Where The Science Is… this Black History Month.

I can hardly believe it is February already?! Where has the time gone?! January was a blur; I definitely did not think it would be a month before my next post but here we are. I hope you have had a chance to pencil in some of my 2015 recommendations into your calendar? What are you waiting for?! 🙂

So February it is, which makes it Black History month! Some background on me – I was born here in the U.S. but grew up in Nigeria. As such, African American history was not part of my early education and was something I didn’t start learning about until I moved back to America and started college. So I’m always interested and eager to learn all I can about African American history and the monumental contributions that African Americans have made to the America we know today. A significant aspect of said contribution is in the field of science and technology. Most Americans know about the more prominent scientists, such as, botanist and inventor George Washington Carver, his contributions to science and his career at the Tuskegee Institute; physician and astronomer Mae Jemison, the first black woman to travel into space; and astronomer and mathematician Benjamin Banneker. However, there are numerous African Americans inventors, scientists, and innovators that are not widely known and whose work we all benefit from on a daily basis. National Geographic has done an excellent job of curating some of these inventors and their work here, here and here. I encourage you all to take a look – I learned quite a bit!

In celebration of Black History, I searched high and low for events and activities that celebrated the contributions of African-Americans to science and technology. I found a few that sound very interesting and would prove an excellent learning opportunity for all. I am actually looking forward to a couple!  Here you go:

Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum – Every February the Museums celebrate the significant contributions African Americans have made to flight and space exploration. Visitors will enjoy “presentations, hands-on activities, and stories, and may have the opportunity to meet astronauts, fighter pilots, and others who will share stories of their challenges and accomplishments.” The Museum in Washington will host this all day celebration on February 21, 10:00am – 3:00pm, and the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA will host on February 28, also 10:00am – 3:00pm. Stay all day or drop in for a couple of hours! Free admission to both but remember that parking at Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center is $15.

Book Signings – Tuskegee airman Col. Charles McGee will be at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center on Saturday, February 28 from noon – 5pm. He will be signing copies of his book The Biography of Charles E. McGee, Air Force Fighter, Combat Record Holder. Col. McGee was one of the Tuskegee Airmen and a career officer in the United States Air Force for 30 years. He holds a US Air Force record of 409 fighter combat missions flown in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. He has such an amazing and inspirational story and it would be such an honor to meet him. So buy your book ahead of time so you can be armed with information! Or simply pick up a copy at the museum.

Also, author George Norfleet will be at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. signing copies of his books A Pilot’s Journey: Memoirs of a Tuskegee Airman, Curtis Christopher Robinson and Training the Best. Both books are also available at the museum. He will be there February 13, 15, 17, 20, 21, 24, 27 and 28 from noon – 5:00pm. Even if you have not read the book, what an awesome opportunity to chat with someone who has extensively researched the history of the Tuskegee Institute and likely has tons of cool stories that never made it into the book!

College Park Aviation Museum – Will host a presentation on Bessie Coleman on Friday February 13 at 3pm and 7pm. Admission is $7. Aviator Bessie Coleman was the first African American woman to earn a pilot license and stage a public flight in 1922! Let’s all take a moment to take that in… African American. Woman. Aviator. 1922!!! Wow. Such an inspiration!

NASA Online – In honor of Black History month, a panel of African American engineers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California will facilitate a discussion during a live online program on Wed., Feb. 24 at 1 p.m. Eastern/10 a.m Pacific. They will answer questions such as – What is it like to work at NASA? What jobs do engineers have on space missions? What classes should I take to become an engineer? These engineers manage many robotic space missions for NASA, including the Mars Exploration Rovers and the Cassini Mission at Saturn. This event is geared towards high school students but I’m sure anyone can watch and listen. Tune in live on the NASA/JPL UStream Web page at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/nasajpl to watch the 30- to 40-minute program. Classrooms are invited to email questions in advance to the panel. All questions must be received by Friday, Feb. 19 at 6 p.m. Eastern/3 p.m. Pacific. To submit a question, send it to education@jpl.nasa.gov. Please include school name, city, state, grade level and, preferably, student’s first name. No last names will be used.  A few pre-selected schools may pose questions live to the panel. Such a great learning opportunity particularly for students in the process of determining their field of study.

Well, that’s all she wrote! 🙂 While this time of the year is a great reminder to celebrate African Americans and their contributions to science, there is so much to learn and celebrate all year and across the nation. Researching for this blog post has been quite informative. I learned A LOT and I, personally, am looking forward to attending a couple of these events with my family. I hope to see you there!

P.S. If you know of any events, not listed here, celebrating African Americans in science and technology pray do share! Please post here in the comments below, on the Facebook page, or follow me on Twitter. Let’s spread the word! Thanks!

P.S.S. Everyday, for the rest of the month, on Facebook and Twitter, I will feature an African American in science and technology, past or present. Keep an eye out. Lets celebrate these scientists together! 🙂


*Image Credit – http://www.taichicago.org/archives/605


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