Celebrating Black History Month


Celebrating Black achievement is important year-round at the Fulton Schools, but especially during Black History Month. Here are some thoughts from our faculty, staff, students and alumni on what Black History Month means to them and how they believe we can create a path to equity, inclusion and social justice.

“On Tuesday, February 1, 2022, the first day of this year’s Black History Month, more than a dozen Historically Black Colleges and Universities received bomb threats. The threats against the Black community are not events of the distant past — they remain ongoing, pernicious and ubiquitous. In my reflection on what does Black History Month mean to me, I ask, how do we make sense of bomb threats targeted against members of our community that we want to honor and celebrate this month? My reflection is that my white identity affords me safety to move freely through society without fear of violence targeted against me because of my skin color. It is with respect, grace and admiration that we spotlight and recognize the many contributions of the Black community to the advancement of our country.”
Ann McKenna

Vice Dean, Strategic Advancement, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is the foundation of new beginnings — a representation of things to come. It is an honorable acknowledgment of the past that has brought us to the present, yet a significant reminder of how far we still have to go. Black History Month makes me feel seen, valued, honored and appreciated in my culture. It provides me with encouragement and motivation for everyday living and hope that a better tomorrow will come. When I see all of the people who have made invaluable contributions to this world, to our society, whether it be through traditional avenues like Barack Obama or through nontraditional stances like Claudette Colvin, it reminds me of the strong and resilient culture that I rose in. But it also reminds me of the people who have lost their lives at the expense of injustices still present. It reminds me that we are still considered “separate, but equal” because we aren’t embedded in historical contexts enough year-round. I honor those who have done the work before me, those who are doing the work now, and I encourage us all to embed “Black History Month” 365 days a year, not just 28.

If you could describe one or two things that we could do to create a path to equity, inclusion and social justice, what would they be?

Critical reflexivity and transparency. I believe that all of us would benefit from thinking critically about how we feel, what we do, why we do it, our understanding (or lack thereof), and be transparent about it. We all struggle with something. We are not perfect. We try to put on this persona of professionalism as superbeings and we just aren’t. I do believe that many of our interpersonal issues would be resolved if we just engaged in critical, transparent, yet cultivating discussions around social justice issues. When you engage in critical reflection, you make yourself aware of where you currently stand and how you perceive things to be. When you are transparent about where you are in your understanding or emotions regarding an issue, you open yourself up to new opportunities of growth to you and inclusivity to others. These are both needed to transform and to make way for equity, inclusion and social justice to embody itself in academic spaces.

Fantasi Nicole (Curry)

PhD Student, Engineering Education Systems and Design


What does Black History Month mean to you?

To me, Black History Month is a month that is supposed to celebrate the achievements and success of Black individuals. It is a representation of us as a whole and shows the world we are larger than life, we are united and we are important. However, we should not feel like this for just one month out of the year — we should feel like this all year round. I feel that the month puts an emphasis on the Black community and those who did great things for it. Many people aren’t aware of all the “underground” Black influencers, such as George Washington Carver, who founded peanut butter, or Alfred L. Cralle who invented the ice cream scooper. Black History Month should not be a month in which we slightly acknowledge Black individuals but it should be a REMINDER that Black people are great and powerful. 

If you could describe one or two things that we could do to create a path to equity, inclusion and social justice, what would they be?

Despite where you are from, the color of your skin or where you fit culturally, each person needs to educate themselves on equality: the right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Black community as a whole needs to start working together and loving each other. There is a bigger issue of displacement within our own community. It starts with you, it starts with me!

Olivia Sparks

Undergraduate Student, Aeronautical Management Technology

Job equity is looking at the ability of the person to do the job, not their race or ethnicity. While working alongside an excellent female black engineer, my VP of HR asked why I didn’t hire more female engineers, and I told him I would hire them if they applied and were the best person for the job, but there were none. Therefore, to help create the next generation of engineers of all races and genders, I love working with a sixth-grade math challenge team to get them excited about STEM fields.

Chris Budd

BS, Computer Systems Engineering '94

Black History Month is an excellent time to elevate Black voices. Many industries, including graphic design, have a history of systematically marginalizing the contributions of Black creators. As educators we must incorporate Black experiences into our curriculum year-round. Let Black history month be a catalyst for progress.

