From “Ta-Nehisi Coates on Creating Black Superheroes,” The New York Times (2 March 2017):

When Marvel Comics announced in September 2015 that Ta-Nehisi Coates would be writing a new Black Panther series, the timing could not have been more fortuitous. That same month, Mr. Coates, who writes regularly for The Atlantic, was awarded a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius grant,” and, two months later, a National Book Award for nonfiction for Between the World and Me, his passionate letter to his son about being black in America.

The momentum for the hero was also tremendous. Issue No. 1 of Black Panther hit stores last April and went on to sell more than 300,000 copies, according to Marvel. He then made his big screen debut in May, with “Captain America: Civil War,” and was played by Chadwick Boseman, who will reprise the role in a solo film next year. In July came Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, a collected edition of the first four issues of the comic. It was followed, in November, by World of Wakanda, a companion series in which Mr. Coates introduced two more newcomers to the roster of comic-book scribes: the feminist writer Roxane Gay and the poet Yona Harvey. This April comes a new series, Black Panther and the Crew, a team comprising only black heroes, written by Mr. Coates and Ms. Harvey.

Mr. Coates answered questions about the success of Black Panther, his approach to writing, the members of the Crew and what’s next.


Black and White: Photography from the Chesapeake Bay watershed by Bill Emory
“zoning” – 23 February 2017

William Harris, Sr., along with attorney Kim Rolla, presented “The Facts on Gentrification, Zoning, and Form-Based Code” at the Jefferson School in Chesapeake Bay.

Aerospace engineer Aprille Joy Ericsson ’86, a mission manager at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and an alumna of MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, recalled Wednesday how a conversation with Martin Luther King Jr. affected a Hollywood actress’s career decision — and in turn helped to inspire Ericsson and many others of her generation to enter the world of aerospace engineering.

Nichelle Nichols, the actress who played Lieutenant Uhura on the original Star Trek series, was not under contract, Ericsson explained in her keynote talk at MIT’s 43rd annual celebration of King’s life and work. “King shared with her that Star Trek was one of the few TV shows he would let his children watch, primarily because of her role as chief technical officer on the Starship Enterprise,” which was so different than most portrayals of African-American women on television. After her conversation with King, Nichols reconsidered her plans to leave the show. She went on to provide a role model that Ericsson said helped propel her and many others into a career in the space program.

“Space travel has become a routine part of our daily lives,” though it remains a dangerous occupation, Ericsson said. Recalling the daring commitment that President John F. Kennedy made, launching the U.S. toward landing on the moon, “I believe that challenge is before us again,” she said.

Ericsson graduated from MIT just four months after the first space shuttle disaster, the Challenger accident in 1986. She earned her doctorate at Howard University and soon after went to work for NASA. “I followed my dream to explore space,” she says. But that road was not without its obstacles. “Discrimination affects us all,” she said. And yet, “inclusion of women and minorities” in working teams of all kinds, “is imperative. When I work with science and engineering teams, I know that each one on that team is important.”

“We scientists are agents of change,” she said. “Let’s embrace [Star Trek creator] Gene Roddenberry’s vision of diversity in space. We must work together across the differences of skin color, gender, and religion. … We are making this journey together, in a drive to make this world a better place.”


Theme: “Lift your voice!” “True peace is not merely the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice.”

Keynote: Dr. Aprille Joy Ericsson, Ph.D.

Program followed by Luncheon

The MIT community gathers every February at a celebration of the life and legacy of Martin Luther King Jr. Speakers have included leaders who are prominent both nationally and in the local Boston/Cambridge community, in accordance with Dr. King’s dual emphasis on global and local issues.

Dr. Aprille Joy Ericsson (MIT ’86) is currently the Capture (Mission) Manager for a proposed Astrophysics Mid-sized Class Explorer, STAR-X. Most recently, she served as the NASA GSFC Program Manager for Small Business Innovative Research/Small Business Technology Transfer Research (SBIR/STTR). Dr. Ericsson has held numerous positions during her 25+ year tenure with NASA. At Howard University, her research involved developing control methods for orbiting large space platforms like ISS. She sits on several Technical Academic boards at the National Academies, MIT, and previously Howard University, where she also served as a member of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Ericsson has won numerous awards and recognitions over the years, including the prestigious “2016 Washington Award” from the Western Society of Engineers. Dr. Ericsson received her B.S. in Aeronautical/Astronautical Engineering from MIT in 1986. She went on to become the first female (and the first African-American female) to receive a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering from Howard University, and the first African-American female to receive a Ph.D. in Engineering at NASA GSFC.

