I want to use this Ada Lovelace Day to do two things. First, I want to do a little bit of event promoting. UMD’s Women’s Studies department is hosting a symposium celebrating the publication of Still Brave: The Evolution of Black Women’s Studies, a sequel to All the Women Are White, All the Blacks Are Men, But Some Of Us Are Brave. Part of this symposium includes celebrating the achievements of women faculty of color, a group that’s almost like an endangered species. So, go hug a non-white female academic of color today! I guarantee she needs it. Heck, give someone a hug if they’re a white anti-racist ally advocating for more tenure opportunities for WOC faculty and more funding for students of color. Hugs are nice in general.
This Ada Lovelace Day, I want to commemorate a real life Uhura — Dr. Mae Jemison. She was the first black woman to go into space in real life . I love that she challenges educational paradigms and that she started her own damn company in 1993 after leaving NASA. I love that she kept it black and bourgie in space, with her little Afro, her Alvin Ailey poster, and her love-on for the AKAs. She refused to be anything other than black and female in a profession where she was literally the only person like her. I love that she argues that the difference between the arts and the sciences is one created by a forced emotional death versus a real thing. She makes science sound passionate, instead of dry, and the arts sound beautifully technical, instead of “just” intuitive.
Finally, what I love about her is that she united her academics and her career goals with her passion for social justice. To her, Martin Luther King’s dream was radically revolutionary, not the sad-eyed poster text we so often read today. When I read biographies of her, or hear her speak, I get this sense that she makes her life’s projects passionately, luxuriously political. She’s fully engaged in both technological innovation and social justice, and that’s simply inspiring to me.
Also: she rescued a street cat and named it SNEEZE AND FLEAS. OMG how awesome is that?