attending the formal colloquium. There is also a forum for
Black women to discuss strategies on helping Black men in education, but also the issues that Black women face.

The community engagement is not limited to members of the colloquium impacting the community. The organizers also realize that the community has something to
share with the colloquium participants.

“Milwaukee has some amazing examples and programs that others should be benchmarking as well,” Jackson emphasized. “You can’t be in an environment where
you have performed under those conditions and not have some of the best practices. We certainly want to be able to say, ‘Look, you probably don’t know about this,
but you also should know look to see what’s going on to address this in these places because you too probably have some of this — maybe not as severe — and
here are some outstanding practices. These are some outstanding resources for you.’ It certainly should not only be us who are being helping helpful in that regard,
but actually Milwaukee will have some lessons and outcomes that the world could benefit from. At the same level, we raise those issues, we’ll also raise those
longstanding program plans and warriors that have been happening.”

For more information about or to register for The Eighth Annual International Colloquium on Black Males in Education, visit

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