Scholars of Color Working in Isolation

Maurice Green talks to The Root about building a network to support and celebrate academic success.

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TR: You now want to make this a permanent organization. What's its mission going forward?

MG: To continue to create spaces for the black intelligentsia to share, network and develop and -- and this is the key component -- to reach back into the community from which we've come and have a quantifiable effect on the graduation rate, the dropout rate, the achievement gap. Black people are doing great things academically, but there's a huge disconnect between these high achievers and the community we describe as being at risk. If we can get these brilliant scholars connected to the high school students who are having trouble, we can have a huge positive effect.

TR: Does your own background play a role in defining your mission?

MG: I grew up in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn, in a single-mother household in which education was very important. I'm pretty clear on how I made it. I had a strong family support system and a whole laundry list of people who believed in second and third and many more chances, and I needed all of them. I got my bachelor's and master's degrees from Brooklyn College, both in sociology, and I'm pursuing a doctorate in criminology from City University of New York.

This is where it gets personal. I'm studying black males who have Ph.D.s or are pursuing their doctorates who came from impoverished communities. I'm looking at how these individuals defied the odds, and didn't drop out or wind up in jail or fall into any of the other traps. I want to find out what the similarities are between these individuals who made it when other people don't and see if there is some way we can start expanding those kinds of opportunities to many more people.

Jack White, a former columnist for Time magazine, is a freelance writer in Richmond, Va., and a contributing editor at The Root.

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is a former columnist for TIME magazine and a regular contributor to The Root.