Dispatches From the Internets

Introducing My 2019 Mentees

Late last year, I opened applications for my 2019 mentorship cohort.. To say I was overwhelmed by the response is a drastic understatement. I got so many awesome applications, that I decided to increase the slots from two to five! In the end, I’m really excited about the folks I’ll be working with this year: Adewale Abati, Olu Niyi-Awosusi, Marcy Sutton, Sara Wegman, and Desirée Zamora García.

I’ve been working with all five of them for a few months now and wanted to highlight a bit about who they are and what we are working on.

Margaret Collins Used Biology to Push for Equality

Unless you’re really into bugs, the name Margaret S. Collins may not mean that much to you. She was an entomologist who specialized in the study of termites, publishing prolifically throughout her career. She wasn’t just the “Termite Lady,” though, she was also an advocate for civil rights who pushed for equality through scientific investigation, risking both her life and freedom.

Katherine Johnson Took Us to the Moon (and Back)

As I’ve mentioned previously, I’ve wasn’t all that into space growing up. That said, I remember going to the Kennedy Space Center and watching movies and TV shows about our journeys into space. And I vividly recall the participants being depicted as white men. All of them. But that’s not accurate; there was an entire corps of women who did complex math to make flight (including space flight) possible and safe. And among those women, there was a group of black women who did this work too. Katherine Johnson was chief among them.

Without Frederick McKinley Jones, Where Would Your Food Be?

You may not think a lot about where your food comes from, but if you shop at a grocer, chances are you food arrives by truck. And if that food is perishable—fruits, veggies, milk—it likely arrived at your grocer on a refrigerated truck. That truck, and so much more, was made possible by Frederick McKinley Jones.

Amelia Boynton Robinson Agitated for the Vote

In 1965, Amelia Boynton Robinson helped organize the march on Montgomery, Alabama’s capital in protest of segregation and the continued disenfranchisement of blacks. That march turned became known as Bloody Sunday and has been chronicled in numerous books and films, most recently in Selma. For her part in the march, she was beaten unconscious by a member of the Alabama State Police. Undeterred, she marched again two days later, but they didn’t make it to Montgomery. A few weeks later, with an army of 25,000 at her side, she marched all the way to the capital, helping to draw national attention to the disenfranchisement of black citizens and contributing to the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Jack Johnson “trolled” for His Shot at Equality and Inspired Future Generations of Black Athlete Activists

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not much of a sports guy. And if I’m not much of a sports guy, I’m really not much of a boxing guy; I’ve just never been into watching people beat the crap out of each other. That said, I find Jack Johnson’s story an interesting one, especially for its significance in the time of modern athlete activists like Colin Kaepernick.

Mae Jemison Never Gave Up on Her Dream

About a year ago, I picked up a copy of Mae Among the Stars for Oscar. The book told an abbreviated story of Mae Carol Jemison, the first woman of color in space. The book itself is a little formulaic and simplistic, but so are most children’s books to be honest. But credit where credit’s due, it introduced me to Dr. Mae Jemison, who I hadn’t heard of previously.

Baratunde Thurston Tackles Tough Topics With “deep Humor”

I picked up a copy of Baratunde Thurston’s How to Be Black pretty much as soon as it hit the shelves in 2012. I was a huge fan of his work as digital director for The Onion and was really excited to read his take on what it meant to be black in America. The book was brilliant in its concept—part memoir, part satirical self-help book—but also in its execution, which included not only reflections on his own life experiences, but thoughts from others folks like W. Kamau Bell (who I profiled earlier) and damali ayo.