Last year’s Black Lives Matter protests spurred a reckoning with the United States’ unjust history and ongoing systemic racism, and science is not exempt from this revolution.
The American Institute of Physics records show that 2.1 percent of all physics faculty are Black, and there are only 22 Black women with astronomy PhDs according to AAWiP (African American Women in Physics).
Inspired by these facts, everything happening in the U.S., and other movements like #BlackBirdersWeek and #BlackInIvory, Ashley Walker, an astrochemist from Chicago, started the #BlackInAstro movement last summer. Walker is the first ever astrochemist to earn a Bachelor's degree from Chicago State University and an intern at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. They’ve been highlighting the achievements of Black astronomers and space scientists and sharing their experiences of what it’s like to be Black in the field of astronomy.
Now headed into another year of #BlackInAstro, and the start of Black History Month, I checked in with Ashley Walker to hear her thoughts on how far the movement has come, and where it’s going next. Looking back on the growth of #BlackInAstro, she’s proud of “the Black space community coming together, as well as the tremendous amount of support that came with it. I will always be surprised that it was trending on Twitter.”
Although they’ve done so much in building this community of Black astronomers and educating allies, #BlackInAstro is nowhere near done. Walker is determined to “continue celebrating ourselves, the past, and the future, as well as seeing what effective change is coming out of #BlackInAstro in addition to so many years of people before us fighting for equality in space sciences. We wanted to have our seat at the table, so I created a table for ALL of us.”
Disclaimer: The author of this piece is a member of the Astrobites collaboration, which has previously worked with Ashley Walker on #BlackInAstro.