NBA superstar Tobias Harris recently signed a $180 million contract with the Philadelphia 76ers. Rather than sitting back and counting his coins, this star is focused on giving back. Harris is passionate about educational equity and justice; part of that is seeing an increase in the number of Black educators increase. He’s putting his money where his mouth is, having recently donated $1 million to several organizations. The largest check went to the Center for Black Educator Development, which received $300,000. Harris’ commitment to giving back was best captured at an event in October, when he and 5 barbers showed up to Bethune Elementary in Philadelphia.
Research shows that hiring Black male teachers can cut the student dropout rate by 40%. Bethune has garnered national attention for successfully hiring Black male teachers and doing so on purpose. Roughly 5% of Philly teachers are Black men while almost a third of Bethune’s staff are Black men. Harris used his time at the school to praise the hiring of Black male teachers. The barbers, however, used their time to cut about 50 heads and in doing so, show the kids that you don’t have to be a multi-millionaire to give back. As barber Jamal Dorsey said, “They see this, and then they think, maybe I can be a barber. Maybe I can own my own business and maybe I can give back to my community somehow.”
Harris isn’t simply a ball player, he’s truly passionate about the work he’s doing. He and his team reached out to the Center for Black Educator Development after reading about the organization. Harris praised the organization, saying, “It’s a great organization. I really love what they are doing for African American teachers. This will really give them a platform. The numbers don’t lie.” The numbers he refers to come from a study by Johns Hopkins demonstrating that Black children who’ve had even one Black teacher during their school career were far more likely to graduate from high school. Those who had two were significantly more likely to attend college.
Our children need the wealthy to step up and they also need the everyday citizen. It takes a Tobias Harris and a barber like Jamal Dorsey, to raise a child. Educational equity and justice will take each of us getting involved. Some must tutor the kid on our block while others must write checks to fill in the gaps. Ultimately, however, Black people must be responsible for the education of Black children — who else truly cares about their destiny, if not us?