136 Black Innovators in STEM + Arts You Should Know and Support!
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Collage of more than 25 black innovators' headshots

By Lisa Mae Brunson

For generations, Black voices and influencers have been suppressed and overlooked. Black people and Black communities are constantly fighting for an end to racial, social, and economic oppression.

It is the responsibility of non-Black communities to hold themselves accountable and to educate themselves on what is happening in our world. Together we can uplift and amplify Black voices that cannot be heard or are refused to be listened to.

With Wonder Women Tech’s platform, it is one of our goals to support and amplify Black business people, Black speakers, Black entrepreneurs and Black people who innovate in STEM and the Arts.

Women Tech is highlighting 136 influential Black speakers who have spoken and shared their accomplishments, aspirations, successes, and stories with the public on the Wonder Women Tech global stage. These innovators each come from different parts of the world, various industries and all have a unique perspective on how we can work together to share ideas, cultivate belonging and propel change.

  1. Caroline Hubbard (@carol_hubb) Product Manager, Growth and Engagement at The Wing
  2. Denecia Jones (@Denecia777) Business and Life Coach, Founder of Jadestone Solutions, Co-Producer of Soul-Well Business
  3. Cheryl Sutherland (@Please_Notes) Founder and CEO of PleaseNotes, Resident MC, Speaker Relations, Partner and Sponsorship Lead at Wonder Women Tech, Business Development Strategist at Res-O-Nate Consulting, Resident Faculty at The Women’s Leadership Intensive
  4. Natasha Bansgopaul (@BansiBans) Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of VegaX Holdings, Chief Operating Officer of Konstellation, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer of DarcMatter
  5. Michael Greene (@greene1of5) Vice President & General Manager System Technologies and Optimization, at Intel, Advisor at Advisory Cloud
  6. Abi Mohamed (@abii_mohamed) Co-Founder, Partner, and Tech Lead at CGVentures, Programme Manager at Tech Nation, Venture Scout at Backed VC, Instructor at Code First Girls
  7. Lisa Mae Brunson (@MissLisaMae) Founder and Chief Visionary of Wonder Women Tech and Hiring Humans, Podcast Host of The Wonder Women Tech Show
  8. Felicia Williams (@cheersfelicia) Head of Product Design and Creative Strategist at Facebook London, Principal Creative Director and Design Lead at Microsoft, Creative Head and Owner of Black Hound, LLC
  9. Suki Fuller (@SukiFuller) Founder and Analytical Storyteller at Miribure, Advisory Board of Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, Analytical Storyteller at Group of Humans, Founding Ambassador of FiftyFiftyPledge, Global Judge and Mentor at Mass Challenge
  10. Melissa Guy (@MelissaLGuy) President of Signal Hill Chamber of Commerce, President/Co-Founder of Asset Media Group, Inc., Co-Founder of Web Commercial Pro, Board Member of Elevate Your Game, Program Director of Urban Media Foundation
  11. Alex Addae Brobbey (@byc_london) Founder of BY Creative and Hairshare
  12. Cecilia Harvey (@ImCeciliaHarvey) Chief Executive Officer of Hyve Dynamics Ltd.
  13. Chisara Nwabara (com/in/chisaranwabara) Product and Service Strategy, Chilosogy Consulting, Product Coach at Mind the Product
  14. Mark Martin (@urban_teacher) Computer Science Visiting Lecturer at University of Hertfordshire, Computer Science Leader at South Bank Engineering UTC, Advisory Board Member at Tech London Advocates and Global Tech Advocates, Google Certified Teacher, Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert
  15. Priscilla Baffour (@Cilla4Talent) Global Head of Diversity & Inclusion at Financial Times, Founder of We Do Diversity
  16. Rioch Edwards-Brown (@Rioch1) Founder of So You Wanna Be In TV?, Media Campaigner for The Five Percenters
  17. Simi Awokoya (@similola) Founder of WittyCareers, Cloud Solution Architect for Microsoft
  18. Giselle Frederick (@giselle__ldn) Founder of Zingr, Co-Founder of Sonaaar
  19. Bianca Jackson (@JAXDigitalPM) LinkedIn Expert and Public Speaker of JAX Digital LLC, Event Venue Manager and CEO of BrickRose Exchange, Fellow at SEED SPOT, Social Innovation Fellow at StartingBloc
