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.
Dispatches From the Internets
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.
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.
Mark Dean’s name may not be part of the public consciousness that Jeff Bezos’ or Elon Musk’s is, but they actually owe him a huge debt of gratitude. Without his pioneering work at IBM, their big money-makers—Amazon and PayPal, respectively—might never have existed.
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.
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.
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.
Investigative journalists have it rough. First off, it takes a ton of research to uncover the truth. Triple that if the subject is something folks really don’t want you investigating. Then there are the smear campaigns, threats of violence, intimidation, and (in some cases) actual violence committed against these reporters. With that in your head, imagine being Ida B. Wells, a black former slave (and woman) reporting on lynchings throughout the South after Emancipation. Brave doesn’t even begin to describe her.
I’m the first to admit that I really don’t know much about sports. Sure, I know, generally, how most sports are played, but I only recognize a handful of “sports heroes,” mainly because I dabbled in collecting sports trading cards in my teens. When it comes to sports, I may live under a rock, but I know who LeBron James is. I also respect the hell out of him. Not because he’s a phenomenal basketball player (which I’m sure he is… I’ve never seen him play), but because of how he has channeled his power as a cultural icon into making a difference for the children of Akron, Ohio.
I don’t recall the first time I heard W. Kamau Bell speak. Perhaps it was one of his stand-up specials or maybe it was an interview on the Daily Show or an appearance on Premium Blend, but he immediately made an impression. Throughout his career, he’s never shied away from confronting issues of race, racism, and the systemic oppression of blacks in America, but he’s also used his bully pulpit to start some important, but difficult conversations.