Thursday, June 4, 2020

Justice and Equity for Black People in the United States

As cities have burned across the United States of America over the past few days, it has highlighted the deep-rooted issues in the United States of America. This message does not speak on behalf of Black People in the United States of America, but is crafted from the perspective of a Black Person in the United States of America.

If you do not actively and consistently assist, advocate, or support Black People and Black Communities in your regular activities then you are part of the problem.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stated, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it."

George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Ahmad Aurbery are just four of the countless Black lives that were lost due to police brutality and, more importantly, not given the justice they deserved. These are not isolated incidents, and they stem from a much longer and broader history of the erasure of Black humanity in this country.

You may ask, "Where do I even start?" Well, the first step is education. African American descendants of slaves have generated over a Trillion dollars (conservative estimates) in wealth to the American Colonies and the United States since the first documented slaves were brought to the continent around 1619 (article link). Restitution, reperations (not just monetary), and reconcilliation were never fully achieved even after the so-called abolishment of slavery with the 13th Amendment (video link) after the U.S. Civil War. The Reconstruction Era (video link) was supposed to accomplish this, but white America broke the promise to Black America.

Hence, the frustration seen in the streets of these cities is not new, has continually been brewing for decades, and is a result of perpetual discrimination in many aspects of American society, including but not limited to:

A. Financial Industry and Wealth (video link and study link) - Including housing (video link), banking (video link and article link), and a cumulative "Black Tax" (video link and book link) which is a starting estimate to any monetary reparation.

B. Education System - College entrance exams (video link). Some University statistics (web link).

C. Political System - "Redlining" (article link), policing (video link #1 and video link #2), and government systems (video link). Including after "Reconstruction" (video link).

D. Health Care System - Including experiments on black people (video introduction) and inequities highlighted by COVID-19 (article link).

These information links are all introductory and by no means equivalent to the exhaustive studies, articles, and investigations that have been conducted. The intent is to spark your interest in learning more and then taking action. All of these areas need to be repaired for true reconciliation to occur. Thus, there have been, are, and will be numerous opportunities for you to develop, fund, and volunteer your time for programs, initiatives, and events that benefit Black People and the Black Community. The choice is up to you to pick which ways you want to contribute, but pick some and work to Make America Great (M.A.G.) for the FIRST time!

For those who are able to put their money to action, here is a non-exhaustive list of donation opportunities:

 This statement is co-signed by members of the American Astronomical Society (AAS) Committee for the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA), in alphabetical order:

  • Camille Avestruz 
  • Alyson Brooks 
  • Nicole Cabrera Salazar 
  • Lía Corrales 
  • Kate Daniel 
  • Louise Edwards 
  • Samaiyah Farid 
  • Erin Flowers 
  • Keith Hawkins 
  • Audra Hernández 
  • Moiya McTier 
  • Christopher S. Moore 
  • Carlos Vargas 


 The views and opinions expressed in this statement and links to related materials are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the American Astronomical Society.

Monday, December 30, 2019

In preparation for AAS 235: Reflections from CSMA Co-Chair


Updated with words and input from Dr. Brittany Kamai, 2020-01-03

The AAS Committee for the Status of Minorities in Astronomy is deeply committed to advocating for minoritized groups in our profession, as well as developing and educating allies within our community. As part of this mission, we feel it is imperative to acknowledge that astronomical facilities occupy Maunakea, a sacred site for Native Hawaiians that is also the most valued ground-based research location for many astronomers from around the world. It is important to recognize that the TMT construction and continued occupation of Maunakea is just one facet to the history of land use in Hawai’i, and thus should be viewed in the larger context of colonization.

We also wish to acknowledge the spectrum of viewpoints and complex relationships that Native Hawaiians have with the astronomy research community. Hawaiian peoples also have a long history of technological prowess and astronomical navigation. We strongly encourage all astronomers, particularly those who will be in Honolulu for the AAS meeting this January, to engage respectfully with Hawaiian culture by listening to the local dialogue and engaging in Hawaiian ways of thinking.

We strongly encourage AAS attendees to familiarize themselves with the Envision Maunakea report, which was distilled from a set of open listening sessions meant to engage the Maunakea community in productive dialogue.

