Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. awards historic $100,000 Founders’ Centennial Scholarship

Washington, D.C.— Cayla Withers, a recent graduate of A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis, N.C., was awarded Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated’s Triumphant Founder Arizona Cleaver Stemons Centennial Scholarship in the amount of $100,000 on June 19, 2020.

“While we received over 2,000 applications from very high-achieving graduating seniors, Cayla’s story was special. We were inspired by her strength, bravery and commitment to excellence, even when faced with adversity. That is what Zeta stands for, and what we all should aspire to be,” said Valerie Hollingsworth Baker, Zeta’s International Centennial President.

Withers plans to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering at the University of Virginia in the fall. She graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, volunteered as a tutor and mentor, and participated in extra-curricular activities like the North Carolina Governor’s Page program and National Beta Club, while managing a chronic illness that requires her to travel three hours for monthly treatments. 

Emboldened to become a NASA engineer after watching the movie Hidden Figures, Withers’ career goals are to research environmental-friendly rockets and put the first human on Mars. Her legacy as the founder of the National Society of Black Engineers Jr. chapter at her school will give future black students the resources to pursue STEM careers.

“I am my ancestor’s wildest dreams…this scholarship will allow me to accomplish my goals, and one day

inspire kids who look like me, from communities like mine,” Withers wrote in her application.

Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated, founded in 1920 on the campus of Howard University, is headquartered in Washington, D.C. Zeta has initiated a diverse membership of more than 125,000 college-educated women with over 925 chapters in North America,

Europe, Asia, the Caribbean, Africa and the Middle East. Through scholarships funded by its chapters, Zeta has given more than $3.5 million in the past five years to help students achieve their college dreams. The Founders’ Centennial Scholarship will be awarded annually for five consecutive years in honor of the sorority’s five founding members. The first scholarship awarded was named after Zeta founder and first president, Arizona Cleaver Stemons.

For more information about Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. visit: www.zphib1920.org

After virtual ceremony, P-TECH grad looking forward to college in the fall

Virtual graduations have been all the rage— and the only option— during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, and it was no different at P-TECH Carver in Baltimore.

“The virtual graduation the district hosted was okay, but nothing compares to in-person graduation,” said Jai’Marri Moulden, who graduated with both his diploma and an associate’s degree in cybersecurity in just four years. “I was expecting to walk across the stage having the feeling of completion, but now I have to turn something that’s abnormal into something positive. I’m not the first of my siblings to graduate high school, but I can definitely say I was the first in my family to graduate virtually.”

Moulden plans to attend McDaniel College in the fall— virtually or in the brick and mortar building— to study computer science.

“My expectations in going to McDaniel College are to, of course, have in-person classes and just to have things revert to some sense of normalcy so that I can enjoy my college experience,” the new graduate stated.

He said he is grateful for the experience at P-TECH, which is a unique program where students have the opportunity to earn both a high school diploma and no-cost associate degree in fast-growing STEM fields.

P-TECH Baltimore in Carver Vocational-Technical High School serves 138 students who complete the blended high school and community college coursework in four to six years.

Moulden counted among 29 students to graduate this year— 12 of whom received an associate’s degree and a high school diploma simultaneously.

Moulden also received the honor of speaking at IBM’s virtual graduation celebration for all P-TECH graduates on June 24, 2020.

He noted the challenges of virtual school during the pandemic.

“I’ve always been a person who’s had to overcome many adversities, so overcoming this pandemic and still graduate

wasn’t new to me,” Moulden said. “Of course, it was difficult, but I believed in myself and used my circumstances as motivation instead of being complacent. My biggest challenge may have been my time management because I had so much, yet so little, time on my hands. It was very easy to fall behind, so I had to make sure I was where I needed to be.”

He called his field of choice— cybersecurity— interesting and exciting.

“Being able to stop cybercrimes with cybersecurity excites me. I’m very

excited about the future, and I just know that I’m going to be very successful, and I want to have my own business and give back to my community,” Moulden said.

The graduate also offered thoughts on future P-TECH students.

“I want the future P-TECH grads to know that life isn’t easy, and you shouldn’t expect it to be,” Moulden said. “Know that you are in control of your own actions and stay hungry for success. Never forget where you come from so that you can help your community and bring success to the world.”

