Black in Astro Celebrates Black Space Week with the White House

By: Howard University

WASHINGTON – In celebration of the second annual Black Space Week, Black in Astro, an organization founded by doctoral student Ashley L. Walker, co-hosted a series of panels with the White House.  

The event, “From the Apollo to The Artemis Generation: Celebrating our History and Charting our Future Forum,” featured experts from across the space industry, including Mae Jemison, PhD, the first Black woman to go to space, and Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States ambassador to the United Nations. 

The second panel, “Your Place in Space” focused on the ways Black and Brown people have contributed to the space enterprise. Moderated by Tahara Dawkins, chief of staff of the White House Space Council, the panelists were Gregory L. Robinson, PhD (B.S. ’83), former director of the James Webb Telescope Program, Tony Frazier, executive vice president of public sector Earth intelligence at Maxar, Celia Rose Gooding, actress in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds, and Ezinne Uzo-Okoro, PhD, assistant director for space policy in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. 

“So much of being a part of the representation you want to see in the world has to do with what you do with that representation and less of standing still and being a beacon,” said Gooding. “So much of what we as Black people feel walking into spaces and being the first person to look like us is imposter syndrome. Anything to alleviate that pressure and honor our existence at its base level is a huge part of being the representation I want to see in the world.” 

The panelists gave attendees insight into their personal journeys as Black people in the space industry and the abundant paths to careers in space. 

“Our partnerships have allowed us to showcase the importance and need for Black people within the space field, amplifying our mission to continuously inspire and open doors for those that will come after us,” said Walker. 

Black in Astro is a national organization founded in 2020 to provide community, support and scholarships to Black astronomers.  

Started from a hashtag, Black in Astro brings together astronomers, educators, engineers and space enthusiasts together to share opportunities within an industry which has historically excluded Black people. In 2014, only 40 Black people held PhDs in astronomy and as of 2020, there are only 28 scholars with PhDs in planetary science.