Black History Month Spotlight: Mae Jemison

Mae_Jemison_in_Space

As we come to a close on Black History Month, I would like to turn the spotlight on another influential Black female figure: Mae Jemison. Mae Jemison is widely acclaimed in the sciences industry as being the first Black Female astronaut. In 1992, she made significant strides as an astronaut by flying into space on the Endeavour spacecraft, officially establishing herself as the first African-American woman in space.

Born in October 1956, in Decatur, Alabama, Mae Jemison and her family moved to Chicago, Illinois where she grew up for the majority of her youth. There in Chicago, she was able to witness and experience first-hand the peak of the Black civil rights movement in the United States. As a young girl, she lived in fear by the frequent protests and the heavy presence of the National Guard on their streets. At a mere 12 years old, although scared, Mae Jemison knew the importance of the civil rights movement and its impact on herself as an African-American girl and the Black community as a whole. Living through such an experience growing up, Mae Jemison’s African-American identity became a crucial part in her academic and career pursuits.

She spent her life in the pursuit of science – specifically, astrology. Even as a kindergartner on her first day of school, she already declared herself a “scientist” when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up. Taken aback by her answer as a woman, much less a Black woman, people were skeptical and doubtful. These doubts and odds against her didn’t stop her in her pursuit.

She began her pursuit for higher education in the sciences in college, where she studied physical and social sciences. Jemison developed a passion for linguistics while in college and also learned how to speak Russian and African-Swahili fluently. She progressed in her academic career by earning another degree in chemical engineering and African studies. She always stuck true to her roots as an African-American and ensured that her African identity remained an integral part of who she was in every aspect – both as a student and as a professional in the sciences. Mae Jemison continued on to study medicine in medical school, where she earned her MD and also became a medical doctor.

In June of 1987, she was admitted into NASA’s astronaut program, being the first African-American woman to be admitted into the astronaut-training program. In 1992, Mae Jemison made even more significant strides as an African-American and as a female astronaut by initiating her first launch into space. On September 12, 1992, Mae Jemison set aboard the Endeavour spacecraft among 6 other astronauts on mission STS47. On this day, she officially established herself as the first African-American woman in space.

Mae Jemison spent 8 days in space conducting various projects and experiments in collaboration with the rest of the team of astronauts. She returned back to earth on September 20, 1992 and spent a total of 190 hours in space. Upon her return, Jemison remarked of the importance of both integrating males and females, as well as various minority groups, into societal activities. She emphasized that all kinds of people are able to be productive members of society and contribute to the development of the world, so long as the equal opportunity is afforded to them.

In recognition of her astonishing repertoire of accomplishments, Jemison received numerous awards and several honorary doctorates. Some include:

  • The 1988 Essence Science and Technlogy Award
  • The 1992 Ebony Black Achievement Award
  • The 1993 Montgomery Fellowship from Dartmouth College
  • The 1990 Gamma Sigma Gamma Woman of the Year Award

Mae Jemison was also fundamental in the progression and development of various organizations in the scientific community, including the American Medical Association, the American Chemical Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Mae Jemison is not only influential, she is a model of excellence for all people – especially women, African-Americans; particularly African-American women. Her significant work in the STEM fields proves her to be role model for young girls and young women, showing them that women not only can be a part of the STEM fields, but they can also excel in the STEM field. She has paved the way for women to make positive and remarkable contributions into an industry that is primarily dominated my males. As an African-American, she has proven to be a figure of strength and intelligence, proving to society that despite every odd set up against a marginalized population – despite the lack of equal opportunity – resilience, perseverance, and strength can uplift yourself and an entire community from an oppression. Moreover, it can influence society to adopt ideologies that are more inclusive, aware, and integrative, and foster a society that offers equal opportunity to all people, regardless of gender, race, sex, sexuality, etc.

Resources:

http://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378

http://www.jsc.nasa.gov/Bios/htmlbios/jemison-mc.html

http://teacher.scholastic.com/space/mae_jemison/

http://www.biography.com/people/mae-c-jemison-9542378

#OscarsSoWhite – Black History Month

OscarstooWhite

In honour of February being Black History Month – a time where we celebrate Black culture, shed light on and stand in solidarity with the Black community on Black issues, and recognize the strength and resilience of the Black community and its history – I thought it would be prudent to talk about a recent issue on hand that is affecting the Black community.

#OscarsSoWhite

For those of you out of the loop with Hollywood-related issues, or simply for those of you who don’t know, there has been significant controversy surrounding the annual Academy Awards Ceremony. The Academy Awards (“Oscars”) has been a night of celebration and recognition of actors, actresses, directors, producers, and motion pictures. It has been an opportunity to acknowledge the success of such people and such projects and has been a way to encourage the film industry to continue producing quality creative content for its viewers.

