03.13.2019

The Academic Hustle: Working to Change the Narrative for Black and Brown Men

By Reggie Rogers, Jr., Treehouse Education Specialist

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For the past three years, I have had the opportunity to volunteer and lead my own workshop called the Academic Hustle at the Black and Brown Male Summit. Co-founded in 2011 by Rashad Norris, this event means a lot to me because it is an opportunity for men of color to come together, feel safe and recognized for who they are.

Often men of color are tasked with not being emotional, hiding our feelings because it is seen as a sign of weakness. Yet at this summit, Brother Rashad has brought together men of color from all walks of life and ages, encouraging us to talk about our feelings with one another. It is essential for young men to understand it is alright to have opinions, to be different than others as long as you are true to yourself.

Even though it is only a day, this summit is a bridge builder and an opportunity to promote black and brown men as strong and confident role models, because we are left absent in media accounts showing our contribution to the community. From volunteering to my work at Treehouse, I want young men of color to recognize that we are more than just athletes, entertainers or thugs as portrayed in the media.

I grew up with an extended family. You don’t always know how or if you’re really related, but you still listen and respect their differences. Now as an adult, I don’t understand everything kids do, but I’m not going to disregard their actions just because they make me uncomfortable. Instead, I try to learn from each situation because understanding can only make me better in my work.

There is a lot to be gained from events like the Black and Brown Male Summit—not only for the students but educators like myself as well. Unfortunately, we as people of color do not always see someone who works in a similar position or the same field, which makes connecting more difficult. This correlates with what those young men are going through as they walk around on campus. They may see another man of color and believe them to be a coach or security. I know we have plenty men of color who are doing their best to change that narrative in their own ways.

As I talk to the kids at this summit and the young people in my work, I let them know you need to have friends, peers and mentors who are both older and younger than yourself. That way, you can learn from both ranges of experiences. For myself, I’ve been lucky to have a mentor in my own life, and just having their perspective has been a blessing. I plan to take that care for me, pass it on and let these brothers know: I’m here for you.

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About the Author

Reggie Rogers, Jr. was born in Rochester, Michigan, but raised in Seattle since age 4. Reggie joined Treehouse in 2016 as an Education Specialist for Federal Way School District. He has a bachelor’s degree in sociology and anthropology and a master’s degree in education leadership from Washington State University. Before Treehouse, Reggie worked for several youth programs, most notably as a para-educator working with youth who have autism.


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