After attending an elementary Freedom School, middle school in Iran, and Overbrook High School (1988), El-Mekki attended Indiana University of PA (IUP) on a full academic scholarship. After a brief stint as a social worker and counselor at the Youth Study Center, he became eager to make a community-based impact which led him to work in community-based public schools.
The son of two Black Panther Party members, El-Mekki had a strong desire to dive into a cause that would address issues relating to social justice, equity, and educational opportunities. In 1992, El-Mekki became a teacher through an alternative certification program for Black men, through a collaborative effort between the School District of Philadelphia, Concerned Black Men, and Cheyney University. After ten years at his placement school, El-Mekki began his five-year principalship at Anna H. Shaw Middle School, where he helped lead a turnaround school team, significantly raising student achievement levels and creating a nurturing student-centered learning environment. El-Mekki then served as the proud principal of Mastery Charter School-Shoemaker Campus, a neighborhood public charter that serves almost 800 students in grades 7-12 for eleven years.
El-Mekki served as one of Secretary Arne Duncan’s inaugural group of Principal Ambassadors, providing the principalship perspective to the US Secretary of Education. He served two terms on the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males, is a member of Education Leaders of Color, and several other education and community-based organizations. The team at Shoemaker was recognized for their community partnerships and student achievement by President Obama, Oprah Winfrey, and others
El-Mekki founded the Center for Black Educator Development as well as The Fellowship-Black Male Educators for Social Justice. He blogs about education on http://phillys7thward.org, is a cohost of the 8 Black Hands podcast, and is a featured voice at Education Post.