Art, activism, conversations merge with police issues in Annapolis

In hopes of dismantling racism for good, protests, walks, events and supportive displays by diverse races are popping up both locally and globally.Demonstrators from all walks of life have been filling public spaces in record numbers to speak up about police brutality; the need for reform; and the pursuit of acquiring justice for George Floyd and other victims who have died at the hands of the police.

June 7, 2020 marked one of those hope-filled days, despite the backdrop of social unrest. Hundreds of people attended a peaceful vigil at Susan Campbell Park, located in downtown Annapolis, to pay homage to George Floyd and others who have lost their lives to racism. Additionally, a mural entitled “Say Their Name” was painted live by local artists utilizing spray paint, permanent markers, and oil-based and acrylic paint to craft a facial representation of Floyd, along with names of other victims who tragically died in police custody.

Comacell Brown paint a mural of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives to police brutality. The mural is located in Susan Campbell Park in downtown Annapolis.

Andrea Blackstone

Comacell Brown paint a mural of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives to police brutality. The mural is located in Susan Campbell Park in downtown Annapolis.

Jeff Huntington; Deonte Ward; and Comacell Brown, Jr. collaborated to complete the project. Additionally, Douglas Day built the wall structure and Jeff Huntington served as the project’s lead artist. Hundreds of onlookers heard from speakers and witnessed art come to life.

  Ward—who specializes in photography and abstract art—also serves as the Youth Program Director for B.L.A.C.K. (Becoming Leaders Acquiring Critical Knowledge) Excel. The Annapolis native says the names painted on the mural were obtained from an online list of police brutality victims. More were added, while Ward listened to speakers at the event. A local shooting involving Cochise Daughtry in 1996 was among them.

  “I didn’t think something like this had happened in Annapolis in recent times. For me it was more eye-opening, and it kind of gave me people to look up, really realizing it was a lot more than I thought it was,” Ward said. “As an artist, part of my message is always to let my voice be heard, whether I’m doing motivational speaking or art, because art is an expressive form of speaking itself. When you get to use different forms of protesting and things like that, again, the list was crucial to me because some people don’t know about those names. Some people may just come to see the painting, but they go there and see a name. Maybe just one name will catch their eye out of the rest of them, and you research that person’s story.”

Ward added that the whole list of individuals who lost their lives to police brutality could not fit on the mural, but each victim should still be cherished and honored. Ward and Brown agree.

Jr, Deonte Ward, and Jeff Huntington paint a mural of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives to police brutality. The mural is located in Susan Campbell Park in downtown Annapolis.

Andrea Blackstone

Jr, Deonte Ward, and Jeff Huntington paint a mural of George Floyd and others who have lost their lives to police brutality. The mural is located in Susan Campbell Park in downtown Annapolis.

Brown is the owner of Cell Spitfire Paintings and Designs, LLC. The full time, freelance artist who runs classes for children, paints murals and volunteers in the community. Brown has been a part of several marches and he says that recently, he has seen white people talking with their children as they walk by the George Floyd mural. He added that honest conversations with youth about history, as well as current events will help to ensure a brighter future for black people.

  “It’s a big shift going on in the world,” Brown said. “I’ve already seen in the 24 hours that it’s (the mural) been up, it has already created great conversation.”

  A former white classmate even reached out to tell Brown that he wants to know more about black culture, and that he now realizes that his life journey has not been as difficult. Brown’s friend is not the only one who is interested in delving into social issues many African-Americans face.

  The day after the mural was constructed, Courtney Garton, an Annapolitan of 45 years, stood outdoors in Annapolis holding a neon sign, while trying to raise consciousness about changing police culture. African-American men drove by in their cars, while beeping their horns, to affirm agreement with the written poster message. On one side, the sign read “STOP KILLING BLACK PEOPLE!!” On the other, “CHANGE POLICE CULTURE” was inscribed in large letters. Garton says he wants conversations about reforming police departments to occur, as opposed to defunding them.

  “I believe that systematic racism was created by white people, and I think that white people are [the] ones that need to change it,” Garton said. “I’m trying to get to a point where I really understand what it is like to be a black person in this country, and more and more, I’m understanding that the color of your skin is discriminated against in this country.”

Black workers more likely to face retaliation for raising coronavirus concerns

As more corporations jump into the fray, offering statements of support for African Americans in the aftermath of the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing protests, a new study reveals that many companies’ actual policies and practices contradict their public statements. With just a small amount of research, short-term marketing and public relations positioning using words proclaiming empathy, understanding and support of black causes can too often be found to be in direct contrast of long-term human resources dictates.