  20. Izzy Obeng (@IzzyObeng) Founder and Managing Director of Foundervine, Non-Executive Director of Capital Enterprise, Ambassador of One Young World
  21. Nzinga Shaw (@ZingShaw) Global Chief Inclusion and Diversity Officer at Starbucks
  22. Miracle Olatunji (@mirolatunji) Summer Analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Career Prep Fellow at Sponsors for Educational Opportunity and Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Founder of OpportuniMe, Public Speaker and Presenter at American Program Bureau
  23. Jessica Okoro (@thejessicaokoro) Program Manager of HR Digital Today, TEDTalks Speaker
  24. Dr. Joseph Bryant Jr. (https://www.linkedin.com/in/dr-joseph-bryant-jr-11643123/) Founder and CEO of PROSPEAK Sports Management and Speaker Bureau, Executive DIrector of The K.I.N.G. Movement, National Sports Director of Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Founder, Author, and Speaker for JBMinistries and Good News Today Foundation
  25. Babangida Kure Yohanna (https://www.linkedin.com/in/babangida-y-kure/) Lecturer Enterprise Development at QA Ltd., Entrepreneurial Finance Specialist
  26. Amanda Mcintyre-Chavis (@AmandaMcChavis) Chief Experience Officer and Founder of Legend Factory Co., Vice President of Business Development at Excelsior Music Studio LLC,
  27. Taneshia Nash Laird (@taneshia) President and CEO of Newark Symphony Hall, Adjunct Professor at Drexel University’s Westphal College of Media Arts and Design, Co-Founder of MIST Harlem, Founder and Principal at Legacy Business Advisors, LLC
  28. Brandon Anderson (@brandn_andersn) Founder of Raheem, Guest Lecturer at Claremont McKenna College
  29. Aerica Banks (@erikashimizu) Founder of Shiso LLC, Patent Policy Analyst at Google
  30. Zuri Hunter (@ZuriHunter) Developer at Black Cape, Technical Lead for Black Girls Code DC
  31. Sibyl Edwards (@saedwards) Digital Art Director, President of DC Web Women
  32. Deloris Wilson (@yosoydlo) Founder and Principal at AXL Impact Studio, Senior Fellow at Humanity in Action
  33. Yasmin Taylor (com/in/yasmin-taylor-997769b9) Back End Developer/ Platform Engineer at UpContent, Flatform Data Engineer at Adarga
  34. Tameka Vasquez (@tameka_vasquez) AVP, Global Marketing Lead of Genpact
  35. Barbara H. Whye (@barbarawhye) Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer VP of Human Resources at Intel Corporation
  36. Jesse L. Jackson, Sr. (@RevJJackson) Journalist, Minister, Civil Rights Activist, Rainbow PUSH Coalition
  37. Anthoni Allen (com/in/anthoni-allen-49828670) CEO Brand Strategist and Public Speaker at A Allen Group, Head of Public Relations and Brand Partnerships at A Allen Group
  38. Arabian Prince (@OGArabianPrince) CEO of Mik Lezan Music, Owner of Hypnotic FX and One Fader, President of LAFTC Southern California Robotics Competition, Founder, Chief Innovator of Inov8 Next LLC, Founding member/rap group N.W.A.
  39. Joycelyn James (@jfjamesesq) Tech & Innovation Portfolio Manager, Officer of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development- Government of the District of Columbia
  40. Adonica Shaw (@adonica_shaw) Digital Media Strategist, TEDx Speaker, Philanthropist, Founder of The Surrender Circle
  41. Alexandria Lafci (@laughsee) Co-Founder at New Story
  42. Aniesia Williams (@iamaniesia) MarCom SME, Journalist, Advisor of Black Girls CODE, Freelance Comms Consultant
  43. Deena Pierott (@deenapierott) Founder iUrban Teen, Diversity and Equity Advisor, Founding Member Black Women in Stem 2.0, Digital Prestidigitator
  44. Everette Taylor (Everette Taylor) Serial Entrepreneur of ET Enterprises
  45. Gina Davis (com/in/ginamarcel) Vice President of Engineering at NationBuilder, Vice President of Professional Services at NationBuilder
  46. Keith Wilson, M.D. (com/in/keith-wilson-24b261110) Chief Medical Officer Molina Healthcare
  47. Mark Anthony Thomas (@workandprogress) President at Pittsburgh Regional Alliance
  48. Mckenzie Maree (@McKenzieMaree) Founder & CEO Prohaus Group, Co-Author of The InsurTECH Book, Co-Founder and CEO of Beyond Capital Markets
  49. MoJen Jenkins (@mojenmusic) Infrastructure Manager at RYOT, Technical Project Manager
  50. Tunji Akintokun (@Tunji_Akintokun) Director and Head of Sales UK at PwC, Non Executive Director at England Athletics, Non Executive Director at Regital

Read the complete article at The Medium.

