Ubuntu Mentoring was born out of Uncle Coulibaly’s frustrations as a special education teacher. Uncle Coulibaly was frustrated with his inability as a teacher to increase the academic performance of his students in Geometry and Algebra I as measured by the Standards of Learning (SOLs), Virginia’s standardized tests. Uncle Coulibaly’s students were predominantly low-income black and brown males. Uncle Coulibaly soon realizes that the tools and resources available to him as a public school teacher in a high poverty school were limited in scope and inadequate to address the root causes of the racial academic achievement gap. Additionally Uncle Coulibaly realizes that the legacies of the history of educational inequity, neighborhood segregation, school segregation, colorism, poverty, Eurocentric curriculum, the criminalization of student behavior are alive and vibrant in each public school hallway across the U.S, particularly in the southern states. Uncle Coulibaly’s frustrations are not limited to the long standing racial achievement gap and lack of parental involvement. Simply put, low-income black and brown male adolescents are what Uncle Coulibaly called the Disproportionate Generation. Black and Brown male adolescents are disproportionately educated, disproportionately suspended in and out-of-school, disproportionately placed in special education classes, disproportionately drop out of school, disproportionately stopped by the police, disproportionately incarcerated, disproportionately placed in juvenile detention, and are disproportionately brutalized by police, and are disproportionately killed by the police.
As his frustrations grew taller than his seven tall body frame, Uncle Coulibaly realized that his African tradition and culture could be a viable pathway to prepare low-income black and brown middle and high school male students to become productive citizens, loving and responsible husbands and fathers, and impactful community leaders. Uncle Coulibaly looked back at his childhood growing in poor villages and remembered Ubuntu. Ubuntu is an African philosophy/ethics that captures the underlying principles of interdependence, solidarity, love, personal responsibility, courage, mental strength, collective responsibility, pan Africanism, solidarity, peace, and humanism in African life. Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu translates from the Bantu language “I am because we are; and since we are, therefore I am". In other words, whatever happens to the individual happens to the whole village and whatever happens to the whole village happens to the individual. Ubuntu highlights the communal embeddedness and connectedness of a person to other persons. Uncle Coulibaly launched Ubuntu Mentoring in May 2019. Ubuntu Mentoring was conceived and built on the principles of Ubuntu.