On October 31, CSMA hosted a speaking session on the culture of Maunakea at the annual SACNAS meeting (Society for the Advancement of Chicanx/Hispanics and Native American Scientists), which also took place in Honolulu. As the largest gathering of Native American STEM researchers in the country, this meeting offered the opportunity to engage and support Native Hawaiian scientists in unprecedented ways. We list here a short summary of lessons learned from this event.
  • There is no monolith of thought from Native Hawaiians on the future of Maunakea. There are Hawaiians who believe the construction is directly inline with Hawaiian values whereas there are Hawaiians who believe that the construction will lead to desecration of a sacred place.
  • The Maunakea demonstrators are not anti-astronomy or anti-science.
  • “Pono science” is the Hawaiian way of holistically doing science including how one engages with communities, other disciplines and self. 
  • Demonstrators on Maunakea are not “protestors”. They are kia’i (protectors) of the land and environment. Not all Native Hawaiians are kia'i.
  • The kia’i will always stand to protect their Mauna against the building of TMT.
  • “Kapu Aloha,” a compassionate commitment to pono (truth) and reverent loving, is the guiding principle and code of conduct of the protectors. 
  • Learning the Hawaiian language is one of the best ways to engage with and understand Hawaiian culture and values. There are over a hundred professional astronomers engaged in Hawaiian language courses, and you can now learn Hawaiian on Duolingo. We encourage visitors to Hawai’i to check it out. 
  • Those looking to stand in solidarity need to understand that there is not one mind on this. Represent your views not what you perceive as all Native Hawaiians views.
  • When discussing this topic, understand that this is an emotionally-complex topic for everyone. Ensure that you engage in conversations with respect. If you are not in a place to engage in respectful conversation then step away. Choose words of compassion as you seek to understand where someone is coming from.

AAS 235 events related to indigenous culture and astronomy


  • ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center (Exhibit hall)
  • Workshop: Astronomy Communication and Science Engagement with Religious Publics (Saturday, Jan 4, 12:30 - 4 pm)
  • Special Session: Innovative Collaborations of Integrity with the Hawaiian Community
    (Sunday, Jan 5, 10 - 11:30 am) 
  • Plenary: He Lani Ko Luna, A Sky Above: In Losing the Sight of Land You Discover the Stars, Kala Baybayan Tanaka and Kālepa Baybayan (Polynesian Voyaging Society)
    (Sunday, Jan 5, 11:40 am - 12:30 pm) 
  • Public Event: Stargazing Party
    (Sunday, Jan 5, 7-10 pm, Ala Moana Beach Park) 
  • Special Session: The Many Facets of Hawai'i Astronomy
    (Monday, Jan 6, 2 - 3:30 pm) 
  • Plenary Lecture: Amy Kalili ('Ōiwi TV)
    (Monday, Jan 6, 3:40 - 4:30 pm) 
  • Public Talk: Physics of Pō, Larry Kimura (College of Hawaiian Language & Hawaiian Studies) and Doug Simons (Canada- France-Hawai'i Telescope)
    (Monday, Jan 6, 7 - 8:30 pm) 
  • Local Student Education Outreach Event
    (Tuesday, Jan 7, 11:30 am - 2 pm) 
  • Special Session: Astronomy and Culture - Best Practices for Systematic Transformation in an Increasingly Diverse and Interconnected Global Society
    (Tuesday, Jan 7, 2 - 3:30 pm) 
  • An Evening with the Maunakea Observatories
    (Tuesday, Jan 7, 7 - 9 pm) 

Additional Reading

Native Hawaiian voices on TMT:
Imua TMT
Pu'uhuluhulu

2019 SACNAS Guidelines on how to be a good guest in Hawai’i

Envision Maunakea Report

This collection of  resources was led by Dr. Brittany Kamai for the SACNAS 2019 conference attendees. Input was recieved from a spectrum of views of Native Hawaiians and astronomers. This is not a comprehensive list rather a starting point. We recieved permission to share this list here.
https://drive.google.com/file/d/1bk39SuN8RBhhdDgjeHAClLg629c8AKav/view?usp=sharing

