Civil rights pioneer to serve as keynote for Call Me Mister Conference

Civil rights pioneer Leona Tate will be the keynote speaker for the 2023 Louisiana Call Me MiSTER Conference to be held Aug. 3-4 at Grambling State University. 

Student registration for the conference is $100 while individual registration is $200. Banquet table display sponsorships are also available for $100.

The Call Me MiSTER (Mentors Instructing Students Toward Effective Role models) program was founded originally at Clemson University in 2000 and strives to increase the pool of African American male teachers, particularly among the lowest-performing elementary schools.

A partnership with Clemson in August 2020 brought the Call Me MiSTER program to Grambling State University. Earlier this year, the GSU program received a historic $2 million in federal funding, the largest one-time gift since the inception of the program at Clemson.

The Call Me MiSTER program is the most recognized collaborative in the nation for recruiting, retaining, and developing fully certified, career-minded African American male elementary- and middle school-level teachers.

It currently represents 25 colleges and universities in South Carolina and 10 institutions in nine other states and has more than doubled the number of African American males teaching in public elementary school classrooms with a 85 percent retention rate of program graduates still teaching, while 14 percent are leading schools in administrative roles.

Featured as the keynote for Grambling State’s first Call Me MiSTER Conference held last summer, Dr. Roy I. Jones, Executive Director of the Call Me MiSTER program and Provost Distinguished Professor for Clemson University’s College of Education will be on hand again to speak during the 2023 Conference.

Tate, this year’s keynote speaker, was only 6 years old when she became a civil rights activist and leader.

On Nov. 14, 1960, Tate, alongside Gail Etienne and Tessie Prevost, desegregated the previously all-white McDonogh #19 Elementary School. These girls, escorted by federal marshals, were the first black students to attend an integrated public school in Louisiana, along with Ruby Bridges at the nearby William Frantz Elementary. National media covered the desegregation of McDonogh and William Frantz elementary schools highlighting this historic event and the bravery of the four schoolgirls.

Nearly 50 years later, the 2008 historic election of America’s first Black president, Barack Obama, birthed a renewed sense of activism in Tate.

Only a few months later, she founded the Leona Tate Foundation for Change, which is dedicated to the principle that, in order to achieve harmony among humankind, every person should have comparable opportunities and exposure.

 Providing access to equal educational opportunities for greater New Orleans area youth is an essential component to implementing this principle. In recent years, the foundation has worked to transform the McDonogh #19 Elementary School building into the Tate, Etienne, and Prevost (TEP) Interpretive Center – the first space dedicated to preserving and teaching the history of the civil rights movement in New Orleans. 

“We’re uber excited about Ms. Tate serving as our keynote speaker and also about U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow from Monroe, Louisiana, being on hand to speak as well,” said Dr. George Noflin, director of GSU’s Call Me MiSTER program. “And we’re excited about Dr. Jones returning to be part of this year’s conference as he was last year.

“Something different we’re doing this year is we’re merging the conference with our Call Me MiSTER banquet, which we’ll hold this year in the Black and Gold Room of the Favrot Student Union. Last year those were separate events but this year they’ll be combined.”

Registration is available online at