By Lenore T. Adkins, Special to the AFRO
An upcoming public forum aims to groom more Blacks, Latinos, women and other marginalized groups for careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and medical fields.
The free, one-day forum, “Changing the Face of STEM: A Transformational Journey,” starts June 12 and will be held at the National Academies 2101 Constitution Avenue NW.
The event brings D.C.-area residents and students together with scientist, doctors technologists, academics and corporate leaders for hours of one-on-one mentoring, science workshops, discussions and more.
Noted guests include computer scientist Juan E. Gilbert, NASA aerospace engineer Sabrina N. Thompson, former U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge as well as Johnathan M. Holifield, head of the White House initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The forum, which will create action plans for additional STEM initiatives, concludes with a roundtable discussion featuring all of the notables.
Crystal Emery, 57, an award winning, New Haven, Connecticut-based director, author and head of the nonprofit production company URU: The Right to Be Inc., organized the forum to spur underrepresented groups to pursue STEM fields and become global innovators — URU’s goals are fostering communication and understanding among diverse economic and racial socioeconomic groups and creating a more equitable and humane world.
Right now, people of color are vastly underrepresented in STEM fields, though they comprise 35 percent of the U.S. population. Jobs in STEM fields are on the rise and Emery organized the forum as a way to give marginalized groups a seat at the table.
“If we’re not creating a workforce that can answer those demands, we’re in trouble,” Emery told the AFRO. The problem has to be addressed by all stakeholders.”
“They need to see and know that people who look like them are doing incredible things in STEM — at the forum, kids will get to build robots, use stethoscopes and make perfume.”
Black children, she said, might be inspired by trailblazers like Mark Dean, who co-invented personal computers (PCs), for IBM, holds three out of nine of IBM’s original PC patents and 20 patents on his own.
And when Black children see someone who looks like them showing them how to use a microscope, that “becomes a reality, not just some unrealistic dream,” she said.
At the forum, Emery will also screen two of her films: “The Deadliest Disease in America” and “Black Women in Medicine,” which each explore the intersection of medicine, health and race in the United States.
Emery’s nonprofit is holding the forum in conjunction with the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine. The forum comes on the heels of the campaign’s 2017 launch, which drew more than 300 STEM professionals, policymakers, students, educators and others.
Emery, who happens to be quadriplegic and struggles with diabetes and a form of muscular dystrophy, likes to say she can’t use her hands, but she can use her mind.
She’s hopeful the youth see that nothing can nothing can stop them from achieving greatness.
“We look at the mountain and we think about how big it is and we always think about what we don’t have,” Emery said. “What I think about is how big the mountain is, but you can only get up it step by step.”
Registration for the forum is on URU The Right to Be Incorporated’s website.