Astro2020 APC White paper: “A Hua He Inoa: Hawaiian Culture-Based Celestial Naming

Meyer, Manu (2001). “Our own liberation: Reflections on Hawaiian epistemology.” The Contemporary Pacific: A Journal of Island Affairs. Volume 13, number 1, Spring 2001, pp. 124-148.
https://doi.org/10.1353/cp.2001.0024

Meyer, M. A. (2014). “Holographic epistemology: Native common sense.” Encyclopedia of Global Archaeology, 3435-3443.
https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-0465-2_6

Detours: A Decolonial Guide to Hawai’i

The views and opinions expressed in this statement and links to related materials are those of the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of the AAS or all individual CSMA members.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Statement on #TMTShutdown


(Caleb Jones/Associated Press)

Statement on #TMTShutdown



Dear fellow astronomers,


On Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 riot police arrested dozens of Kānaka Maoli
(Native Hawaiian) elders who were peacefully protesting the construction of the
Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) on Mauna Kea. Land protectors continue to resist
in the face of military force after Governor David Ige declared a state of emergency
and ordered the National Guard. 


Along with racist, islamophobic, and anti-immigrant rallies hosted by the U.S.
president as well as human rights violations by immigration officers at the U.S.
border, these arrests are a continuation of the United States’ long and dark
tradition of scientific imperialism and colonization. The “controversy” surrounding
TMT has never been about science vs. religion - a dismissive, anti-Indigenous
argument that has been used to defend the economic and political interests of this
project. Rather, it is an issue of Hawaiian sovereignty.


As members of the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA),
we stand with the Kānaka Maoli land protectors. We implore the astronomy
community to consider the cost of valuing research objectives above human beings.


Call to Action: 

Please read, sign, and share widely the Open Letter Opposing Criminalization of
Mauna Kea Protectors written by graduate students Sal Wanying Fu and Mia de los
Reyes. We thank Sal and Mia for their emotional labor in putting this together.

You may also consider donating to the Mauna Kea Legal Defense Fund to support
Kānaka Maoli activists on the ground.


Signatories


Dra. Nicole Cabrera Salazar
Dr. Lia Corrales
Prof. Kathryne J Daniel
Prof. Keith Hawkins
Erin Flowers
Prof. Alyson Brooks
Brianna Thomas
Prof. Adam Burgasser


The above signatories are private citizens exercising their constitutional right to
express their personal views. This is not an official statement by the CSMA nor the
AAS and should not be construed as such.


Links and resources


Video of Kānaka Maoli Arrests (shared by @KaraokeComputer on Twitter)









Wednesday, March 13, 2019

How Ashley Walker Shined a Necessary Light on Black Junior Astronomers




We have just finished celebrating Black History Month, and one of the most iconic events for the astronomy community happened on Twitter: the highlight of 53 Black junior astronomers by Ashley L. Walker. Junior astronomers already don't receive as much recognition as more senior members in the field, and Black astronomers receive much less. By highlighting these individuals, Ashley proved that there are already Black astronomers who are interested in and doing amazing research in astronomy. Now it's our job to make sure we retain them in the field. In our interview below, we asked Ashley about her motivation for this very important project.

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CSMA: First, congratulations on your amazing accomplishment, highlighting OVER 50 black astronomers in a single month! How do you feel about achieving that?

Ashley: Thank you. I really didn’t think that I was going to highlight over 50 Black Junior Astronomers. I’m really excited that I got a chance to share the culture of Black astronomy and making it a safe space.

CSMA: What made you decide to launch this initiative?

Ashley: I knew that Black History/Future Month was coming up and I wanted to pay homage to our African ancestors. Particularly, the ones that have died during the middle passage, during the civil war, and other horrific events leading up today’s society who could’ve been astronomers. I wanted to do something special for the unknown Black astronomers and thought that it would be awesome to highlight the current students that are studying astronomy. There’s ONLY 1% of Black people in Astronomy and I’m ready to fix that!

CSMA: How did you find all the Black astronomers you've featured?

Ashley: I actually knew a great majority of them personally but I did request that people message me via Twitter or add comments with names of people that are astronomers for the ones that I didn’t know. Some of them were even international students as well.

