Pastor seeking to open all-boys school for black youth to drop poverty rate, promote 'Kingdom culture'
A pastor seeking to open an all-boys school for black youth said advancing the “Kingdom’s culture” through education is a solution to the present state of public education that results in a cycle of poverty in black communities.
During a panel discussion at the 2023 Black Conservative Summit in Chicago, Illinois, last Friday, speakers stressed the need for education reform in urban areas of the country. While one panelist runs a network of charter schools in South Bronx, New York, and the other serves as an assistant pastor at a Chicago church that hopes to establish a school for the neighborhood children, both agreed about the need for schools designed specifically for young black men to instill family values in the next generation.
Ian Rowe, the CEO of Vertex Partnership Academies, kicked off the conversation by citing dismal statistics showing that of nearly 41,000 black pregnancies in New York City in 2019, about 21,000 ended due to abortion, while the remaining 20,000 babies were born. Rowe noted that 70% of the black babies born in New York City were born to unmarried parents.
“I recognize that it’s imperative to run great schools and have them teach strong math and science and reading and everything that a school should do,” Rowe said, adding that an all-boys school can help young men think about their roles as fathers and husbands and responsible parents.”
T.J. Grooms, an assistant pastor at Chicago’s New Beginnings Church, homed in on his church’s desire to create an all-boys Christian school for students in the first through eighth grades. “We need to make a concerted effort to win our young men and to train them as being the heads of their families, understanding the importance of manhood, not when we see them as a teenager but instill into them those ideas and those principles in their formative years,” he insisted.
Grooms detailed the vision for his school, which he vowed would encourage students to embrace what he described as the “one culture that supersedes all cultures, and that’s the Kingdom’s culture.”
“There is no greater culture in the world than the Kingdom culture,” he added, illustrating how that focus will push back on the narratives that currently prevail in the minds of young black children.
“If our school is centered around Kingdom culture, then it wipes out me telling a young child that there’s a system that is automatically bucked up against them that will stop them from doing work because they already in their mind think that they are not able to do what it is they put their mind to,” he maintained. “When you get them at 5 and 6 years old, and you’re able to drill that on a daily basis, it will change [who] they are. And when they get to the high school, they’ll already be ready to go.”
Grooms contrasted the emphasis on “foundational, doctrinal, biblical ways of family” and other “Christian values” at his church’s proposed school, which the academy would work to “instill in our children on an eight-hour schedule every day of their lives,” to the material his young children are currently learning in public school.
He lamented that when his daughter was 5 years old and enrolled in public school, she brought home a Spanish assignment asking her to color in a picture of two same-sex parents with rainbow colors.
The assistant pastor spoke of establishing a “prayer force” at the school, which would include “a time for chapel, a time where our students will be taught the Word of God, taught the foundational basis of the Word of God.”
He added that in light of New Beginnings Church Pastor Corey Brooks’ existing ministry, the Project HOOD initiative, “we have parents that are excited and waiting” to send their children to the school.
“They’ve seen what we have done,” he said. “We have such an intricate role in our neighborhood that we have street cred when it comes to the programs and things that we do. There are people now that are lined up waiting to put their children in that type of environment because they know that what Project HOOD and New Beginnings has done has been successful” and want “to see their children be raised by a village that they know has their best interest at heart.”
Rowe offered additional statistics illustrating how “the poverty rate for black married couples has been in single digits for as long as the data has been collected.”
“The role that family structure plays in every community, but especially in our community, is so central and yet it is often not the thing that we are focused on like a laser in terms of how we help the next generation think about those consequential decisions,” he added.
Rowe outlined a path to success that will keep young people out of poverty, which requires them to “finish their education” before moving on to “work, relationships, marriage, then children.” He emphasized that an all-boys school would be “the place where you can have that kind of conversation to talk about what are the likely rewards or consequences when these decisions are not made without the knowledge of what could really be possible with your life.”
“If you finish just your high school degree then get a full-time job of any kind just so you learn the dignity and discipline of work and then if you have children, marriage first, 97% of millennials who follow those series of decisions avoid poverty,” he added. “The vast majority enter the middle class or beyond. Our young people need to know that.”
Both Rowe and Grooms suggested that the goal of both public charter and faith-based all-boys schools should go beyond closing the achievement gap between black and white students. “In the entire history of the National Assessment for Educational Progress, which is often referred to as the nation’s report card, there has never been a year in which a majority of white students are reading at grade level,” Rowe proclaimed. “If we close the gap, all that would mean is universal mediocrity.”
“Our standard should be excellence” instead of “universal mediocrity,” Rowe added.
Reflecting on the high number of out-of-wedlock births in the black community, Grooms commented on how “a lot of our young men are limited to the environment that they see, so that’s the only thing that they attain.” He described how “when they see someone or something that looks like them operating in a different environment and they’re exposed to it, they begin to want that.”
Grooms characterized bringing children into his home as a way to help youth in his neighborhood and church community: “A lot of the young men that we see in my neighborhood, I bring to my home and they see a family, they see children that say ‘yes ma’am,’ ‘no sir.’ They see children in a whole family unit, and they say, ‘you know what, I want that, but I’ve never seen that.’ They didn’t think it was possible.”
Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org