Dispatches From the Internets

Jerry Lawson Made Home Video Game Systems Possible

One of my fondest childhood memories was getting a Nintendo Entertainment System for my birthday. It wasn’t the expensive set with the robot and the gun (we were poor), but my mom somehow managed to scrape together the $199 (over $470 in today’s dollars) for the system. It opened up a whole new world for me.

I only recently discovered that this fixture of my childhood was made possible by a black engineer named Jerry Lawson.

I’m Running for the W3C Advisory Board

As many of you know, I’ve been involved in the push for web standards for the better part of two decades. I caught the bug early and have been advocating for their use in pretty much every article, book, talk, and workshop I’ve created. I’ve also had the great pleasure of helping run the Web Standards Project (WaSP), a group whose impact on the web cannot be understated.1 And so, when a handful of my colleagues reached out to see if I’d consider running for the W3C Advisory Board, I was… well… speechless. What an honor it is to be nominated, especially out of the blue like that!

  1. Most of the truly impressive and important work was done by the folks who founded the Web Standards Project. I can’t take credit for more than a handful of our activities, but I was honored to have played a bit role in its history. 

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.