Before Eugenia Floyd was named 2021 Burroughs Wellcome Fund North Carolina Teacher of the Year, she was a fourth grade teacher striving to give her “nieces and nephews” the culturally responsive education they sought out and deserved. This goal was often met with backlash by the educators and administrators in her building.
“When you’re one of two Black educators in the building,” she said, “your utter presence is a disruption.”
In a system where less than 20% of educators are women of color, she believes it is imperative that this population has a safe and welcoming place.
Profound Ladies is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the recruitment and retention of Black and indigenous women teachers of color. For years, male educators of color have had a safe space in Profound Gentlemen, created on similar principles with similar goals.
Founded by veteran educator Keiyonna Dubashi in 2020, Profound Ladies seeks to connect its members to a broader community through mentorship, career development, training and resources, and an overall profound sense of purpose.
Most recently, Profound Ladies celebrated its mission with a Back to School Jam at Southeast Raleigh Charter School — one of the first in-person events hosted by the nonprofit since its formation. The event was designed to bring together dynamic community educators and leaders, such as Floyd, to pursue joy in the field of education while instilling support, encouragement, and liberation through self-work and exploration.
Dubashi commenced the event by welcoming the attendees to what would be a day dedicated to acknowledging their “why” – why they were gathered, why they pursued careers in education, and why they find fulfillment through investing in the future of students.
Former educator and current author and poet, including at EdNC, Derick Lee delivered a captivating poem as the keynote speaker. Silence cushioned his voice as he spoke on self-care in the midst of hustle culture, remembering why they chose to be educators, and seeing themselves in the people they serve.
A panel followed, featuring Floyd, Xavier Adams, the NCCAT 2022 Prudential NC Beginning Teacher of the Year, and Ashley Kazouh, associate director at The Dudley Flood Center for Educational Equity and Opportunity.
Throughout the day, attendees fellowshiped together over meals and through activities, games, and dance parties to Beyoncé’s most recent album.
The latter half of the day was occupied by breakout sessions, where attendees could hear from different educators and Profound Ladies members on four different topics, including social and emotional learning, insight into life as an administrator, personal branding and long-term success, and practices for teaching equity in the classroom.
In the breakout session on teaching equity in the classroom led by Floyd, she recalled a moment in which she engaged with a parent who became emotional over having a Black woman teach her child. While she may have felt alone in her school as one of two Black educators, she was surrounded by supporters at the Back to School Jam.
“I hate feeling like I’m preaching to the choir, right? We all know this work is hard – keep going and going, on and on. We each have this gift that’s inside us, this talent inside us, this knowledge inside us to support each other along the way and not have to do it by ourselves.”Derick Lee