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Perspective | Imagine the beloved community

Imagine you awoke this morning in a community governed on the principles of justice, equal opportunity for all, and agape love (an unselfish, brotherly love). Your Instagram timeline captured images of an all-inclusive spirit of brotherhood and sisterhood. Even your political and social leaders handle conflict with peaceful reconciliation.

This community was the end goal of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He called this community the Beloved Community, and his vision was that at the end of boycotting, non-violent resistance, and strategic organizing would be the creation of a higher level of existing. In 1956, Dr. King addressed a crowded Holt Street Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama and presented his vision for a new social order.

“The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the Beloved Community. It is this type of spirit and this type of love that can transform opponents into friends. It is this type of understanding goodwill that will transform the deep gloom of the old age into the exuberant gladness of the new age. It is this love which will bring about miracles in the hearts of men.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. (centre), with other civil rights supporters at the March on Washington, D.C., in August 1963. Photo courtesy of AP Images

I imagine that it might be hard to wrap your mind around King’s concept of the Beloved Community. Between the politically divisive culture that has been created on both sides of the aisle, to a culture where you’re either “toxic” or “woke,” we are living in a dichotomy of good and evil. Our community celebrates ideas that are familiar and shuns those that interfere with our normal. 

As an educator, I envision that our schools should be one of the first places to become rooted in love and justice and fully embody the Beloved Community. Every day, students walk into the building looking for agape love from their educators. This love is understanding, redeeming, purely spontaneous, unmotivated, groundless, and creative. Parents are looking to send their babies to a Beloved Community where expectations for their children far exceed what society expects.

We all have the responsibility to contribute to the creation of the Beloved Community. I chose to contribute by becoming a public school teacher in Charlotte, North Carolina. Teaching required me to constantly show my students the brilliance that existed within them.

In 2015, I co-founded Profound Gentlemen to further contribute to the Beloved Community. We are a community of over 450 male educators of color from across the country who are working to create a Beloved Community, especially for boys of color. Profound Gentlemen equips educators with specific training to better their practice but also with the insight to wield their cultural capital and to acknowledge the genius of their students and parents. 

Photo courtesy of Profound Gentlemen

Every year, Profound Gentlemen hosts a national conference that is both self and structurally transformative. We bring together over 250 male educators of color from across the country who all have stakes in building the Beloved Community for young men. This year’s conference (March 13-15, 2020) is called My Brother and Me, and we are fully embracing King’s ideology. At My Brother and Me, we will host community conversations between community members and educators, hear from keynote speakers Clint Smith & Wesley Hamilton, and engage in workshops all centered on the achievement and the well-being of boys of color.

Dr. King believed that the Beloved Community is actualized when people of different backgrounds recognize that they are all interconnected and that their well-being is inextricably linked to the well-being of others. I want to extend an invitation to both men of color who have answered the call to impact students and community supporters who believe in agape love for all students to be apart of Profound Gentlemen’s Beloved Community.

Imagine if everyone used their capital to contribute to building a Beloved Community right now. If we did, we wouldn’t have to imagine anymore.

Jason Terrell

Jason began his journey as an 8th-grade teacher in Charlotte Mecklenburg School. In the classroom, he served as a mentor, athletic coach, and tutor and was deeply invested in his students’ pursuit of academic and personal success. In 2015, he became co-Founder and Executive Director of Profound Gentlemen, a national agency dedicated to increasing the 2% of male educators of color who teach across the nation. Through this work, Jason has received numerous fellowship experiences and has been recognized by Forbes 30 Under 30 as one of the world’s brightest social innovators who seek to bring about change and equal opportunity for boys and male educators of color. When Jason is not working, he is spending time with his wife and son, going to rap concerts, and boxing.