A survey by the National Employment Law Project (NELP) about working conditions during the COVID-19 pandemic confirms that corporate America has treated black workers categorically worse than White workers during the pandemic.

African Americans were twice as likely to answer “Yes,” or “Maybe,” when asked if they or anyone at their company had been punished for raising COVID-19 safety concerns. The survey found that black workers were roughly twice as likely to have been retaliated against by their employers for speaking up about health concerns and requesting time off work.

For instance, Amazon fired black and brown workers who have organized to demand more substantial health and safety protections. Thousands of Instacart workers, many of whom are women of color, are reportedly waiting for facemasks and hand sanitizer promised months ago.

Three out of four black workers who took the survey said they showed up to work during the pandemic even though they believed they might have been seriously risking their health or the health of family members. Less than half of White workers said they had done the same.

“Our results suggest that virus transmission in the workplace may be exacerbated by employer repression and that the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on black communities may be related to greater exposure of black workers to repressive workplace environments,” the study’s authors wrote.

“While black workers at any given worksite tend to be treated worse than their white counterparts, the study’s authors suggest that black workers, as a whole, tend to work in more repressive environments than white workers,” noted vice.com.

The higher likelihood of retaliation that black workers face means fewer of them feel safe reporting concerns or have had their concerns addressed.

The survey found that black workers were more than twice as likely to have unresolved concerns about coronavirus at their workplace than their white counterparts.

Thirty-nine percent of workers surveyed reported that they had either raised concerns to their employer and did not receive a satisfactory response or did not out of fear of retaliation.

Meanwhile, only 18 percent of white workers found themselves in the same position.

“This is saddening to hear and somewhat unsurprising. I can’t believe the world we live in. Still, as I have lived in it for a great number of years, I am actually thankful that such practices are coming to light now,” Andrew Taylor, the director of the Net Lawman. This firm provides legal document templates and law-related services to individuals and businesses who are looking for an alternative to using a traditional firm of lawyers.

“My thoughts on this study pushed me to ask about the segregation of employment and where these people are working. Obviously, we must focus on the roles black workers are in to make changes from here.”

Amit Raj said he was working part-time as a pharmacist earlier this year when he raised concerns.

“As we were working within an office within a warehouse where there were

almost no changes to working practice despite the pandemic. Since we were deemed an ‘essential service,’ we were also not allowed to work from home,” Raj stated in an email.

“Despite bringing this up on many occasions and management being aware, I was first just ignored. And was soon

demoted from an assistant manager position,” he said. “However, the reason given for the demotion was that my

part-time hours were not allowing me to manage effectively. I have now decided to place my focus on my digital marketing business.”

Raj has since founded Amit Digital Marketing.

Talia Fox, the CEO of KUSI Training, a global transformational leadership development firm, said in an email that the study concerns her mostly because of her two sons who have to work in the current environment.

“I have two sons and wear three hats, mother, black woman, leadership strategist. If I am honest, I am afraid, afraid of the challenges my two young black men will face in the world,” Fox noted via email.

“When my fear settles, it turns to anger, and I wonder why people are not doing anything. I want to blame someone, anyone for the injustices in the world,” Fox noted. “Then, my anger leads me to look in the mirror. What do I have to give? What is my role in this? I am a leadership strategist and an educator. I have seen knowledge, understanding, and strategy, and implementation transform businesses and inspire people to drive and lead change, which anchors my hope that a better future is possible for my two black men.”

Brandon Scott’s Big Inheritance

Historically, the winner of Baltimore City’s Democratic mayoral primary has gone on to win City Hall in the general election. While congratulations are in order for Brandon Scott’s recent electoral achievement, we might want to hold off on uncorking the champagne bottles until New Year’s Eve.

Mr. Scott is inheriting perhaps the worst circumstances facing the city since Sheila Dixon faced down the Great Recession during her term in 2009 when the unemployment rate topped out at 10.6 percent.

By contrast, Baltimore City’s recent unemployment rate jumped 250 percent in the 30 days between March and April of 2020 from 4.9 percent to 11.9 percent. While specific information is not yet available, we can surmise that the unemployment rate for Baltimore’s African American residents is considerably higher.

In June 2019, the Brookings Institute, considered America’s most prestigious public policy think-tank, released a report outlining one of Baltimore City’s lowest historic unemployment rates for Caucasians at 3.5 percent, while the rate for African Americans was 10.4 percent, 300 percent higher.