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Jacquelyn Taylor is among the 102 scientists and researchers to receive a Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), the highest honor bestowed by the United States Government on science and engineering professionals in the early stages of their independent research careers.

“I congratulate these outstanding scientists and engineers on their impactful work,” said President Obama. “These innovators are working to help keep the United States on the cutting edge, showing that Federal investments in science lead to advancements that expand our knowledge of the world around us and contribute to our economy.”

The PECASE Awards highlight the key role that the Administration places in encouraging and accelerating American innovation to grow our economy and tackle our greatest challenges.

Taylor was nominated by the Department of Health and Human Services as one of the most meritorious scientists and engineers whose early accomplishments show the greatest promise for assuring America’s preeminence in science and engineering and contributing to the Department’s mission.


Taylor will deliver a MIT MLK Luncheon Seminar talk on Tuesday, January 10, 11:45am-1pm in MIT Room W20-307 (Mezzanine Lounge, Student Center)

Hypertension Genomics and Nursing Science: A Tale of 3 Studies, and counting
The talk will describe three different studies that Taylor has conducted in hypertension genetics in black families and will illustrate how she has built on this science to the work she is doing today, particularly in Flint, MI.



MON, 13 FEB 2017: Ryan Hynd….

Monday, February 13, 11:45am-1pm
MIT Room 6-104 (Chipman Room)

When is the best time to stop?

Ryan Hynd, MLK Visiting Assistant Professor of Mathematics
Assistant Professor of Mathematics, University of Pennsylvania

Suppose that you are observing a sequence of events, and need to decide when to stop. Your goal could be to maximize an expected gain or give yourself good a chance to make the best choice possible.  We will discuss several instances of this type of problem and talk about ways to use math to solve them.

This talk will be accessible to a general audience.

If you are able to attend, please reply to Shauna Bush-Fenty ( with any dietary restrictions, accessibility considerations or other needs.

Please note, this luncheon is distinct from the annual MLK Celebration Luncheon being held February 15. You can find information about this and other events related to community, equity, diversity, and inclusion at If anyone is interested in helping shape the content of one of the upcoming Community Dialogues (the first is February 22), please reply to this email.

Special MLK Program Luncheon

Activism in the Era of MLK, A Conversation with Bob and Janet Moses, and Topper Carew

Wednesday, December 14, 2016
11:45am-1pm (h
ot lunch served starting 11:45am, program begins 12:10pm)
MIT Student Center Mezzanine Lounge, W20-307

Please RSVP here:

Join us for a conversation with activists who worked in the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and other organizations alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., John Lewis, and other civil rights leaders in the 1960s. Dr. Janet Moses is a pediatrician who worked in MIT Medical, Topper Carew is a filmmaker and Principal Investigator in the Media Lab, and Dr. Robert Moses is founder of the Algebra Project. All were active in Freedom Summer.

DR. TOPPER CAREW is currently a Visiting Researcher/Scholar at the MIT Media Lab. He has earned degrees in Architecture and Environmental Design from Yale and has had fully supporting fellowships at MIT (Community Fellow) and from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (Broadcast Fellow).  The former allowed Carew to complete three films and study at MIT’s then film school.  The latter allowed him to spend time at the BBC/London and at the studios in Hollywood. He also has a Doctorate in Communications from the Union Graduate School/Institute for Policy Studies. Dr. Carew started his film career by making documentaries about the relationship between neighborhood people and architecture, by using it as an empowerment, community organizing and fundraising tool, and by teaching film to inner city kids.  He was founder and Director of The New Thing Art and Architecture Center, an arts program in the Adams Morgan section of Washington, D.C.  Dr. Carew has won more than 40 film and television awards, and 8 Gold Medals for graphic design. He founded an independent production company, Rainbow Television Workshop. It produced series and movies for PBS, HBO, Showtime, Nick and The Disney Channel.  Other projects have aired in prime time on ABC, NBC, and FOX.  His theatrically released films include DC Cab (Universal Pictures) and Breakin‘ and Enterin’ (Shapiro/Glickenhaus). One of his prime time television series, Martin (FOX), enjoys the rarified distinction of having attained off network syndication (TNT,TV One, and MTV). Dr. Carew was appointed to a Presidential Commission on African American History and Culture. He has produced (8) national television series, (15) documentaries, 4 theatrically released films, 15 movies for television and 300 live concerts.