NASA’s First Black Man to Arrive at Space Station for Long-term Stay
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NASA astronaut Victor Glover is seen during a NASA event where it was announced that he, and NASA astronaut Mike Hopkins are assigned to the first mission to the International Space Station onboard SpaceXs Crew Dragon

By Anna Sokiran

On November 17th, Victor Glover became the first African-American astronaut to begin a full six-month stay on the orbiting lab.

Victor is making history, joining the list of the Firsts Black Astronauts from NASA. The first-ever African-American man to join the NASA astronaut program was an Air Force test pilot Ed Dwight in 1961. He became the first astronaut candidate but never went to space. Guion S. Bluford Jr. was the first African-American in space in 1983, and Mae Jemison was the first African-American woman in 1992. In the past 20 years of people living on the International Space Station, the extended crew never included a black astronaut.

Along with other astronauts on SpaceX Crew Dragon, Victor Glover, will be staying on the I.S.S. for the next six months. Out of the 300 NASA astronauts to reach the International Space Station, he is not the first Black astronaut to visit the Station, 15th, to be exact. But he is the first one to stay on I.S.S. longer than a few weeks.

In 2021 Victor is likely to be followed by Jeanette Epps, who would be the first Black woman to become a member of the extended I.S.S. crew. Victor Glover is now the pilot and second-in-command on the capsule, named Resilience. In the next six months, he will be fulfilling the duties of the Flight Engineer.

Scientists Have Discovered a Genuine Room-Temperature Superconductor
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Superconductor stock image

By Joel Hruska

The search for a truly room-temperature superconducting material has been one of the great Holy Grails in engineering and physics. The ability to move electricity from Point A to B with zero resistance and hence no losses would be a game-changer for human civilization.

Unfortunately, until today, every known superconductor still required very cold temperatures. Today, scientists announced they’ve achieved superconducting at 59 degrees Fahrenheit/15 Celsius. While this is still a bit chilly, you can hit 59F in a well air-conditioned building. This is a genuine breakthrough, but it doesn’t immediately clear the path towards easy deployment of the technology.

At extremely low temperatures, the behavior of electrons through a material changes. At temperatures approaching absolute zero, electrons passing through a material form what are known as Cooper pairs. Normally, single electrons essentially ping-pong through the ionic lattice of the material they are passing through. Each time an electron collides with an ion in the lattice, it loses a tiny amount of energy. This loss is what we call resistance. When cooled to a low enough temperature, electrons behave dramatically differently. Cooper pairs behave like a superfluid, meaning they can flow through material without any underlying energy loss. Tests have demonstrated that current stored inside a superconductor will remain there for as long as the material remains in a superconductive state with zero loss of energy.

There are two problems yet standing between us and a more effective exploitation of this discovery. First, we aren’t sure exactly why this combination of elements works in the first place. The research team used sulfur and carbon, then added hydrogen, forming hydrogen sulfide(H2S) and methane (CH4). These chemicals were placed on a diamond anvil and compressed, then exposed to a green laser for several hours to break sulfur-sulfur bonds. This much is known. Unfortunately, determining the exact composition of the material has proven impossible thus far. The diamond anvil prevents the use of X-rays, and existing technologies that can work around that problem aren’t capable of locating hydrogen atoms in a lattice. The team’s efforts to characterize and understand its own discovery are still ongoing.

Continue to ExtremeTech to read the full article.

Life on Venus? Astronomers See a Signal in Its Clouds
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The planet Venus

By Shannon StironeKenneth Chang and 

High in the toxic atmosphere of the planet Venus, astronomers on Earth have discovered signs of what might be life.

If the discovery is confirmed by additional telescope observations and future space missions, it could turn the gaze of scientists toward one of the brightest objects in the night sky. Venus, named after the Roman goddess of beauty, roasts at temperatures of hundreds of degrees and is cloaked by clouds that contain droplets of corrosive sulfuric acid. Few have focused on the rocky planet as a habitat for something living.

Instead, for decades, scientists have sought signs of life elsewhere, usually peering outward to Mars and more recently at Europa, Enceladus and other icy moons of the giant planets.

The astronomers, who reported the finding on Monday in a pair of papers, have not collected specimens of Venusian microbes, nor have they snapped any pictures of them. But with powerful telescopes, they have detected a chemical — phosphine — in the thick Venus atmosphere. After much analysis, the scientists assert that something now alive is the only explanation for the chemical’s source.

Some researchers question this hypothesis, and they suggest instead that the gas could result from unexplained atmospheric or geologic processes on a planet that remains mysterious. But the finding will also encourage some planetary scientists to ask whether humanity has overlooked a planet that may have once been more Earthlike than any other world in our solar system.