I would like to say that this issue is recent but if we’re being quite honest, this has been an issue for several years. That issue being: There is a significant lack of diversity in Hollywood, especially, the Academy Awards. #OscarsSoWhite is a campaign initiated to urge the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to be more inclusive in their acknowledgements and recognitions. It is a movement for diversification and equity – it is a movement to urge a very influential platform to facilitate an industry that accurately represents its target audience. This year – quite similar to last year – all 20 actors who have been nominated for lead and supporting acting categories are white. Significantly “Black” films are only recognized for a white actor within that film.

For example: Creed, whereby Michael B. Jordan (a black actor) was the lead role throughout the whole movie as he played Apollo Creed’s son, is only being recognized for Sylvestor Stallone (a white actor) and its screenwriters who also happen to be white, Jonathan Herman and Andrea Berloff. It seems quite ludicrous that a movie where a black actor is the clear lead throughout the entire movie is not being acknowledged, but his white co-star is being recognized, as well as the movie’s white screenwriters.

To give you even more context, in the last 88 years that the Academy Awards have been an established industry, only 14 black actors have actually won an Oscar, one of them being Lupita Nyong’o for her role in 12 Years a Slave. Only 5 Latina actors have one in the last 88 years as well and quite disappointingly, only one Indigenous acting winner (Ben Johnson for his role in The Last Picture Show in 1972). Furthermore, the Academu Awards Industry is made up of 94% white voters and 77% males.

It has always been clear that movies have misrepresented minorities for so many years. You have white actors playing black/Asian/Latino/Indigenous people. You have a predominantly white industry who is seemingly in charge of whether or not you get recognized for the hard work that you do, and will no doubt have a bias for their own kind. You have a completely un-diverse industry who is only willing to shed light on “white excellence” while Black excellence takes a back seat. It’s backwards, it’s completely un-progressive, and it’s disheartening to be misrepresented and unrecognized on such a public and popular platform.

Change has to start. This is such an influential platform and the more we emphasize visibility and diversification, the more society will mimic such ways and adopt such ideologies. We have to challenge white dominance and privilege, which seems such a strange thing to say in 2016, but don’t think for a second that we’ve overcome racism just because it’s not as apparent and “in your face” as it was in the 50s. We have come a long way but there is so much more work to do. I encourage you to look into the #OscarsSoWhite issue; get educated and be aware. Stand in solidarity with one another and fight for what’s right. This is so much more than movies at this point; this is about equity and unification as a global society.

Will you be boycotting the Oscars this year? #OscarsSoWhite

Resource: http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/movies/2016/02/02/oscars-academy-award-nominations-diversity/79645542/

4 Tips To Tackle Stress This Exam Season

Happy end of the term classes to all Ryerson students! Today marks the final day of classes for all students across campus, which unfortunately also marks the beginning of finals week for this semester. Stress levels are high and the campus is filled with scrambling student, all attempting to gather all necessary notes for all of their exams. Professors are finalizing exams and answering a million emails a minute, answering questions from stressed and nervous students. It is that time of the year when everyone is eager to delve into the holiday festivities, but also trying to find the best way to cope with and manage all the stress that comes with finals week and being a university student in general. It’s a happy but tough time of the year. Lucky for you, I have some tips that can maybe help you get through the stress, have you motivated for your exams, and ready for the holiday season!

TIP #1: COFFEE IN MODERATION

We all need our daily fix of Tim Hortons or Starbucks and when you’re a university student, it’s almost necessary. Coffee contains the magic C (CAFFEINE) that helps keep us alert for the day and focused for the lectures/labs/tutorials ahead. It’s especially helpful after an all-nighter spent studying, working on a project, or doing a paper (or perhaps simply getting lost in the world of Netflix…). Coffee is great – in moderation. Students tend to turn this “daily fix” during exam season to a “multiple times a day fix.” This can get dangerous and really impact your health negatively – it’ll send your heart rate through the roof, your blood pressure can be through the roof, your diet will be compromised – a lot can go wrong. Don’t over-do it with the coffee. It’s not something that you need to depend on to do well on your exams – your hard work and effort determines that for you. Limit yourself whenever possible and find other ways to stay away (i.e a cold shower in the morning, exercise, breakfast, etc).