DR. ROBERT “BOB” MOSES and DR. JANET MOSES made tremendous contributions to the continuing civil rights movement. Their unwavering dedication to the progress of all Cambridge residents led to the Area IV Youth Center being renamed the “Dr. Robert and Janet Moses Youth Center”. Bob and Janet were both prominent figures in the Civil Rights Movement who served as field secretaries for the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a position that allowed them to initiate SNCC’s Mississippi Voter Registration Project in 1961, and saw Bob become its director in 1962. A speaker at the first national student rally against the war in Vietnam (organized by Students for a Democratic Society, SDS, Spring 1965), Bob joined Staughton Lynd, Dave Dellinger and Women’s Strike For Peace to organize The Congress of Unrepresented People, spoke out against the war (1965-’66), and left the country in August 1966 when ordered to report to the Army. He and his wife, Dr. Janet Jemmott Moses, made their way to Tanzania where they served as teachers for its Ministry of Education until 1976. Bob and Janet returned to the Area IV neighborhood in Cambridge with their family (Maisha, Omo, Taba and Malaika) where Bob returned to Harvard’s Ph.D. Philosophy program in the summer of 1976. While Janet worked with the children on their language arts, Bob organized their mathematics education and used a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship (1982-87) to enter the King Open School as a parent volunteer, teach children algebra, and initiate the Algebra Project and the use of mathematics as an organizing tool for a Quality Public School Education (QECR) for all students. With support of the National Science Foundation (NSF) since 2002, the AP has been working with cohorts of high school students who previously performed in the lowest quartile on standardized exams; this work has led AP to propose a math high school “benchmark” for bottom quartile students: that they graduate high school on time, in four years, ready to do college math for college credit. The Algebra Project is primarily responsible for the birth of The Young People’s Project (YPP) in Cambridge; over the years, the AP has provided funding, technical assistance, professional development, mentoring and the guidance that has allowed YPP to grow and develop. It is the mission of YPP to use math literacy as a tool to develop young leaders and organizers who radically change the quality of education and life in the Cambridge community so that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential. Bob recently celebrated his 80th birthday at the MIT Media Lab with his loved ones and the greater Cambridge community.

Julius L. Chambers (1936–2013) delivered the keynote for the 1996 22nd Annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration, themed “With Liberty and Justice for All”. At the time, Chambers was Chancellor of North Carolina Central University and Former Director of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In Julius Chambers: A Life in the Legal Struggle for Civil Rights (The University of North Carolina Press), Richard A. Rosen and Joseph Mosnier connect the details of Chambers’s life to the wider struggle to secure racial equality through the development of modern civil rights law. Tracing his path from a dilapidated black elementary school to counsel’s lectern at the Supreme Court and beyond, they reveal Chambers’s singular influence on the evolution of federal civil rights law after 1964.

Born in the hamlet of Mount Gilead, North Carolina, Chambers escaped the fetters of the Jim Crow South to emerge in the 1960s and 1970s as the nation’s leading African American civil rights attorney. Following passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Chambers worked to advance the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s strategic litigation campaign for civil rights, ultimately winning landmark school and employment desegregation cases at the U.S. Supreme Court. Undaunted by the dynamiting of his home and the arson that destroyed the offices of his small integrated law practice, Chambers pushed federal civil rights law to its highwater mark.





