Transforming science education through research-driven innovation
February 12, 2021
“We want to highlight and create a safe place for Black people who love plants.” – Dr. Tanisha Williams, founder of #BlackBotanistWeek
Each Darwin Day, BSCS Science Learning celebrates the impact of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution on science and society. For the last few years, we have used this occasion to share stories of scientists who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) as part of our efforts to educate to advance social justice.
This year, we are excited to highlight scientists who themselves have been working to raise the visibility of BIPOC scientists and expose the biases they face. One such scientist is Tanisha Williams, a plant ecologist and botanist who is studying the effects of climate change on plants, among other research topics. Dr. Williams understands the challenge of “botanizing while black.” After being questioned by strangers when doing her fieldwork in public places, she’s learned to always carry books with her so she looks the way people expect a scientist to look.
To raise awareness for her field and the challenges she and other Black botanists face, Dr. Williams founded the social media campaign, #BlackBotanistsWeek, last summer. The campaign had an immediate impact. Other botanists responded by listening to botanists of color and connecting with them. The Botanical Society of America even added a new BIPOC event to their annual conference in 2020.
Similarly, Chelsea Connor co-founded #BlackBirdersWeek. This event led non-Black allies to step up in support of their BIPOC peers like never before. In astronomy, Ashley Walker founded #BlackinAstro, which inspired students across the country to communicate openly with faculty about the struggles BIPOC scientists face. They and the many other scientists and science educators who are working to reveal and redress racial injustice inspire us.
At BSCS, we are actively pursuing a more-inclusive, meaningful, and effective science education. We remain committed to learning from and amplifying the critical voices of BIPOC scientists and educators.
Of course, we all have much more work to do.
Daniel C. Edelson
BSCS Executive Director