If Baltimore’s April 2020 unemployment rate of 11.9 percent is proportional to June 2019’s rate then the city’s African American community is currently suffering from nearly 36 percent unemployment, at least. Adding insult to injury, thousands of the unemployed have yet to receive benefit payments filed months ago.

Keep in mind the 11.9 percent figure is 60 days old. In the six weeks since April through June 13, 2020, the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation reports more than 26,000 additional first time unemployment claims in Baltimore City.

This is where the comparison between Brandon Scott’s and Shiela Dixon’s “inheritances” ends.

The COVID-19 pandemic and all its ancillary social and economic ramifications will be waiting for Mr. Scott when he assumes office. If there’s a silver-lining it is the waning statistics associated with the virus thanks to the commendable job of Gov. Larry Hogan.

With 10.3 percent of the state’s population, Baltimore has suffered 11 percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, of Maryland’s confirmed Coronavirus infections and deaths. That’s 7148 cases among 65,007 in the state, and 310 deaths among 2963 fatalities. Hospitalizations, intubations and deaths continue to trend downward.

The threatening news for a Scott Administration regards a possible resurgence of COVID-19 in the fall, during flu season. Not only will this put a strain on the city’s healthcare system, the associated costs will further squeeze the city’s budget which is currently facing a roughly $50 million deficit.

If all this isn’t bad enough, how will Brandon Scott handle the avalanche of mortgage foreclosures, evictions and utility shut-offs resulting when the State ends its moratorium forbidding banks, landlords and BGE from taking action during the pandemic? There’s also the tremendous demand food assistance in the community.

Baltimore City renters represent more than half of residents, roughly 311,000 people. Another strong indication that Baltimoreans could experience mass evictions later this year is that prior to COVID-19’s assault one-in-four residents lived below the poverty line.

Couple this situation with the fact that over half of renters pay more than a third of their income in housing costs, a condition considered untenable, and the recipe for disaster becomes clearer.

Unfortunately, all these debacles could land on Baltimore City’s plate by Thanksgiving, just in time for the Holidays. This should not become Brandon Scott’s problem alone. He will need and deserves everybody’s support and cooperation to get through these crises precipitated by COVID-19. We wish Brandon all the very best.

Comcast extends free public WIFI access to everyone for remainder of 2020

  Philadelphia—As cities and towns across the country begin to open up, Comcast is continuing its efforts to help people connect to the Internet during the COVID-19 crisis. The company announced it will extend free access to its 1.5 million public Xfinity WiFi hotspots to anyone who needs them, including non-customers, through the end of 2020.

  Recently, Comcast announced that it has extended an offer for 60 days of free home Internet access for new eligible Internet Essentials customers, to help provide additional support to students and families in need through the end of the year. Comcast will also continue to waive the requirement that those customers not have a past due balance with Comcast to qualify for the free offer.

  “We saw a huge jump in usage after we opened up our public hotspots, and we’re excited to keep them open through the end of the year as the nation begins taking steps to reopen,” said Dana Strong, president of Xfinity Consumer Services. “We’re pleased to see so many families and individuals take advantage of our 60 days of free home Internet through Internet Essentials, and the free access to public Xfinity WiFi hotspots to get online during this time when connectivity is so important.”

  Since taking the unprecedented step of making all of these hotspots available for free, hundreds of thousands of non-Xfinity customers have taken advantage, and overall usage by consumers of the free public WiFi hotspots has skyrocketed. Comcast’s public WiFi network is the largest of its kind in the nation, and three times larger than that of any other provider. It’s available in outdoor and business locations, all of which can be found online at www.xfinity.com/wifi.

  Comcast has a history of making its public hotspots available for free in individual markets to help communities stay connected after local emergencies like hurricanes in the South, wildfires in California, and the recent tornadoes in Nashville.

  For more information about Comcast’s COVID-19 response, visit: https://corporate.comcast.com/covid-19

Dr. Shirley Basfield Dunlap Beloved Morgan Professor ‘Played a Part’ in Many Lives

When people talk about “Theater” in Baltimore, the name Dr. Shirley Basfield Dunlap often comes up. Dr. Basfield Dunlap, who served as the Coordinator of Theatre Arts and Associate Professor of Fine and Performing Arts at Morgan State University had directed numerous plays, locally, nationally, and internationally. A lover of August Wilson’s work, those productions include FENCES, and The Piano Lesson.

