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Black History Month

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A&GS Celebrates: Black History Month

Dr. Carter G. Woodson
Dr. Carter G. Woodson

Black History Month, also known as African American History Month, was first recognized nationally in 1976, following President Ford's Message on the Observation of Black History Week.  This historic month, however, can trace its roots all the way back to 1915.

"National African American History Month had its origins in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. This organization is now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (“ASALH”). Through this organization Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. Dr. Woodson selected the week in February that included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of African Americans." (excerpt taken from Library of Congress)

For more information about African American History Month, please check out the following links:

To celebrate Black History Month, A&GS has organized several events and resources:

We hope you will join us in acknowledging and celebrating the contributions of African Americans in A&GS and beyond.

Black History Month, OU, College of Atmospheric and Geographic Sciences, The University of Oklahoma

 


 

University-Wide Events

OU's Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion is celebrating Black History Month.  See below for a list of activites and check out their calendar for even more events!

OU's DEI Calendar

A&GS African American Stories

The College of A&GS is currently accepting stories.  Check back here soon for new stories, which will be updated throughout the month of February!

Aisha Owusu, Assistant Dean of Student Services
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • At eight years old, my father bought me a book about meteorology and I was hooked. From that moment forward and if I had a project or assignment for class, I tried to find a meteorological link to incorporate.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • As the newly appointed Assistant Dean of the College of A&GS, I have the wonderful opportunity to support any and all student services, initiatives and goals spanning from recruitment and outreach to JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion).
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/African American.
    • "Not for us, without us." I STILL struggle for my and my communities' voices and opinions to be taken into consideration with decision-making efforts OR decisions that are supposed to benefit African American/Black people. Things ARE changing, but the majority of the team, BIG international and national decisions for Black people are made without our representation, acknowledgement and approval because non-Black people believe they have the privilege, the right and/or the vicarious experience to make those decisions for us.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • As as Black child, you are often told by your family or community that you ALWAYS have to give 150-200% in your work or career for acknowledgement, let alone respect and achievement. Although this may seem like an insurmountable amount of pressure for any young child, it is very much engrained into my being. Thus and in my career, I have a tendency to analyze my work and what it could look like at the 100%, 150%, and 200% level... anything less is unacceptable.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • In addition to obtaining my PhD in an interdisciplinary field involving applied climate science, I also strive to become a Dean and President of a US university or college AND a climate advisor (or run for office) AND a seamstress/designer on Project Runway.
Dr. Cassandra Shivers-Williams
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • Personally, I was motivated to understand the "why" of protective decision-making after so many personal experiences with dangerous severe weather (i.e., tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, winter storms, and an earthquake). I was in Baton Rouge during Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and I didn't have the choice to leave campus. I witnessed a lot of people make the best decisions they could, but that decision wasn't to evacuate the city. Our campus housed many displaced students and Baton Rouge became a haven for many from New Orleans. That entire experience left quite an impression on me and really set my current research path in motion.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/African American.
    • For me, one barrier has been not seeing very many people who look like me in particular spaces, especially early on in my career. Now, I know that there are many prominent Black/African American scientists and leaders within academia and NOAA, as an example. However, between not seeing many people that look like me, not many people as young as me, and not many people with training in disciplines like me, it can feel very isolating and unwelcome as well as intimidating. I've also had to manage various microaggressions throughout my life and navigating the National Weather Center is no different.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • My experiences as "the only one" or "one of very few" in the room has forced me to try to open up more and speak up more to make sure a different, and sometimes counter, point of view is heard. Also, my experiences lend anecdotal insight to some of the reasonings behind decisions made by various populations I study, which I find helpful in driving my work. These experiences have also encouraged me to keep striving for what I want and to give back to others when I can.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • We as scientists study very multi-faceted problems. "One size fits all" solutions are rare and far between. We have to take very diverse approaches to solving the problems faced to us and society and that includes needing diverse people around the table generating research, products, and policies. Also, diversity, equity, and inclusion during the education process matter (to me) because those lay the ground work for not only bringing new people in, but also keeping the playing field level for all. We need our future leaders to have the experiences that encourage them to stay in the field and help it grow.
Taylor Stephenson, OU Meteorology Senior
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • One person that has inspired me is Katherine Johnson. Mrs. Johnson was the sole reason that the Friendship 7 landed safely and why NASA was integrated. Even in a room full of doubters (they only doubted her because of her race and gender), she persevered! She is also my sorority sister so we are connected in that way too.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • My discipline is broadcast meteorology because not only do I love to communicate science and the weather, but there needs to be more Black women represented in meteorology.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/African American.
    • Since attending OU, a predominately white institution (PWI), I haven't seen people who look like me reflected in my major or field of interest. This created a lot of self-doubt, and I carry that burden with me to most of my meteorology classes. I try to avoid answering questions because I don't want to be seen as dumb or "behind." I will probably struggle with this for the rest of my college career, but luckily, I have had some School of Meteorology faculty reassure me that it's okay not to know all the answers and that I belong here in OU's meteorology program.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • As Black woman, I always have to work 4 times as hard as a white man to even be recognized for my work (I am just using white men as an example because meteorology is dominated by white men). I feel like the strength, perseverance, and hard work that I've had to put in just because I start at an advantage in life has served me well. I can see all of my hard work displayed in my accomplishments, from Honor Roll to being selected for prestigious internships.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • I have two career aspirations. The first one is that I hope to be a well-known and well-respected meteorologist in Atlanta one day. If the broadcast meteorology dream dies, I would want to go back to school, get a Master's of Science in Climate Change and Policy, and then work for a local or the federal government to advocate for climate change policies, especially in minority and underserved communities.

