Diversity in Air and Space

Posted on Fri, February 26, 2010
  • by: Sharleen Eusebio is an intern in the National Air and Space Museum's Education Division.

Greetings, from the Astronomy Intern here at the National Air and Space Museum!

I will admit that despite being the Astronomy Intern, I am not a science person by background.  In fact, my experience is in world literature, history, and multicultural advocating.  So what am I doing here, you ask?

Well, for professional reasons, my plan as a budding museum educator is to promote the further diversification of the museum field by learning how to draw in a stronger minority presence.  I chose to intern here at the National Air and Space Museum to see how particularly challenging it is for science museums to weave a cultural thread into their programming.

For more personal reasons, I wanted to rekindle an old love for astronomy.  I was once that kid who would post myself in the street late at night and stare resolutely up at the sky in search of Comet Hyakutake.  I never found it, but I have fond memories of recruiting my family to stand in the streets and stare up with me.

It is in the spirit of these ambitions and memories that I am thrilled to report that the Museum offers an array of family-oriented, culturally diverse experiences.  For instance, the series of upcoming Heritage Family Days are definite celebrations of multiple perspectives in the history of aviation and space.

African American Pioneers in Aviation History Family Day 2010

Special guests at the Family Day, including the first all-female, all-African American commercial flight crew, Space Shuttle astronaut, Leland Melvin, and former NASA astronaut and first African American woman in space, Dr. Mae Jemison.

Just this past Saturday, February 20, we held African American Pioneers Family Day.  We enjoyed quite a successful turnout as thousands came to partake in some aviation and space-related arts and crafts, and also to see historic figures speak live:

  • The Tuskegee Airmen: the first squadron of African American pilots in WWII
  • The Atlantic Southeast Airlines Crew: the first all-female, African American flight crew
  • Dr. Mae Jemison: former NASA astronaut and first African American woman in space
  • Leland Melvin: NASA astronaut and educator who recently returned from his thrilling trip to space

Aside from being an all-around good time, the Family Day also conveyed truly empowering messages.  Particularly poignant was Dr. Jemison’s tale of how she was determined to break the mold that was cast upon her as an African-American woman.  I also loved that Leland Melvin took time out of his presentation to personally address the school group of 3rd and 4th graders I was hosting for the day.  Because of such dynamic, inspiring individuals, the face of science and aviation has continued to become ever more multifaceted.

Explore the Universe Family Day

Explore the Universe Family Day

Stay tuned because there’s even more exciting programs in Family Days to come. Currently, part of my role as an intern is to assist in planning events for April’s Family Day: Explore the Universe.  Our goal is to represent as many cultures across the globe as possible and educate visitors on how different people have interpreted the skies.  It’s sure to be a smile-inducing, eye-opening, and mind-bending experience! So keep checking back in for the dates of these fun events.  We have such great ideas brewing, and I hope to see many of your fresh – and diverse– faces here at the National Air and Space Museum.