On June 15, 2020, the beloved director and professor died at the age of 67, of what was described as “suspected heart failure.” A Memorial Service for Dr. Dunlap will take place on July 18, 2020, 11 a.m., at Union Baptist Church, 1219 Druid Hill Avenue. A Celebration of her life is being planned later that day from 6 p.m. until 9 p.m. (location to be determined).

Dr. Basfield Dunlap had many shows in her repertoire, which also included “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” and “for colored girls who have considered suicide/when the rainbow is enuf.” But Dr. Dunlap considered her son and daughter as her “greatest production.”

Dr. Shirley Basfield Dunlap with son Wesley Dunlap and daughter Stacie Dunlap

Courtesy Photo

Dr. Shirley Basfield Dunlap with son Wesley Dunlap and daughter Stacie Dunlap

“My mother sacrificed a lot for us to have what she felt her children deserved to have,” said daughter Stacie Dunlap. “And that was to be able to experience anything we wanted to experience, go anywhere we wanted to go, and not think there were any limits to what we wanted to be. I am proud of the woman she was, and the woman I have become.”

She added, “Hearing from her students, I shared my mother with numerous people around the world. It’s overwhelming, but gratifying. That’s what’s helping me to get through this. She’s not gone, because what she left is a legacy of greatness.”

Wesley Dunlap is Dr. Basfield Dunlap’s son.

“My mother was very involved with her teaching and theater,” he said. “It took a lot of her time, but she always put me and my sister first. Both my sister and I have master’s degrees. My mother instilled the importance of education in us. I am grateful for the outpouring of support from her colleagues and students, and thankful to have shared her with so many folks. She looked at the students as if they were her own kids. She drove them to New York for auditions. She cared deeply for her students, and did whatever she could to support them.”

Dr. Basfield Dunlap’s dissertation for a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) was noted as

“ground-breaking research” entitled “The Oral History Project of African American Stage Directors of American Theatre.”  

She was a 2018 Broadway World “Best Director of a Play Regional Award” finalist for her direction of “Red Velvet” at the Baltimore Chesapeake Shakespeare Company in Baltimore. She was invited by Intercult an initiator and leader of collaborative culture projects based in Stockholm, Sweden to facilitate a workshop on American and Nordic women writers.

“Shirley advised me on everything up to the last conversation I had with her,” said sister Enid Basfield-Holland. “I hear so many students talking about how supportive she was. That’s how she was to me. She was also close to my children. They called her ‘Aunt Mommy.’ She had such insightful dreams for her family. She noticed my son liked to draw a lot when he was little. She was instrumental in him becoming an artist. He is a sophomore at the Parsons School of Design in New York.”

She added, “Shirley didn’t just give nuggets. She gave boulders you could run with to be successful. I will continue to tell her story.”

Cheryl J. Williams is Dr. Basfield Dunlap’s longtime companion.

“We met 33 years ago,” said Williams. “My fondest memories are our travels. We traveled all over the world to places and once took a nine-day road trip. We could have flown, but we wanted to take a historic trip. My life with Shirley was awesome. There is no hurt or pain. I am blessed to have had the time we spent together.”

She added, “I think Shirley’s legacy was giving unconditionally. To know that the best is in each one of us. She had the gift and the talent to pull it out. Her other legacy was for people to create your art regardless of what that art form is, and to bring it forth.”

Carol Pitts met Dr. Basfield Dunlap through One God One Thought Center for Better Living.

“My fondest memory of Shirley was on a cruise to Alaska,” said Pitts. “She was very gracious to my granddaughter who was going away to college. She gave her a gift with some money and told her ‘to never go on a date without your own money. In case something happens, you have your own money to get home.’ She was such a good-spirited person and very humble. She never let her job or titles define who she was. She was just Shirley. A wonderful human being who touched a lot of lives.”

Former Baltimore Raven helping students and teachers with online STEM lessons

When John Urschel announced two years ago that he was retiring from the Baltimore Ravens to pursue a Ph.D. at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), it caught many by surprise. Urschel was just 26 and hadn’t yet carved out the reputation linebackers in the league usually do: the pursuit of tackling quarterbacks. Instead, he

pursued science.

Now, Urschel is helping to provide free lessons in STEM via YouTube as part of the recently announced National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI). The initiative is a set of free video lessons in math, science and English to help educators as they continue to adjust to online teaching.

