Expression of blackness in astronomy

Bleine Hadnot, Master’s Program: In tears and applause, Dr. Jamira Pegs successfully defended her dissertation on the protoplanet disc in a virtually crowded zoom room of dozens of people, and Harvard’s Faculty of Astronomy for nearly 200 years of history. I became the first black woman to graduate with a PhD. 96 years after the defense of the first woman, Dr. Cecilia Payne. The defense of the pegs was a significant event not only for Harvard, but also for the black representatives in astronomy. More than 150 students in the United States earn a PhD in astronomy each year (2019 figures). In 2021, the total number of black women in the United States who had a PhD in astronomy sneaked towards 23. There were 21 pegs.

The American Institute of Physics Task Force (TEAM-UP) to raise African-American representation in undergraduate physics and astronomy is a year of factors that cause systematic underrepresentation of black students in both physics and astronomy. We conducted an intensive survey. The Task Force has identified five key factors involved in the retention of black students in physics and astronomy programs. Adverse effects from affiliation, physics identity, academic support, personal support, and leadership and departmental structure. In short, unsupported environments and financial difficulties erode the inclusiveness of black students within the astronomy community, leaving many talented students in areas that provide more support.

Lauren Chambers, a talented researcher who graduated from Yale University with honors in both astronomy and black studies, was impressed in 2020 with the title “A Letter of Astronomy Farewell from Young Black Women.” I wrote an article. With data justice. Over the past year, several other black students in astronomy have written about their experiences in the field of the Black In Astro series featured in Astrobites. Common thread? Alienation. isolation. others. Community-led organizations like the BIA often provide shelter from the faculties that are aggressively and hostilely driving us out.

During BIA Week 2021, I wrote an article on the American Astronomical Society’s Women’s Astronomy Blog about performances from day one. KeShawn Ivory sang a soulful a cappella version of SZA’s “Good Days.” The poet Joan C. Roberts, also known as the paradigm, shared the poems of her book “Continuum.” Indo Jackson explored the cultural world of Blald (blacks and nerds) through her software and gaming company Let’s Get PHYSICal, LLC. The mood was uplifting, joyful, and above all holy. Incredibly, at the Zoom Conference on a hot day in June, the BIA created a true celebration of black astronomers from across the Diaspora. And finally, the moment when we all breathe and become ourselves who love real astronomy.

Dr. Ronald S. Gambling Jr .: Over the last decade of my career, I have faced many cases of racism, prejudice and discrimination against being Afro-Latino in areas that do not truly respect diversity. I was told to change my major to “easier and more appropriate, like engineering”. [people] “. I graduated from the Historically Black College (HBCU), so I was told that my degree wasn’t counted and that” your people aren’t studying things like black holes. ” BIA is like-minded, inclusive, [colourful] Scientists who work together for fair progress in the field. Since 1958, 0.31% of all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) PhDs have been awarded at HBCU (Figure 2). More amazing statistics, about 1% of all PhDs in Physics / Astronomy over the last 25 years, have been awarded to black graduates.

Figure 2: Non-HBCU vs. HBCU STEM PhD 1958–2019.
Figure 2

Data is obtained from the National Center for Scientific and Engineering Statistics Survey of obtained doctoral degree (National Science Foundation, 2019) Available at

The question that always resonates and echoes in diversity conversations is “Where are all black teachers?” Approximately 9.3% of all Physics / Astronomy departments employ at least one African-American faculty, according to the American Physics Association on the African-American Disparity in Physics and Astronomy. increase. HBCU does not have a single independent astronomy department. I have always been passionate about teaching and teaching physics and astronomy students. Because we are not always welcomed by our peers in those areas.

Caprice Phillips, PhD Candidate: Being a black astronomy person, especially a black woman, was a very difficult experience for me. When I was an undergraduate, I often felt isolated and it was difficult to see people who seemed to be doing what I was interested in. For the first time in 2016, I took classes with another black woman in astronomy. I’ve never seen another black man in astronomy, so I was very happy! It gave me the hope that I would have a place in this space.

Another aspect of being a black astronomy is the constant aspect of microaggression and racism that I had to endure. As an undergraduate, I have always been harassed and micro-aggressive by my colleagues and professors. Even the most “meaningful” professors would tell me I was going to enroll in graduate school somewhere because these spaces need black students. When I entered graduate school at my first institution, I faced many obstacles and hurdles. At my first institution, I had to be expelled from my PhD program, mastered, and continue studying at my current institution after the qualification process. When I was pushed out, I really wanted to quit, so I needed a lot of power to continue, but I wanted to get a PhD and continue. I spent a lot of time feeling like I had failed, but it took years to realize that they had failed.

Finding the community and support was great, so I think BIA came at the right time for me. It is very important that I have a space and community where I can count on and learn.

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