Coffee1

TIP #2: FIND A DESIGNATED STUDY SPOT

Finding a place to study and actually be productive is difficult. This is especially difficult in the middle of the busiest city in Canada – Toronto – where Ryerson is so centrally located. Luckily, we have the Student Learning Centre (SLC) to cater to our Study Spot Needs. First, it’s important that your study spot include a desk or a table of some sort to support whatever your study materials are. Avoid anything too small – the more space, the more room to support laptop, textbooks, notebooks, phone, etc. Second, try to find a bright space, perhaps anything with a big window or light coloured walls. Studying in a bright space with lots of light does a lot for your visual senses and makes it easier for you to sit somewhere for a prolonged period of time, staring at a bunch of words and/or numbers. It definitely lessens the load. Lastly, make sure your study spot is not confining. This means to make sure that the spot you choose allows you to get up once in awhile and move around. Not only does this gives you a break from sitting in a chair in front of your computer for hours, it also prevents any sores or muscle aches from happening, which comes with sitting still for hours. If you’re looking for the perfect study spot on campus, I definitely suggest the SLC (specifically floor 5! Not too eerie and quiet, but also quiet enough to give you some peace).

Rendering

TIP #3: DON’T FORGET YOUR DIET

Stress-eating can manifest in two ways: over-eating or under-eating. Some people can binge on junk food and resort to comfort food during such a stressful time. Some people can be so pre-occupied and busy that they may forget to eat and incorporate proper nutrition into their diet. It is important to find some sort of balance in your diet during exam season. Take comfort in moderation – have a donut here and there, get a Frappucino instead of your regular cup of coffee, get some ice cream. Also, it’s not the end of the world if you miss breakfast or have a late dinner. It is expected that your diet will not be at its healthiest during exam season, but it is important to keep in mind that proper nutrition is the best way to keep the mind and body focused and ready to face the day. An improper diet can actually lead to increased levels of fatigue and stress – which is something none of us need any more of during finals weeks. What we do need is increased brain power, which is something fruits and vegetables offer ample amounts of.

brain-healthy-food

TIP #4: SLEEP – TRY IT

Sleep deprivation – we all have it. Many students have grown accustomed to functioning on a lack of sleep but this tends to get worse during exam season, when we stay up and spend the night cramming and/or getting last minute things done. As a result, the lack of sleep can lead to even more fatigue, an increased dependence on caffeine, and even worse – the chance of sleeping in and maybe even sleeping through an exam. Yikes! The best way to avoid this is simple, but hard at the same time – get as much sleep as you can. Whether that means sleeping earlier and waking up earlier or taking short naps throughout the day, do what you need to do to get some rest and relax your brain. An overworked brain will only lead to more stress and sleep revives the mind, making it easier to study and tackle exams. Sleep is important and most importantly, it’s so relaxing!

done

I wish all fellow students at Ryerson and all other schools all the best of luck during this semester’s finals week! Study hard, study well, and do your best! Surround yourself with positive vibes and do what you need to do to stay focused and motivated. We are so close to a well-deserved holiday break so we’re almost there! Hang in there. I’m rooting for you!

youll-be-fine

How to make your blog accessible

A computer screen text box which is titled "Image Tag Accessibility Attributes". Inside the box there is a space for alternative text and a long description. To the right are boxes for 'Ok', 'Cancel' and 'Help'. At the bottom of the box it reads "if you don't want to enter this information when inserting object, change the accessibility preferences"

Blogging is a great way to relieve stress, put your ideas, thoughts and experiences into the world, and it can activism at its finest. To ensure that everyone can access your work, however, you should think about the accessibility of your blog.

How a screen reader will recognize and read your blog is something you should consider. Depending on your audience you might also want to consider plain language as a form of accessibility. Plain language is writing which is easy to read and understand. It is clear, concise, uses short sentences. It uses a layout that is easy to follow.

You should also describe your images. This means that when a screen reader passes over the image it will read out the description you have written. You might think this extra step isn’t that important, but think about the effort that goes into choosing an image. Don’t you want everyone to be able to enjoy it?

Here are some handy tips for describing your image.

1. Brief is better.

2.  The usual rule is to be informative, not poetic. However, it’s your blog, so feel free to let your personality and writing style come through in the alt text.

3.  If the graphic includes text, put all the words in the alt text.

4.  Put the most important information first.

5.  Check your spelling and try to avoid abbreviations. Screen readers will mispronounce words that are misspelled and will attempt to pronounce abbreviations.

If you are using a site, like WordPress it will have a series of meta tags on the right hand side of the screen when you upload the image. The alt text is where you would put the image description. What if you are using Tumblr which doesn’t have this option. Don’t despair. Under the image, write out the description.

Some images are easier to describe than others. What about images that aren’t as easy to describe? Is it appropriate to mention body size, skin colour, ability status or sex? The blog, The body is not an apology which focuses its posts on radical self love recently wrote a post about why and how they describe images… “When we note race, body type, ability status, gender, or any other attribute in an image description, we do so only to provide a visual descriptor. We do not enter into judgments about attributes. If it is basic to the appearance of a person in an image, we will make it part of the description. Thus, when we post a photo of a large woman, we will refer to her as a large woman; when we post a photo of a man who uses crutches, we will note the presence of crutches; when we post a photo of a person with a visible scar, we will note the scar. We include these descriptors only for the purpose of clarity, and not to call attention to an attribute in order to interpret it or judge it.”

