We had the good fortune of connecting with Curtis Valentine and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Curtis, is there something that you feel is most responsible for your success?
The rapid growth and expansion of the Real Men Teach brand is in the ownership we’ve ceded to our customers to see Real Men Teach in their own image while not deviating from our core belief.
Whether its co-branding with a local school, non-profit, or university to help recruit Black men, designing a unique product for a Hollywood motion picture company promoting a companion curriculum, or partnering with a national conference to reward attendees, Real Men Teach is what you make it.
We were strategic in using color combinations that allowed men to celebrate their HBCU, fraternity, organization, or local school while also supporting our brand.
Mission-driven brands hit different! If you think Real Men Teach is simply about selling hoodies and t-shirts you’re missing the point. Real Men Teach is a grassroots movement to center Black men leading in our community but its more than that! Real Men Teach is also a fundraising campaign to generating the funds it will take to support Black male educators.
Every single day we produce and amplify positive images of Black men in our apparel, while also celebrating women and non-men of color allied with our mission. Every social media impression of Real Men Teach is an opportunity to reimagine teaching in the image of that Black man presenting his most authentic self to the world.
Every Real Men Teach t-shirt, hoodie, mask, or book bag is a conversation starter…an opportunity to discuss and debate how each of us defines what it means to be a man leading in his community.
What should our readers know about your business?
I am what many call a “multi-hyphenate” or someone who can’t be described with one job title or a single profession. I’m a public policy analyst but also a policy maker…I’m an educator but also an entrepreneur…I’m a creator but also a public speaker. My core business is the freedom of Black people, period.
I’m blessed enough to do what I love, its not business…its me living out the world of my dreams, a dream that’s part of a larger dream that began long before I was even born. I am a descendent of Black men in education that dates back to the early 1800’s in America. I didn’t choose education, education chose me!
I am here because at every stage in my life a Black man saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself. I was blessed enough to have grown up in a small town surrounded by Black male coaches, educators, shop owners, preachers, politicians, and fathers who spoke life into my dreams. My vision for my life led me to Morehouse College and then eventually to South Africa with the United States Peace Corps where I found Black men who’s vision for America and the world required me playing a leadership role.
Real Men Teach is me taking the lessons I’ve learned personally and professionally and applying them to a movement and brand that centers Black men as leaders, not spectators.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
The Washington D.C. Metro area is the perfect place to visit because its part historical and part international, but with its own unique cultural flavor.
I’m a history buff so the National Museum of African-American History & Culture is a must see! The museum sets the context for our experience in this country and the history we created throughout America but more specifically in Washington D.C. and Prince George’s County, MD.
The museum also highlights the music and cuisine that makes us special and great intro to the city that created its own musical art form. You can’t visit the D.C. area without attending a Go-Go Band concert and hearing the next generation of musicians pay homage to its founder, the late Chuck Brown.
A backyard crab fest is the best way to relax and appreciate the multiply waterfront views in the area. Ordering the right size crabs is an art and a science but an experience that can’t be missed.
Lastly, a jaunt down historic U Street for half-smoke followed by a stroll through The Yard at Howard University are a perfect way end any trip to the DC area – I mean “urea” – on a high note. Howard, also known as the “The Mekka,” will leave any visitor with fond memories and high hopes for the future of Black people in America!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My late father, Curtis Valentine, had the single greatest influence on my life. As a child, my father was part of a collection of Black men who made up the village that nurtured my entire community. Real Men Teach is my effort to take my father’s vision nationally. Every child deserves a village to protect them, set high expectations, praise them, hold them accountable, and help them envision a world of their dreams…like the village my father created for me!
Linkedin: Real Men Teach