“This is an astonishing and ‘out of the blue’ finding,” said Sara Seager, a planetary scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an author of the papers (one published in Nature Astronomy and another submitted to the journal Astrobiology). “It will definitely fuel more research into the possibilities for life in Venus’s atmosphere.”

“We know that it is an extraordinary discovery,” said Clara Sousa-Silva, a molecular astrophysicist at Harvard University whose research has focused on phosphine, and another of the authors. “We may not know just how extraordinary without going back to Venus.”

Sarah Stewart Johnson, a planetary scientist and head of the Johnson Biosignatures Lab at Georgetown University who was not involved in the work, said, “There’s been a lot of buzz about phosphine as a biosignature gas for exoplanets recently,” referring to the search for life on worlds that orbit other stars. “How cool to find it on Venus.”

Continue on to The New York Times to read the complete article. 

Photo by: Photo12/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Navajo Roots Trailblaze a Path to Mars
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Aaron Yazzie's headshot

Aaron Yazzie continues to set his sights higher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With a Diné (Navajo) background, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, and as a Mechanical Engineer with a focus on Sample Acquisition and Handling at NASA, Yazzie designs mechanisms for acquiring geological samples from other planets.

Diversity in STEAM Magazine had a chance to talk with Yazzie about his Native American background and how it influenced his journey to NASA.

DISM: Can you tell us about your background and journey to becoming a mechanical engineer at NASA?

Yazzie: I was born in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. I was born to parents who were 1st generation college students in their families—families that have had traditional Diné upbringings. Their first language was Dinébizaad (Navajo Language), their first known homes were our traditional Diné Hooghan (Navajo Hogan Houses/Dwellings). They learned the English language in elementary school, where they were the first generation in their family forced to attend school by the US government. From that unique beginning, and from that early-childhood culture shock and trauma, both my mother and father made it through an educational system rigged against them, graduated high school, and went to college—the first in their families. My mother earned her degree in education—she became a high school level math teacher. And my father received a degree in civil engineering—he became an engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Both of them have been pioneers of Indigenous achievement in higher education and STEM careers. They may not be known and recognized by the larger Native community as STEM pioneers, but they are certainly my inspiration and the trailblazers to my career at NASA.

I grew up in Holbrook, AZ, a small border town to the Navajo Reservation. My brothers and I grew up, and attended school in the Holbrook School District, where we all graduated proud “Holbrook Roadrunners.”
Growing up, I didn’t have any examples or role models who went to prestigious private schools or went on to work at places like NASA. I knew I wanted to transcend the expectations of my family and my hometown, which is why I always strove for the highest grades in school, participated in all the school leadership positions and sought out all the high school summer enrichment programs. These are the programs that ended up transforming me from a self-doubting minority student into a solid college applicant with some awareness of my self-worth. They gave me the confidence to apply to, and to eventually be accepted to, Stanford University—an event that changed the course of my life.

Making the transition from small-town public school to prestigious private college was a big challenge. Nothing about my time at Stanford was easy, whether it was the rigorous academics or the constant financial struggle. Not to mention being separated from a tight-knit home community like the Navajo community for the first time. I was forced to learn quickly how to adapt, persevere, and overcome many challenges during my time at Stanford. Thankfully, there was a supportive community of BIPOC students who were going through the same challenges as I was. We all supported each other and made it through—not only graduating, but each of us moving on to do incredible things.

I was hired by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory mid-way through my senior year at Stanford. I was heavily involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society from the time that I was a high school freshman. I grew from there to be president of my high school AISES chapter, then became the Stanford AISES chapter president, and then National AISES Region 2 Student Representative. Along the way I received a 4-year scholarship from AISES to attend Stanford, and while there, I received 2 NASA internships through AISES. One placed me at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and one at NASA Glenn Research Center. By the time I was ready to look for a job, AISES had helped give me a college education, 2 NASA internships, and a job opportunity with one of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the world. I met the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory recruiter at the AISES National Conference in 2007. From that interaction, I received an on-lab interview, and was hired soon after. I have been working as a Mechanical Engineer at NASA JPL for 12 years and counting.

DISM: Tell us about your significant milestone – when NASA’s InSight lander touched the surface of Mars. What were you feeling, and how was that experience?