So next time you are posting a blog think about access for everyone.

Accessibility matters.

Where to Find New Music  

I don’t listen to the radio or watch music channels so sometimes it can be difficult to stumble across new music. Naturally, with the advent of technology there are a ton of portals to stream and discover new music. I have heard of these music streaming options through word of mouth and I would like to share to spread the love because finding new music is exciting. All of them offer a wide variety of music genres to please everyone so they are definitely worth checking out.

when_the_music_play___STOCK_by_Soczi_opt

Shazam: This app was a recent download for me (I am late to the party), however I couldn’t be happier with it. Turn on Shazam when you are listening to a song you like and it will tell you the title! I recently used this while in a store that was blasting a song I liked and within seconds I knew what it was. That’s some pretty cool technology and it even works when there is background noise, such as when a song is playing during an advertisement on television or if there is chatter in the background of a party.

 

Songza: Songza is an app/website that allows you to stream pre-made playlists based on your interests in a particular artist, genre or activity. Say you want to listen to an upbeat playlist to workout to. Songza has something for you and the app will automatically suggest similar playlists/artists to check out based on your interest. The only downfall to this app is that there is a limit to the number of songs that you can skip in a certain period of time but there is no limit to the number of songs you can stream.

 

Soundcloud: Soundcloud is my current favourite place to discover new music. Make an account and follow other people’s music/playlist posts about interests that are similar to yours. Search for an artist, song or genre and a wide variety of songs (which I have not found on other music websites) come up. It is a great way to discover underground songs and keep track of them by “reposting” and “liking” your interests.

 

Hypem: Hypem (Hype Machine) is a website for streaming new music based on what is/has been floating around on music blogs webwide. You can search for specifics like artist, song, etc. or just explore based on genre and other attributes such as remixes, popularity, etc. This one is definitely worth checking out.

The World of Online Dating

Who knew it could be so difficult to meet new people in a big city like Toronto? Meeting guys has never been easy considering I went to an arts high school, studied in a female dominated program in University and continued into a career path that is once again, surrounded by women. I’ve met men through friends, at bars, etc. but nothing’s ever really come from it. Desperate times call for desperate measures, which lead me to try online dating.

I’ve only gone on a date with a couple of guys off online sites. I’ve personally tried okcupid and plenty of fish, but there are also sites like eHarmony and lava life. I’ve noticed a particular pattern with the men I’ve met up with… they aren’t who they say they are. The first guy had a very mysterious photo that intrigued me. A very “hank moody” look wearing a nice jacket and black shades. When I met up with him for a coffee, he already had a coffee in his hand. Why he went on a coffee date and already had a coffee, I don’t really understand. So there we were, he was waiting in line with me to order a Starbucks latte while holding a Tim Horton’s coffee cup. Geeze. The date was doomed from the start.

The second guy I dated was great. He was handsome, a gentleman, and liked to jam out with me on his guitar. But I just didn’t feel the connection. No butterflies, no nothing. On to the next!

The next guy I met up with was a sweetheart. Over the years I started to think that romance was dead and Mr. Right didn’t exist. But here he was, standing in front of me. Sweet, kind, honest, amazing…. or so I thought. One night after a jays game and one too many $10 beers, he told me he had a book written about him. He gave me the book to read (of course I thought nothing of this). The book contained information insinuating that he was a serial online dater and that after he got board with one girl, he would start online dating again, start a new relationship and then end it with the original girl. Needless to say I was not impressed. Bad judgement on his part for letting me read that? Or bad Judgement on my part for thinking I was dating prince charming? Hmm…. was I doomed on the dating front?

After these experiences, I slowed down with the online dating. But who knows? You won’t know unless you try. And it can be a good experience, especially if you look as a fun experience and don’t take it too seriously. Why not give it a try? You’d be surprised by how may people are actually on these sites… you are not alone!

ONLINE DATING

Tips:

  1. When making a profile, use accurate information – You don’t need to go into details about your life, but it’s best to be accurate. For example, if you smoke, write that you smoke. There’s no sense in lying about it.
  2. Use a recent picture – Make sure you use a photo that actually replicates your current look. I suggest a close face shot and a full length shot so there is no misconception.
  3. Don’t be afraid to message first! – Many women don’t want to put themselves out there and would rather men message them first. But trust me, men are intrigued by a woman who put’s herself out there.
  4. Meet in a public place – It’s better to be safe and make sure you are surrounded by people, especially considering you’ve never met this person before. Try a busy bar or restaurant.
  5. Go with your gut – If there’s no connection, don’t try to force one. Tell the person you didn’t feel a connection and try it out again with someone else.

 

(Image from: (http://www.agoracosmopolitan.com/news/relationships/2013/05/24/6017.html))