#Misogynoir, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and other forms of Black Digital Feminisms

With Kishonna L. Gray
2016-17 MLK Visiting Scholar in Women & Gender Studies and Comparative Media Studies/Writing
Thursday, December 8 @ 5:00 pm
Location: MIT Building 3, Room 133 [Map]

Women of color have a variety of responses when employing digital technologies for empowerment. New communication technologies have expanded the opportunities and potential for marginalized communities to mobilize in this context counter to the dominant, mainstream media. This growth reflects the mobilization of marginalized communities within virtual and real spaces reflecting a systematic change in who controls the narrative. No longer are mainstream media the only disseminators of messages or producers of content. Women, in particular, are employing social media to highlight issues that are often ignored in dominant discourse. However, access itself neither ensures power nor guarantees a shift in the dominant ideology (as the use of #Misogynoir by Katy Perry reveals among other examples). Operating under the oppressive structures of masculinity, heterosexuality, and Whiteness that are sustained in digital spaces, marginalized women persevere and resist such hegemonic realities. Yet the conceptual frameworks intended to capture the digital lives of women cannot deconstruct the structural inequalities of these spaces.

Kishonna L. Gray (Ph.D., Arizona State University) is currently a MLK Visiting Scholar in Women & Gender Studies and Comparative Media Studies/Writing. She is also the Founder of the Critical Gaming Lab at Eastern Kentucky University. She is expanding on the work created here to develop new initiatives surrounding Equity in Gaming ( Her work broadly intersects identity and new media although she has a particular focus on gaming. Her most recent book, Race, Gender, & Deviance in Xbox Live (Routledge, 2014), provides a much-needed theoretical framework for examining deviant behavior and deviant bodies within that virtual gaming community.


During his time as a 2015-16 MLK Visiting Associate Professor, Baratunde Cola recruited, advised and supported Ali Sina Booeshaghi, an undergraduate MIT student whose work has received a 2016 SACNAS Student Presentation Award.

The Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) is a society of scientists dedicated to fostering the success of Chicano/Hispanic and Native American scientists—from college students to professionals—to attain advanced degrees, careers, and positions of leadership in science. This year, the National Conference gathered over 4000 students and professionals in Long Beach, CA. Taking place over three days, the conference showcased both undergraduate and graduate student presentations, offered scientific symposia, keynote addresses, professional development sessions, and a grand exhibit hall in which students interacted with over 300 exhibitors representing colleges and universities across the nation.

In addition to these activities, the conference was also an opportunity for students to present their research in a professional setting. This year, over 1000 posters and oral presentations were delivered at the conference. Each year SACNAS receives comments from attendees highly impressed by the caliber of student research. The undergraduate and graduate students consistently present research that surpasses expectations in their respective categories.

Booeshagi represented the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department at this year’s conference with work titled “Harvesting Electric Energy from Waste Heat: A Novel Approach Utilizing a Thermo-Electric Liquid Cold Plate”. The conference judges recognized it as a standout among the student presentations and selected Booeshagi to receive one of the 2016 SACNAS Student Presentation Awards.

In a letter to MIT’s Mechanical Engineering Department, the SACNAS Student Presentations Committee wrote: “It is our honor to share that Ali Sina Booeshaghi’s communication skills and command of the research topic were exemplary…We feel that your program is enhanced by the participation of Ali Sina Booeshaghi, as such commitment will drive fellow researchers to similar heights. Congratulations on hosting such a talent.”

Such a talent was nurtured by a forensic engineer/mechanical engineer father, with whom Booeshaghi interned during summers, helping to investigate accidents. Though Booeshaghi has an interest in a law career, he chose to study mechanical engineering as an undergraduate. “It isn’t just learning about the mechanics of movement,” he said before entering MIT. “It’s about learning the mindset of an engineer and how to think. … It teaches you to apply fundamentals and solve any problem you’re faced with.”

Booeshaghi also had the opportunity to work with Prof. Cola of Georgia Institute of Technology, who served as visiting faculty at the MIT Mechanical Engineering Department. “Sina was a pleasure to work with and really helped me to make the most of my time as an MLK Scholar,” says Prof. Cola. “I started my time at MIT with this simple idea to combine cooling chips and generating electricity with a new application of liquid thermoelectrics…Sina’s hard work and sharp mind brought the idea to life in record time. He is a very insightful student whose career I look forward to following.”