Ascend: Forging the Narrative Virtual Event

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The Leading Men Ascend series was developed to bring educators, policy-makers, activists and leaders in education together, to discuss effective solutions to the systemic issues preventing young men of color from accessing robust opportunities to be successful in life. Through an education lens, Leading Men Ascend conversations deconstruct the various challenges and narratives young men of color in the United States face on a day-to-day basis; and the impact of their resulting marginalization to them and society at large.

The Leading Men Fellowship:

The Literacy Lab understands the significant need for high-impact education professionals in the communities it serves. The Leading Men Fellowship provides skill-building and professional development opportunities to young men of color who are recent high school graduates, empowering them toward a lifetime of success. The Fellowship was launched with a specific goal: to grow the number of men of color in careers in early childhood education. 

Quantitative and qualitative studies show that teachers of color improve the school experiences of all students by contributing to improved academic outcomes while serving as role models for all students. According to a 2017 study by Johns Hopkins University, Black children from low-income households who have a Black teacher in grades 3-5, are more likely to graduate from high school and consider college. In addition, the likelihood that they will drop out of school is reduced by 29% — the dropout rate for Black boys from low-income families falls by 39%. Early childhood education faces a lack of gender diversity — 97.5% of pre-school and Kindergarten teachers are women. At the same time, young people of color, especially young men, face disproportionate barriers to college and career opportunities. Nationwide, 21% of Black youth are considered “disconnected”—neither in school nor working—compared to 11% of white youth.

The need for more young men of color serving as early educators is critical for the men who serve, and for the young children they interact with who will see role models in them. According to 2017-18 data released by the U.S. Department of Education National Teacher and Principal Survey (NTPS), approximately 79% of all public school teachers were White, 7 percent were Black, and 9 percent were Hispanic. The work the Leading Men Fellowship does is critical, and the time to build new narratives for young people of color is now.

The Panel

Through our group of esteemed speakers, Ascend: Forging the Narrative will move this important dialogue forward to forge new narratives for young men of color. The conversation will be divided into two moderated panel discussions, focused on two questions:

Panel 1: What are the barriers that prevent young men of color from seeing education as a career option? In answering this question, the panelists will explore issues of access, systemic injustice, representation, and socio-economic constraints–among others.

Panel 2: What are some key actions individuals and organizations can take, to create new narratives about what is possible for young men of color in education? In answering this question, the panelists will speak to their own work and experiences, as they develop a call to action.

There will be a Q&A session following the panel presentations, and participants are encouraged to send questions in advance through the registration form

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Special Performance by Anthony (Tony) Keith, Jr. PhD
Educational Emcee


Originally from Washington DC, Anthony (Tony) Keith, Jr., PhD. is an award-winning Black, gay, spoken word artist, poet, essayist, and Hip-Hop educator. He is a multi-year fellow and grantee of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities and former director of non-profit organizations in Washington DC that provides youth leadership and development programs for DC public school students.  Dr. Keith is a former multicultural administrator and professor of cultural studies at the University of the District of Columbia, Penn State University, and the University of North Carolina Charlotte. 

He holds a BA in Education from the University of MD College Park, an M.Ed from Penn State University, and a Ph.D. in Education Leadership from George Mason University, where his dissertation won an outstanding award. Currently, he is the Founder and CEO of Ed Emcee Academy, an educational consulting company for poets, spoken word artists, rappers, and emcees.

Speakers - scroll down for bios


Jason Bell has dedicated more than 20 years of his life to better understanding the motivations of crime, punishment and the legal system. He is currently an adjunct professor in the Department of Criminal Justice, Sociology and Counseling at San Francisco State University. Starting as program director at SF State Project Rebound in 2005, Bell became regional director of the then-nine Project Rebound chapters in 2016. Since 2019, he has served as both executive director at SF State and director of programs for the CSU Project Rebound Consortium, comprising 14 campuses. With an extensive history of working with the prison and jail population, Bell – himself formerly incarcerated for nearly 10 years – has worked with the community beyond campus borders, helped establish the San Francisco Safe Communities Reentry Council, and assisted programs modeled after Project Rebound at Rutgers University, Portland State University and UNLV. Bell serves on the board of directors of the SF State University Corporation and as an advisory board member of the California System-Involved Bar Association. He earned his M.S. degree in counseling from SF State University.