“While teachers and students continue to adjust to online learning, we knew we could help by providing high-quality, ready-to-use lessons,” NMSI CEO Bernard Harris said in a statement.

Harris noted that NMSI’s mission is to increase access and achievement in rigorous STEM education for all students.

“I’m grateful to our outstanding trainers and to John Urschel for helping us do this small part for our country’s education system,” Harris stated.

Urschel said he provided a video for high school students because he wants to inspire more students to understand and appreciate math.

“Math is foundational to everything in our lives, and I’m happy to do what I can to show young people that they can be successful in it,” said Urschel, who has also authored the book, “Mind and Matter: A Life in Math and Football.”

“I’m also happy to provide help to teachers and to families struggling to deliver online education. It’s a challenging time, but we’ll get through it together,” he said.

Urschel is in his fifth year as a doctoral student at MIT. He was a standout offensive lineman at Penn State University and earned the William V. Campbell Trophy for academic and athletic success and community service. The Ravens drafted Urschel in 2014 and he retired in 2017 to focus on his doctoral work.

In addition to Urschel, the NMSI’s video lessons come from teachers across the country each of whom has a record of successfully preparing students for college. Those and hundreds of other teachers help the NMSI deliver two of the non-profit’s primary programs.

The Laying the Foundation program helps grades three to 12 teachers prepare students for rigorous high school courses, such as those under the College Board’s Advanced Placement program, officials noted in the release.

The flagship College Readiness Program supports AP teachers and students and helps school systems reform how they manage access to advanced courses.

In addition to LTF and CRP, the NMSI supports students of military members through its Military Families Mission.

It also increases access to computer science education in grades K-12 and helps prepare preservice STEM teachers through a partnership with the UTeach Institute at the University of Texas at Austin.

“The heart of our efforts is dedicated to school districts and systems, teachers and students who are supported by our programs,” Harris said. “At the same time, we felt called to help more teachers, students and families, and we’re happy to provide these free lessons.”

NASA Names Headquarters After ‘Hidden Figure’ Mary W. Jackson

Washington, D.C.— On Wednesday June 24, 2020, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced the agency’s headquarters building in Washington, D.C., will be named after Mary W. Jackson, the first black American female engineer at NASA.

Jackson started her NASA career in the segregated West Area Computing Unit of the agency’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia. Jackson, a mathematician and aerospace engineer, went on to lead programs influencing the hiring and promotion of women in NASA’s science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. In 2019, she was posthumously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

Administrator Bridenstine said, “Mary W. Jackson was part of a group of very important women who helped NASA succeed in getting American astronauts into space. Mary never accepted the status quo, she helped break barriers and open opportunities for African Americans and women in the field of engineering and technology…we proudly announce the Mary W. Jackson NASA Headquarters building. It appropriately sits on ‘Hidden Figures Way,’ a reminder that Mary is one of many incredible and talented professionals in NASA’s history who contributed to this agency’s success. Hidden no more, we will continue to recognize the contributions of women, African Americans, and people of all backgrounds who have made NASA’s successful history of exploration possible.”

The work of the West Area Computing Unit caught widespread national attention in the 2016 Margot Lee Shetterly book “Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.” The book was made into a popular movie that same year and Jackson’s character, was played by award-winning actress Janelle Monáe.

In 2019, after a bipartisan bill by Sens. Ted Cruz, Ed Markey, John Thune, and Bill Nelson made its way through Congress, the portion of E Street SW in front of NASA Headquarters was renamed Hidden Figures Way.

“We are honored that NASA continues to celebrate the legacy of our mother and grandmother Mary W. Jackson,” said, Carolyn Lewis, Mary’s daughter. “She was a scientist, humanitarian, wife, mother, and trailblazer who paved the way for thousands of others to succeed, not only at NASA, but throughout this nation.”

Jackson was born and raised in Hampton, Virginia. After graduating high school, she graduated from Hampton Institute (an HBCU) in 1942 with a dual degree in math and physical sciences, and initially accepted a job as a math teacher in Calvert County, Maryland. She would work as a bookkeeper, marry Levi Jackson and start a family, and work a job as a U.S. Army secretary before her aerospace career would take off.

In 1951, Jackson was recruited by the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which in 1958 was succeeded by NASA. She started as a research mathematician who became known as one of the human computers at Langley. She worked under fellow “Hidden Figure” Dorothy Vaughan in the segregated West Area Computing Unit.