Notable African American Stories in Meteorology, Geography and Related Disciplines

Dr. Marshall Shepherd
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • Warren Washington and Franco Einaudi, (couldn't name just one).
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • I became interested in 6th grade after doing a science project about weather.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • I am a researcher, instructor, and leader within the field.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/ African American.
    • The assumption that my successes and accomplishments are because of some advantage given because of my race.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • It has made me resilient. To be an African American in this country shapes you and molds you. When career setbacks happen, they are small in comparison to being stopped by the police because you "match" the description of a car thief or being worried about your son when he is walking the mall with his friends.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • At this point, my aspiration is to do what makes me happy and scratches my curiosity itches. I have achieved or been offered very high level opportunities. For me, family, science, and piece of mind are most important.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give you?
    • Wouldn't change a thing. Life is a series of lessons that should not be undone. Embrace everything, adapt, and move forward. Never look back.
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • A salad with all types of vegetables in it tastes so much better and is better for you than just a bowl full of lettuce.
  • Write a fun fact about yourself:
    • I hate mustard, mayonnaise and most sauces. I was a multi-sport athlete in school.
Dr. Vernon Morris
  • Name one person who has inspired you in the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/or other related disciplines.
    • There were numerous but while in graduate school, William Chameides demonstrated that you could chart your own course and Franco Einaudi challenged me to trust my instincts. Both inspired me while in graduate school.
  • What or who encouraged you to enter the field of meteorology, climate science, geography, environmental sustainability, and/ or related disciplines?
    • John H. Hall, Jr. and C. S. Kiang offered me the opportunity to pursue a graduate degree at Georgia Tech. Dr. Hall was my undergraduate and graduate advisor for a time Dr. Kiang was. the program Director at Georgia Tech when I entered. Both were committed to my success and encouraged me to stay on course.
  • In one sentence, describe your role in our college or your discipline.
    • My role is to challenge the status quo, whether they are theoretical shortcomings in our science or cultural shortcomings in our scientific community with the goal of improving both.
  • Describe a barrier or challenge you have faced (or you are still facing) and have had to overcome (or you believe are still overcoming) in your field as a result of being Black/ African American.
    • Racism is a visceral and present in the geosciences (including atmospheric sciences) as it is in American society. The entrenched biases that limit access to advanced education and the professoriate are some of the most persistent. Becoming a professor (while Black) is one such challenge. Tenured Black atmospheric scientists represent less than .1% of all such positions.
  • How have your experiences as a Black/African American individual shaped your career?
    • My experiences as a Black man in America have inspired and buttressed my commitment to develop programs, practices, and initiatives that reduce the barriers to access in the Atmospheric Sciences and related fields. I believe that my interest in deploying geoscience for environmental justice work is one manifestation. My work in academic program development and outreach is another example.
  • Describe a career aspiration you have for yourself.
    • To change how people conceive, understand, and/or think about some aspects of the world. I think that some of my contributions in the field of chemical dynamics and in atmospheric aerosols have done this. I hope to make a few more interesting discoveries before I am done.
  • If you could go back to visit your younger self, what advice would you give you?
    • Patience is over-rated and (too often offered as a passive-aggressive attempt to resist change), whereas compassionate transgressive action is either undervalued or seen as a threat. Closely related is something my father told me (I will paraphrase): "The world’s definitions are one thing and life’s definitions are another. As long as you are Black and in America, you must challenge yourself to live your life as a distinction between the two. The only way to find your true limits of possibility are to challenge what you are told is impossible. Never lose your ability to dream, explore, and discover."
  • Why is diversity, equity, and inclusion important to you?
    • Equity, inclusion, and justice are important because their fulfillment is a reflection of humanity and the full access to human rights and the rights that any citizen should have in the vaunted pursuit of life and liberty. When equity and justice are determined to be privileges and not rights, then the integrity and quality of what we aspire in science is undermined. Moreover, to paraphrase MLK, Jr., "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice. everywhere." This includes the scientific community.
  • Write a fun fact about yourself:
    • I welcomed my fourth child in the same month that I a) retired from one university, b) became an emeritus professor, c) started a new job as School Director in a different university, d) moved across the country, and all during a global pandemic.

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