Yazzie: NASA InSight was the first mission I worked on where I was tasked with leading the design and delivery of space flight hardware. Up until this point in my career, I supported missions as a test engineer or support engineer. When InSight successfully launched into space, it was the first time something I designed—something I touched with my own hands—went into space. And when it landed on Mars, it was the first time I sent something to another planet. I was completely thrilled, and overwhelmed with emotions when I saw the first set of pictures of my hardware on Mars. Considering where I came from, this achievement was monumental!
Being an engineer from a remarkably underrepresented community in STEM fields, it is a constant struggle to overcome imposter syndrome. I did not think I was a thriving or even adequate engineer at NASA. It’s a shame that it took an achievement like sending something to Mars to convince me that I belonged in my field, and that I belonged at NASA.

DISM: Can you tell us more about “Mars 2020”? What is the mission? How has the experience been?

Yazzie: Currently, I am the lead engineer for the Mars 2020 Drill Bits. We are sending the Mars 2020 Rover “Perseverance” to drill rock samples and save them in hermetically sealed tubes, so that we can eventually bring those samples back to Earth in future missions to determine if life exists on Mars. Additionally, this mission will study the history of rocky planets and conduct experiments that will pave the way for humans to travel to Mars. It’s really incredible to be part of another historic NASA mission. I’ve grown so much as an engineer—now sending my second flight hardware to Mars, but also being able to lead a team and be a mentor for the first time in my career. I’m very proud to have successfully delivered my parts to the rover, and very excited for the Mars 2020 launch in July 2020.

DISM: How has your Navajo background influenced your career?

Yazzie: Coming from an Indigenous background, I have a deep appreciation for the advancements of my family and ancestors before me. Considering that Native Americans weren’t granted basic civil rights in this country until 1968, it is remarkable that our people have not only overcome this historic oppression, but have been able to thrive and advance. I reflect on my own family, where as recent as one generation ago, my parents spoke no English, but learned in a small amount of time that education was the modern way to advance their people. My own academic achievements and this career I have been fortunate to achieve has all been made possible by the advancements of the Navajo people who have come before me. And it is for them that I use my privilege and platform to continue on.

DISM: What advice would you give to Native Americans wanting to pursue engineering?

Yazzie: Be resilient. It’s almost guaranteed that along your STEM journey, you will look around and not see very many others like you, from backgrounds like your own. But please understand that there are people in all directions of your life that are there to help you. Those before you, who want to help you succeed through mentorship and wisdom. Those beside you, who are on your same journey. And those behind you, who see you as an inspiration and role model. Recognizing that you have a full circle of support and inspiration will help you achieve any and all of your goals.

Emmys 2020: Record Number of Black Actors Score Nominations
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collage of emmy nomination images

The Television Academy nominated a record number of Black actors for Emmys on Tuesday morning, with 34.3% of the acting nominees being Black.

There were 102 acting nominees this year across lead, supporting and guest categories for drama, comedy and limited series/TV movie. Thirty-five of those slots went to Black actors (notably, Maya Rudolph actually accounts for two of those slots, being nominated against herself in the guest comedy actress category for her work on both “The Good Place” and “Saturday Night Live”).

Other nominees in top acting categories include Billy Porter, Sterling K. Brown, Zendaya, Anthony Anderson, Don Cheadle, Issa Rae, Tracee Ellis Ross, Regina King, Jeremy Pope, Octavia Spencer and Kerry Washington.

This is a notable increase from last year, when Black actors made up 19.8% of the nominee pool, as well as an increase from 2018, when there were 27.7% Black actors nominated — the previous highest percentage in the Academy’s history.

“2020 isn’t just about the global health crisis. This year we are also bearing witness to one of the greatest fights for social justice in history, and it is our duty to use this medium for change. That is the power and responsibility of television — not only delivering a multitude of services or a little escapism, but also amplifying the voices that must be heard and telling the stories that must be told. Because television, by its very nature, connects us all,” said Frank Scherma, chairman and CEO, Television Academy, at the start of the nominations announcement.

But the fight for inclusion is far from over, as these numbers have ticked up but are still far from parity. And although the acting categories are still split by gender, which forces parity, the writing and directing categories are not.

The writing categories fared better than directing, but only marginally, when it came to parity. Not including the variety series writing category which lists entire staffs on the ballots, the select writers scoring noms in the drama, comedy, limited series/TV movie/dramatic special, variety special and documentary or nonfiction program consisted of 40 people, 13 of which were women. This is 32.5% women nominees (67.5% men). The limited series/TV movie/dramatic special category is what really made the difference, with six of nine nominees here being women, including “Unorthodox’s” Anna Winger and “Normal People’s” Sally Rooney and Alice Birch.

Continue on to Variety to read the complete article.

Air Force Civilian Service

Air Force Civilian Service

Robert Half