CSMA: What were the challenges you faced in putting together these highlights?

Ashley: I’m currently an undergraduate senior Chemistry major at Chicago State University. Finding time was definitely hard in-between studying, working, attending a conference, two Adler planetarium events (being on a panel for Adler After Dark “A Night in the Afrofuture” and the pop-up program), currently working on my project with the Horst Phazer Lab group at Johns Hopkins University along with writing about the project for my senior thesis. I was definitely doing a lot of science communication while highlighting students. Also, some of the students were busy as well.

CSMA: What do you hope will be the outcome of elevating fellow Black astronomers?

Ashley: I hope that people recognize that Black people are awesome!  This initiative should encourage others who are in positions of power whether for REUs, graduate and/or post-doc applications to recognize these individuals for their contributions to astronomy.

CSMA: What outcomes have you already seen?

Ashley: I have received A LOT of positive feedback. Hopefully, this will encourage others to go into astronomy related fields, whether it’s traditionally or non-traditionally.  

CSMA: How effective was Twitter as a medium for your work? Would you ever consider turning this into a website, news/magazine article, or book?

Ashley: This was REALLY effective! This brought awareness of the students that aren’t normally shown. A LOT of the time that I do speak out, there’s a certain person (which I highlighted) that I ALWAYS think of. I REALLY am grateful for this opportunity.


Yes, I would! So many people have asked me this. I’m definitely going make this into a website!


CSMA: How do you envision continuing or building on this initiative?

Ashley: I’m going to continue highlighting Black junior astronomers for BHM in October for the UK! So there will be a continuation.


I plan on making this into a mini-comic book series. I want to inspire Black and Brown students. If you see more representation in the classroom or even reading a book, then you’ll have a good outcome of students wanting to become astronomers.


CSMA: What advice do you have for others interested in promoting underrepresented astronomers or scientists?

Ashley: Continue highlighting students and people of color, invite them to outreach programs, diversity and inclusion talks, receive feedback from their perspectives.  Make spaces for them to be able to feel comfortable and succeed in astronomy/STEM fields. Put them in positions to win!

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Media platform "SisterSTEM" also witnessed the highlights and made a collection of all of the Black junior astronomers Ashley highlighted. Check it out below and be sure to follow these amazing astronomers.



Thank you for your important work and contributions to the field of astronomy, Ashley!


Ashley L. Walker is a native of Chicago, IL. She is a candidate for a Bachelor’s of Science in Chemistry in her senior year at Chicago State University (CSU) and a recipient of the Chi Sci scholarship. She has worked on galaxy surveys with the Undergraduate ALFALFA (Arecibo Legacy Fast ALFA) survey team, astrochemical scavenger hunts, and Hydrogen Cyanide in Protoplanetary Disks at the Banneker & Aztlán Institute. She is interested in astrochemistry with a focus on the early stages of planet formation. Currently, Ashley is conducting an internship at Johns Hopkins University with Dr. Sarah Hörst as her advisor. Her projects focus on Venus as well as Saturn’s moon, Titan. Recently, she was selected for and gave a talk at Science Speaks Chicago at the Adler Planetarium. Networking is one of Ashley’s strongest skills along with mentoring, activism, and leadership. She hopes to inspire a new generation of scientists, encouraging teenagers, adults, and Black women to continue their education regardless of their background and other obstacles in life. 


Call for Nominations: AAS Site Visit Team (Deadline Extended to March 24th)


From: Alicia Aarnio [anaarnio at uncg dot edu], Nicole Cabrera Salazar
[ncs at movebold dot ly], Stuart Vogel, Sheryl Bruff, KeShawn Ivory, Adam
Christensen, and Nancy Morrison [nancy dot morrison at utoledo dot edu] (the AAS SVOC)


The AAS Climate Site Visit program is getting underway. At the invitation of a
department's chair, a three-person site visit team will spend a day and a half
with the department, conduct interviews in order to assess the climate, and
draft a report. Departments will benefit by receiving constructive feedback from
an unbiased team of neutral, highly-qualified peers.

