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Perspective | Supporting BIPOC women in the classroom: Profound Ladies

“The future that I dream of, maybe because I am a mom, [is that] I want students to be positioned to have the world at their fingertips. I want my sons to be able to leave the house and make it home without being traumatized, without being profiled, singled out, or othered wherever they are. I want to be able to make sure that my little hummingbirds can leave the nest and I feel confident that they’ll return home with no doubt about it. I don’t want to be sick everytime they leave the house or worry about the messages that will be written on them from outside forces.”

As the founder of Profound Ladies, North Carolina’s newest women of color educator advocacy organization, I shared this profound vision on a recent episode of the Hummingbird Stories podcast. It is ultimately this vision that drives my work to take on one of education’s biggest crisis: Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teacher recruitment and retention.

To be clear, teacher recruitment and retention in general is a system-wide crisis: Enrollment in traditional education programs and the number of teacher credentials issued each year has dropped significantly. The problem compounds in rural districts where North Carolina reported an outstanding 1,621 vacancies in 2017-18. Providing quality teachers to every child in our state is a dire need.

Data shows that teachers of color offer an unquestionable value-add to student learning, underscoring the need to fuse notions of diversity and quality in all recruitment and retention strategies. In other words, quality teaching must be understood as effective, representative, and diverse.

Historically, efforts to recruit and retain teachers in our state’s most under-resourced districts have not centered or valued the critical need for representation. The legacy of segregation that stamped inferiority onto BIPOC teachers, educational leaders, and schools due to racism still haunts the system today. This history disproportionately impacted BIPOC women who served as teachers in segregated schools. Our system has still not recovered from the racialized and gendered harm of desegregation efforts.

Fortunately, Profound Ladies aims to intervene and correct the course of this historic problem. Established in 2020, Profound Ladies equips women of color educators with the mentorship, training, leadership, and career development needed to shift the educational landscape from the ground up. Profound Ladies believe in the power of women of color teachers to be both mirrors and windows for all children. In North Carolina, a state where the majority of students are now BIPOC, changing the racial makeup of the 80% white teacher workforce is a long-overdue imperative.

Most urgently, Profound Ladies works specifically with rural regions of the state where students experience the precarity of inequity most harshly. Teacher turnover in rural districts is overwhelmingly high, and Profound Ladies aims to retain BIPOC women teachers in these schools systems specifically.

Profound Ladies is not another professional development organization. Rooted in the inheritance of Black women educators in the South from slavery to present day, Profound Ladies hopes to greet BIPOC women teachers with the open arms and community of support they are owed. Of course, this warm embrace includes access to brilliant BIPOC impact leaders hand-picked from across the nation and workshops to sharpen their craft. But most importantly, Profound Ladies offers a network of care and dignity to BIPOC teachers who report workplace toxicity, micro-aggressions, overt racism, racialized trauma, and disrespect as reasons they leave the field.

Raleigh is the birthplace of Anna Julia Cooper (1858) who argued over a century ago that the “undisputed dignity” of women of color was the prerequisite for education freedom dreams. Profound Ladies steps into Cooper’s tradition, taking on her mantle, fighting for the dignity of BIPOC women and girls, knowing that our empowerment will transform the world.

The future that I dream of is synonymous with liberation. No chains. No systems. No doubt. Only grace, opportunity, compassion, and empathy for all people. Regardless of your background or your zip code.

Support Profound Ladies and learn more about ways to get teachers and districts involved at Contribute to Profound Ladies fundraising goals at their website or follow @profoundladies on Instagram.

Keiyonna Dubashi
Keiyonna Dubashi is a veteran educator with over 20 years of experience in education. Dubashi is the founder and executive director of Profound Ladies. She resides in North Carolina with her husband and three children.
Anna Almore

Anna Almore is a doctoral student at the University of Michigan’s Joint Program in English and Education. Prior to attending the University of Michigan, she taught middle school and then coached and trained teachers across the nation from 2008-2019 with Teach for America. Her most recent research projects focus on BIPOC teacher retention, Black-Indigenous coalition building, and collective healing.