There is a saying – “you should never meet your heroes!”
The reason, why is that we as human make assumptions to fill in the gaps of what we do not know. We may assume that they are kind, nice and humble. However in reality this may be far from the true.
Meeting your heroes is always a risk but sometimes it is necessary for a reality check.
Over the last couple of weeks I had the honour of virtually meeting and talking to some of my “Black Heroes of Mathematics” and I was far from been disappointed.
In my formative years of being a mathematician and when studying to do a PhD, I use to read about these mathematicians and the motivational articles/presentations that they would put online.
Edray Goins use to write a blog called “Diary of a Black Mathematician” – where it was part technical/ part testimony about the day to day life of an African-American in academia.
Talitha Washington was one of the first mathematician I came across who was doing research on Historical Black Mathematicians (sounds familiar?)
Scott Williams back in 1997 created a website called Mathematicians of the African Diaspora
This website provided a rich resource for my research into the Black Heroes of Mathematics. However when I was made aware of the website in 1999, my favourite part was reading about those Black Mathematicians who had gained a PhD in the subject area. For me this was so inspirational and challenging. Every month the website would be updated with new Black PhD mathematicians. I hoped one day that my name would be added to the website – Nira Chamberlain PhD!! However in 2000 my application to do a PhD was rejected and when I finally started a PhD in 2005, the website closed 2 years later.
Due to my PhD being part-time I eventually got it in 2014!
Last week I had the pleasure to share the virtual stage with my some of my Black Heroes of Mathematics. Even though, I had spoken to Edray Goins a few weeks before this but I found this event so encouraging and inspiring. It was like playing football with my favourite Football XI. In this American Mathematical Society webinar called “Documenting the History of Black Mathematicians” – John Weaver introduced the relaunch of the website Mathematicians of the African Diaspora
It looks awesome! If I got back in a time machine back to my 1999 self and told him of this event , it would of blown my 1999 self mind!
To my Black Heroes of Mathematics – I hope I can be at least half a good as a role model as you are to me.