BC’s Rudy Jean-Bart empowers black male students

Broward College has its share of interesting faculty members. However, among them all, none is quite like assistant professor of history Rudy Jean-Bart. From his unorthodox teaching style, to his fashionable style of dress, Jean-Bart is a professor who walks a self-paved lane of his own.

A son of Haitian immigrants who was raised in Miami, Jean-Bart cites Malcom X and his father, Rulx, as inspirations who left an impact on him as a young black man growing up. His father taught him essential lessons.

“He laid a blueprint showing that this is what men do: provide for their families, do good work, be educated and active in their communities,” he said. “I would go with him to the Haitian refugee center as a kid and not even realize that what I was doing was activism.”

This activism as well as a cultivated knack for reading made him thirst for knowledge. As he got older, Jean-Bart recognized the impact of education and fought to ignore the pressures that he believes most young black men feel to dismiss academics.

“When I would learn something in school that impacted me to the point where I’d want to share it with the guys on the block, I’d tell them in the slang that we spoke in the neighborhood,” he said. “They’d still call me a ‘cracker,’ implying that I was white, just because it was something I’d learned in school. That ideology comes from the generational dehumanization of black people in convincing them that they were not intellectually inclined.”

Recently, the United Negro College Fund reported that African American students are more likely to take remedial college courses than other groups and are more likely than any other student group to be in schools with inexperienced and less qualified educators.

Jean-Bart would go on to be a more than qualified educator.

Earning his bachelor’s degree in public relations from Florida A&M University, followed by a master’s in history, Jean-Bart made it his goal to reach students through history. He especially wanted to inspire black students.

“I wanted to be of service to the black community. I felt the best way to do this was to be knowledgeable about the history of African Americans and America,” he said. “I wanted context as to why things are currently the way they are in society. It’s like a mathematical problem. We know the answer, yet somehow, we don’t know the equation. To me, history is the equation. We are lost without history.”

Targeting college due to his love for challenging conversation, Jean-Bart began instructing at BC, working his way to professor of BC’s African American history and American history courses.

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Professor Jean-Bart discusses a group project with his American history class.

His teaching style focuses on critical thinking and intellectual conversation instead of test-taking and by-the-book studying. Concerned by the decline of communication skills and confidence in current-day college students, Jean-Bart encourages thorough class engagement.

He’s inspired many of his male students, even those who’ve long since graduated.

One such former student, Antwon Lindsey, a two-time published author, rising filmmaker and educator at Florida Gulf Coast University, cites Jean-Bart as extremely influential in his life.

“He encouraged me to complete both my undergraduate and master’s degree before the age of 30,” he said. “It is necessary to have great minds such as his integrated within the BC community. He brings a genuine and transcending energy to the purpose-seeking souls that search the world for a unique source of guidance many cannot offer.”

Another former student, Antonio Palmer Jr., a non-profit coordinator, affirmed that Jean-Bart being influential is an understatement.

“It’s important to have an educator who cares for you. I have had many educators on the college and university level and it’s only two who I feel that actually cared about me. By far Rudy is the best.”

In turn, Jean-Bart is fully aware of the importance of his image as a black male professor at BC.

“It motivates me so much,” he said. “I love teaching all of my students, regardless of race, regardless of gender. But any time I can impact the growth of a black man, any time former students reach out to me and thank me, that is always the highest compliment to me. I know that education is a tool that can change their lives.”

It’s an important factor considering that in 2019 the American Council on Education reported that black male students pursuing bachelor’s degrees are more likely to drop out after their freshman year than any other demographic.

Therefore, Jean-Bart always makes sure to put his best foot forward.

“Everything I do can make a difference,” he said. “With how I dress, how I speak and how hard I work, I always want to be an example for black men. Representation is everything.”

Institutions have also acknowledged his contributions.

He won BC Professor of the Year for 2015-2016, the 2019 BC Foundation’s Gaddis Corporation Endowed Teaching Chair, the 2019 Soto and 2018 Aspen Institute Innovation grants, BC Adjunct Professor of the Year for 2009-2010 and the Charles Lyle Leadership Award.

Add to that his role as head of BC’s Food for Thought and Black Student Union clubs and it’s clear there is no stone Jean-Bart will leave unturned when it comes to engaging with BC students.

In the end, Jean-Bart is the type of professor who demonstrates what is achievable as a black man in education. And if you ever get the chance to attend any of his classes, you’ll realize why it is important to learn and see American history through a black man’s lens.
sancha9@mail.broward.edu