After two years in the computing pool, Jackson received an offer to work in the 4-foot by 4-foot Supersonic Pressure Tunnel, a 60,000-horsepower wind tunnel capable of blasting models with winds approaching twice the speed of sound. There, she received hands-on experience conducting experiments. Her supervisor eventually suggested she enter a training program that would allow Jackson to earn a promotion from mathematician to engineer. Because the classes were held at then-segregated Hampton High School, Jackson needed special permission to join her white peers in the classroom.

Jackson completed the courses, earned the promotion, and in 1958 became NASA’s first Black female engineer. For nearly two decades during her engineering career, she authored or co-authored research numerous reports, most focused on the behavior of the boundary layer of air around airplanes. In 1979, she joined Langley’s Federal Women’s Program, where she worked hard to address the hiring and promotion of the next generation of female mathematicians, engineers and scientists. Mary W. Jackson retired from Langley in 1985.

In 2017, then 99-year-old Katherine Johnson was there to personally dedicate a new state-of-the-art computer research facility the bears her name at Langley. Johnson, another original member of the West Area Computing Unit, also was honored as a trailblazer and given the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. In addition, Johnson was part of the group honored with the Congressional Gold Medal, and NASA’s Independent Verification and Validation facility in Fairmont, West Virginia, also bears Johnson’s name.

“NASA facilities across the country are named after people who dedicated their lives to push the frontiers of the aerospace industry. The nation is beginning to awaken to the greater need to honor the full diversity of people who helped pioneer our great nation. Over the years NASA has worked to honor the work of these Hidden Figures in various ways, including naming facilities, renaming streets and celebrating their legacy,” added Bridenstine. “We know there are many other people of color and diverse backgrounds who have contributed to our success, which is why we’re continuing the conversations started about a year ago with the agency’s Unity Campaign. NASA is dedicated to advancing diversity, and we will continue to take steps to do so.”

New dean appointed to lead Morgan State University’s Clarence M. Mitchell, Jr. School of Engineering

Baltimore— Morgan State University (MSU) President Dr. David K. Wilson announced the appointment of Oscar Barton, Jr., P .h.D., P.E., as the University’s new dean of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr., School of Engineering. The announcement comes following a nearly five-month long national search led by a University selection committee in collaboration with an executive search firm

In his new capacity as dean, Dr. Barton will implement a vision for innovative strategic growth; provide leadership through a shared governance process of dynamic faculty, staff and students; manage multiple research centers and facilities; administer the School’s budget; develop curricula and advance academic and research programs that prepare students forcareers in the industries of the future.

Dr. Barton will report to Morgan’s provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, Lesia L. Crumpton-Young, Ph.D. He replaces Craig Scott, Ph.D., who served as the School of Engineering’s interim dean. His appointment is effective August 17, 2020.

“After conducting a thorough nationwide search, Provost Crumpton-Young, and I, are pleased to announce that Dr. Oscar Barton Jr., has accepted our offer to join the Morgan Family,” said President Wilson. “To lead the University’s highly touted School of Engineering into the future, we wanted an innovative administrator, an accomplished researcher/scholar and a dedicated educator who understands the challenges of and opportunities for a public urban research university, and with Dr. Barton, we’ve checked all of the boxes. His wealth of knowledge and experience will be a welcomed addition to our campus.”

Dr. Barton currently serves as professor and founding chair of the Department of Mechanical Engineering at George Mason University’s Volgenau School of Engineering. He joined the faculty at Mason in fall 2014, after completing a 22-year career at the U.S. Naval Academy. His research focuses on the development of approximate closed form solutions for linear self-adjoint systems, those that govern the responses of composite structures, and the analysis of dynamic systems. More recently, he investigated the dynamic response of flexible composite structures subject to periodic and random excitation. He has mentored numerous midshipmen through independent research projects and has directed two Trident Scholars, the Naval Academy’s flagship research program. He has published more than 60 journal and conference articles on these topics. Barton is also a fellow of ASME (American Society of Mechanical Engineers) and is actively involved in academic innovations and program assessment.

Morgan State University is a national treasure, and it humbles me that I have been entrusted to lead a faculty of immense expertise, a staff committed to purpose and a student-body of unbridled potential,” said Dr. Barton. “Morgan’s leadership under President Wilson and Provost Crumpton-Young stimulates entrepreneurship and innovation, essential elements critical to a school’s success and that I will champion as dean of the School of Engineering. I am excited to join the Morgan State family and its community of leaders and change agents.”