Book recommendation: The Black Experience in Design: Identity, Expression & Reflection

Lessons and activities for the classroom: Learn and create for social justice

Christina Carrasquilla

Senior Lecturer, Graphic Information Technology

I think our future as a civilization needs answers to extremely pressing problems and diversifying talent to create global solutions will enhance our ability to respond. We need to continue to create additional opportunities for both racial and gender equity and inclusion in our STEM programs and STEM careers. This starts by reaching out to underrepresented communities as students initially and alumni continually.

Rick Hudson

BS, Electrical Engineering '87

Black History Month to me means focusing on stories and achievements of Black people particularly. It means intentionally choosing to read books by Black authors and listen to podcasts by Black creators.

Claire Jordan

MS, Mechanical Engineering '20

It seems to me that diversity, equity and inclusion efforts can easily lead to tokenism if the powers that be are not willing to be shaped by a new set of values driven by social justice — values that might be espoused by the people who “ought to or need to be included.” It is entirely possible to have more “diverse” teams doing the same kinds of things that lead to social injustice. And so a question that people might ask themselves when they are trying to create inclusive spaces is, “Am I open to someone different coming into a space I am in and challenging the structures that, while they may be providing me comfort, may exist at the expense of someone else?

Darshan Karwat

Assistant Professor, Engineering

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means acknowledging, honoring and celebrating the history of Black people. I also see it as a time to shed light on how the Black community continues to advance culture, industry and society, even in the midst of all the injustices Black people still face as a community.

If you could describe one or two things that we could do to create a path to equity, inclusion and social justice, what would they be?

Our certainty that we are free of racism prevents us from any future growth and development.  The path starts within. Ignore the urge to see yourself as “not racist” and rather ask yourself the uncomfortable question of, “What are some of the ways in which your race(s) has shaped your life?” Reflecting on this question is engaging in an alternative experience, which will contribute toward developing that critical awareness. This, perhaps, is the trailhead of that so-called path.

Brenton Saron

Research Advancement Manager, The Polytechnic School

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month is a powerful way for our society to coordinate on honoring the accomplishments and legacies of the Black and African diaspora and to make central the importance of understanding Black histories as part of American history. As a second generation immigrant, woman and non-Black person of color living in the U.S., for me Black History Month especially includes remembering the achievements led by Black civil rights groups and activists that we now all benefit from.

If you could describe one or two things that we could do to create a path to equity, inclusion and social justice, what would they be?

If it’s just one thing, and especially if you are a member of a privileged group whether that be through race, gender identity, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, disability status or something else; I would say to ask yourself, “What am I doing in my day-to-day to combat internalized and institutionalized oppression at multiple levels?” Recently reading and discussing Ruby Hamad’s “White Tears/Brown Scars” book with other Fulton Schools staff and faculty led me to focus my efforts on dismantling white supremacy, as the book and discussion helped me to see how white supremacy is not limited to the color of your skin and that white supremacy is the root of other categories of oppression beyond racism, including: sexism, classism, colorism and ableism, that affect our ability to function as a healthy and just society.

When I say “multiple levels,” I mean down to what words you choose to communicate with in daily life, for example: minoritized instead of minority, pathways instead of pipeline, alternatives to the still-common ableist terms “crazy” and “lame.” From holding space for the quieter people on your team to larger efforts like working with others to change organizational policies or practices in higher education that are holding us back from achieving more equitable, inclusive and just communities, we all need to start somewhere. All contributions are valuable even if that means starting today by googling, “what is internalized oppression?”

Erin Chiou

Assistant Professor, Human Systems Engineering

I think that it’s important for the entire community — from faculty members to students — to listen to underrepresented students. I know I will never fully understand the experiences of my Black peers, but that does not mean I should not listen. It is not my place to decide how my peers feel, nor is it my place to speak on their behalf. I think the most important thing we can do is listen to them and follow their lead.

Anonymous student

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month means so much to me. Some years it’s healing, others celebratory, reflexive, painful, thoughtful, joyful, but it’s always and forever a beautiful time of the year. Whether that beauty brings me joy or tears, it’s always something special. Like how often do we get to walk around unapologetically? Or at least have a platform to do so? Like for the one month (albeit short) out of the year, I get a chance to catch a quick breath after holding it in for so long. Maybe next year, I’ll get a chance to say something in that breath. And perhaps the year after that, they’ll listen. But yeah, Black History Month means so much to me. 

If you could describe one or two things that we could do to create a path to equity, inclusion and social justice, what would they be?

To limit myself to one or two things feels like I’m limiting my commitment to equity, inclusion and social justice. But I will say that a great starting point is committing to equity, inclusion and social justice so then you can be held accountable to that commitment.

Katreena Thomas

PhD Student, Engineering Education Systems and Design