Dr. Glenn is an Associate Professor of Special Education and the Director of the Call Me MISTER program at Kennesaw State University. His primary scholarly interests are situated within the context of culturally responsive teacher preparation. His research interests and passion for his work with Call Me Mister emerge from a deep desire to improve the social and educational outcomes of students from historically marginalized backgrounds. He is an accomplished scholar who has established a quality record of disseminating his work though peer-refereed journals such as Teacher Education Quarterly, The Teacher Educator, The National Journal of Urban Education and Practice. Additionally, he regularly makes presentations at the national conferences of the American Educational Research Association Conference, National Association for Multicultural Education, Teacher Education Division of the Council for Exceptional Children, American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education. Dr. Glenn earned his Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction with an Emphasis in Special Education Policy, a M.A. in Special Education, and a Graduate Certificate in Educational Leadership from the University of South Florida. He earned his B.S. in Special Education is from Bethune-Cookman College.

Dr. Bettina L. Love is an award-winning author and the Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia. Her writing, research, teaching, and educational advocacy work meet at the intersection of education reform, carceral studies, urban education, abolition, and Black joy. The aim of her scholarship is twofold: firstly, to advance how the field of education understands and critiques the systemic and structural racism of public education within the U.S.; and secondly, to advocate for abolitionist approaches in the field of education that seek new possibilities for educational justice. In the pursuit of making her scholarship a reality, she works with activists, communities, youth, families, and school districts to build communal, civically-engaged schools rooted in the aspirations of abolitionist strategies that love and affirm Black and Brown children. In 2020, Dr. Love co-founded the Abolitionist Teaching Network (ATN). ATN’s mission is simple: develop and support teachers and parents to fight injustice within their schools and communities. In 2020, Dr. Love was also named a member of the Old 4th Ward Economic Security Task Force with the Atlanta City Council. The goal of the Task Force is to advance dialogue and form tangible solutions for guaranteed income.

Curtis is the Division Director of Justice Services at Felton Institute,  Family Service Agency. He oversees the Justice Services programs (CORE, Mild to Moderate & SMI, LEAD, FEST, STARR) in Alameda County and San Francisco,  which provide services via case managers and clinicians to an ever-growing population that has been impacted by unaffordable housing, decreased mental health services, mass incarceration, among a host of other factors.  

Before joining the Felton Institute, Family Service Agency, Curtis worked as the Director of Project Rebound at San Francisco State University. He managed day-to-day operations and supported justice impacted students to help them achieve their educational goals, and as a Reentry Consultant with Roots of  Success. 

Curtis has a master’s degree in Public Administration with emphasis in criminal justice & Public Policy.

Dr. Creston Lynch is the Assistant Vice President for University Life at George Mason University where he provides support and leadership for diversity, equity, and inclusion-centered departments and programs for the division. These include Center for Culture Equity & Empowerment (CCEE); LGBTQ+ Resources Center; First-Gen+ Center, and the Women & Gender Studies Center. Additionally, he oversees bias incident response and education; diversity training and development for staff in the University Life division; and the division-wide diversity planning and implementation.

Creston has over 15 years of experience in higher education administration. From 2011-18, Creston served as the Director of the Office of Social Change and Intercultural Engagement (previously known as Multicultural Student Affairs). There, he was responsible for the comprehensive support for students from underrepresented populations, as well as campus wide diversity, equity, inclusion, social justice, and community engagement initiatives. He also worked at the University of Alabama at Birmingham as Assistant Director for Student Involvement; Western Kentucky University as Assistant Director for Diversity Programs; and Clemson University as Assistant Director for Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Creston received his B.A. in Communication and M.A. in Liberal Studies from the University of Memphis. He earned a Certificate in Advanced Graduate Studies (CAGS) in Organizational Dynamics from SMU before earning his Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of North Texas.

Rodney is a 20-year teaching veteran. He started teaching at Virgie Binford Education Center in 2015, a school inside Richmond Juvenile Detention Center, in an effort to better understand the school to prison pipeline. His classroom is a collaborative partnership between him and the students. He provides a civic centered education that promotes social-emotional growth. The knowledge he is gaining from his students is also helping develop alternative programs to keep students from becoming part of the school to prison pipeline.

In 2019, Rodney was named National Teacher of the Year by the Council of Chief States Schools’ Officers. He used his time as teacher of the year to advocate for cultural equity to make sure students have teachers and administrators who look like them and value their culture. He has been published four times by Yale University and also received numerous awards for his accomplishments in and out of the classroom, most notably the R.E.B. Award for Teaching Excellence. He has worked with Pulitzer winning author James Foreman to develop curriculum units on race, class, and punishment as a part of the Yale Teacher’s Institute.

He received a bachelor’s degree in history from Virginia State University in 2000 and a master’s in educational administration and Supervision from VCU in 2011.