Workshop explores teaching black minds


Denis Perez / The Advocate

Athletic Director John Wade talks with Dr. Luke Wood after Wood’s lecture in GE-225 on Wednesday. Wood is a professor at San Diego State University.

By Kyle Grant, Staff Writer

There seems to be a general negative perception among those in the white upper and middle classes regarding young African-American males, which has evolved through the years.

During a free public course, titled Black Minds Matter, presented at Contra Costa College on Sept. 19 in Fireside Hall, Dr. Luke Wood, a professor at San Diego State University, discussed some of the differences many adults have addressing young men of color — and their white counterparts.

Dr. Wood’s goal was to urge CCC faculty members to consider his experiences and re-consider their approach when it comes to their interaction with young men of color.
The program is the brainchild of Wood and his associate Frank Harris III and was open not only to all faculty members, but students as well.

According to Wood, the race and gender of K-12 teachers is typically white and female, adding that a whopping 85 percent of preschool through fourth grade teachers are white females.

While this reflects the fact that most teachers may be experts in their subject matter, many do not have the tools and lack the background experience to teach adolescent students of a different ethnicity. As a result, the two parties sometimes have difficulties communicating with one another, which can lead to larger behavioral and or learning issues.

Wood discussed his own experience as a child. His skin tone is darker than his parents’ who were unable to exactly understand or identify some of the struggles that he and his brother encountered every day.

The two-hour, short-form course included a slide show, a portion of which caught the attention of CCC health and human services professor Aminta Mickles. Specifically, one of the statistics that caught her eye was that Contra Costa County was listed among the five largest urban counties in the state where black males are suspended at a much higher rate than other students. The other counties are Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino and Riverside.

Together, these counties account for more than 60 percent of the state’s black male suspensions in elementary and secondary schools.

Additional faculty members and administrators who attended the Black Minds Matter course included Dean of Institutional Effectiveness and Equity Mayra Padilla.

Dr. Padilla helped plan the event and said the course has not only helped her understand some of the social struggles young men of color face throughout their academic careers, but how CCC faculty members can be better prepared to serve and interact with all students, especially African-American students.

She said that the college’s equity plan is a part of that effort.

Teaching Men of Color, an online course taught by Wood and Harris, has been completed by 41 teachers at CCC, with more expected to complete it this fall.

Arthur Fletcher, former head of the United Negro College Fund, coined the slogan, “The mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Last week’s condensed version of the full Black Minds Matter course seemed to draw a direct link between that quote and the course itself. Wood said he hopes his course will give educators additional tools to help them effectively communicate with students of color.

Wood is a professor of education at SDSU, where he serves as director of the joint doctoral program in education between SDSU and Claremont Graduate University.

If students or faculty have any questions about last week’s event, or would like more information, visit for a more in depth look at the program.