We are now assembling a pool of talented, accomplished people to conduct the site visits, from which a team of three people will be chosen, based on availability, for each site visit. We envision that each site visit team will consist of a senior astronomer, another astronomer of a different identity from that of the senior astronomer, and a specialist in human resources, diversity, or another relevant area.

Those performing this service will make a major contribution toward advancing
equity and inclusion in astronomy. There will be a modest honorarium for each
team member for each visit, and we expect that this experience will be
professionally valuable for anyone who has or aspires to a leadership position.

We invite nominations or self-nominations to the site visit team pool via this
questionnaire: http://bit.ly/sitevisit-team


The deadline to be considered for inclusion in the 2019 SVT pool
has been extended to March 24th, 2019. Later applications will be considered for future SVT pools.

Please don't hesitate to contact the SVOC (see the From: list of this message)
if you have questions about the site visit team pool.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Crosspost: Facing the Future: The CSWA seeks your input on our community needs in the 2020s!

From the CSWA

During 2018 the Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy (CSWA) began an effort to gather information about what are seen by our communities as the areas of key importance beyond scientific research that the AAS, its divisions, and its relevant committees (including the CSWA itself) should focus on as we move into the 2020s.  The goal is to use this information to (1) develop one or more white papers that will be submitted to the Decadal Survey as a part of the call for papers on an activity, project, or state of the profession consideration and to (2) develop a new strategic plan for the CSWA for the 2020s.

Our strategy has been to first identify the key areas and potential activities that could be undertaken in these areas by the AAS, its divisions, or relevant committees. We have taken all the input we have received so far and created a survey based on that information.  Now we need you, the members of the communities the AAS and its divisions serve, to tell us which of the many wonderful activities and ideas that have been brought to our attention that you think will have the most impact and/or are the most important to focus on! (And tell us about anything we’ve missed!)  The survey is organized around 4 key areas: Harassment and Bullying; Creating Inclusive Environments; Professional Development, Hiring, and Retention; and Professional Ethics, and also provides an opportunity to provide additional feedback and suggestions.  The more input we have from you, the better we can plan to advocate for you and serve you!  So please take a few minutes to contribute your input – we can’t do it without you! 

The survey is completely confidential and anonymous– we are not gathering any personally identifiable information, nor are we capturing any information on who is accessing the survey. We estimate it will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete the evaluation of the activities in the four subtopics. There are additional open-ended questions and room for suggestions that are optional to address in as much or as little detail as the respondent wishes. The survey will be open until Tuesday, April 23, 2019.  It can be accessed at:

https://goo.gl/forms/YEgYoTP4fKVtrSkx1

We look forward to hearing from you!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Call for Nominations: AAS Site Visit Team (Deadline February 28th)

From: Alicia Aarnio [anaarnio at uncg dot edu], Nicole Cabrera Salazar
[ncs at movebold dot ly], Stuart Vogel, Sheryl Bruff, KeShawn Ivory, Adam
Christensen, and Nancy Morrison [nancy dot morrison at utoledo dot edu] (the AAS SVOC)


The AAS Climate Site Visit program is getting under way. At the invitation of a
department's chair, a three-person site visit team will spend a day and a half
with the department, conduct interviews in order to assess the climate, and
draft a report. Departments will benefit by receiving constructive feedback from
an unbiased team of neutral, highly-qualified peers.

We are now assembling a pool of talented, accomplished people to conduct the site visits, from which a team of three people will be chosen, based on availability, for each site visit. We envision that each site visit team will consist of a senior astronomer, another astronomer of a different identity from that of the senior astronomer, and a specialist in human resources, diversity, or another relevant area.

Those performing this service will make a major contribution toward advancing
equity and inclusion in astronomy. There will be a modest honorarium for each
team member for each visit, and we expect that this experience will be
professionally valuable for anyone who has or aspires to a leadership position.

We invite nominations or self-nominations to the site visit team pool via this
questionnaire: http://bit.ly/sitevisit-team


The deadline to be considered for inclusion in the 2019 SVT pool
is February 28th, 2019. Later applications will be considered for future SVT pool.

Please don't hesitate to contact the SVOC (see the From: list of this message)
if you have questions about the site visit team pool.