The Rainbow Village at AAS: A Gathering Place for People of Color in Astronomy

This post was written and motivated based on the personal experience of the listed authors and editors. They are not necessarily representative of the views of the American Astronomical Society or other institutions with whom our authors are affiliated.

Written and edited by Rainbow Village partners: Arianna Long, Nicole Cabrera Salazar, Ashley Walker and Junellie Gonzalez Quiles

Are you a person of color or an ally to people of color in astronomy and related fields? Have you wanted to connect with other people of color at the American Astronomical Society Meetings (AAS) but found it difficult to do so? Have you wanted a space throughout the entire meeting to connect with other folks and receive support and resources for your career? If so, you are not alone! 

This January, we are launching The Rainbow Village at #AAS243, an initiative born out of the need to provide a permanent space throughout the AAS meeting where people of color can gather, support each other, and obtain access to organizations that are directly serving people of color in astronomy. 

The Rainbow Village in Context

Image 1: Fred Hampton speaking at a rally in Chicago in 1969.

After recognizing the overlap in class struggles among different racial groups, Fred Hampton, the leader of the Chicago Black Panther Party, began to form alliances with organizations like the Latinx group, the Young Lords Organization, and working class white people of the Young Patriots. This alliance was named the Rainbow Coalition and it targeted the structural inequalities that Chicagoans faced in the system through community building and collective action. 

Following this historical precedent, Dra. Nicole Cabrera Salazar, an astronomer and STEM equity advocate at Movement Consulting, came up with the new initiative of the Rainbow Village at AAS. The Rainbow Village was created with the similar intention of bringing people of color from different demographics to gather, meet, and support each other. It will be a place to form meaningful connections and obtain direct access to resources about how to navigate the field of astronomy as a person of color. 

The Rainbow Village is a collaboration of four organizations who have partnered to provide this space at AAS:

  • AAS Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy (CSMA): a committee of the American Astronomical Society dedicated to enhancing the participation of underrepresented minorities in astronomy at all levels of experience.
  • #BlackinAstro: a community and grassroots organization formed to celebrate and amplify Black scientists and engineers within the space community.
  • VanguardSTEM: an online platform and empowered community devoted to connecting and uplifting emerging and established women of color, girls of color and non-binary people of color in STEM.
  • League of Underrepresented Minoritized Astronomers (LUMA): a peer mentoring community for Black, Indigenous and Latinx women of color in their graduate degrees or beyond in their careers in astronomy, physics and related fields.
Image 2: Logos of all four organizations that have partnered to create the Rainbow Village at AAS.

Each organization will provide resources for people of color to succeed in their careers while  highlighting their meaningful contributions to creating a safe and inclusive place in the field of astronomy.

How can I participate in the Rainbow Village at AAS?

The Rainbow Village is a furnished booth and will be located next to the AAS Pavilion at the New Orleans Convention Center Exhibit Hall. The space is designed for folks to relax between sessions, connect with each other, share and celebrate AAS presentations, and grow together through exploratory salon-style discussions. We will have a variety of scheduled and ongoing programming, including:

  • A Community Calendar: Giving a talk? Presenting your first poster? We will have a digital and physical calendar of events that showcase our community members. Tell us about yours so we can cheer you on as your astro siblings, cousins, and fam!
  • Community Discussions: Join us for daily salon-style discussions on topics that are important to our community (e.g., radical mentorship, activism, climate justice). These will be group discussions led by our own community members. Stay tuned to learn more about the topic schedule!
  • Walls of Support: How are you navigating self-care while conferencing? What words of kindness would you give to yourself the first time you attended an AAS meeting? You can share these and other tips / affirmations in written form on the Rainbow Village walls.

I am not a person of color, but I would love to get involved. How can I help?

We will be advertising AAS meeting talks, posters, and events led by people of color at the Rainbow Village and on social media with the hashtags #AAS243 and #RainbowVillage. We would love for folks to signal boost and make sure to attend those events. If you will be present in person at the January 2024 meeting and would like to volunteer, please fill out this form.

Please also stop by our booth in the exhibitor hall to listen to our community discussions and offer resources for people of color. We would love to have you!

Starting in the month of December, Astrobites will release a series of articles highlighting the representatives of the Rainbow Village and their respective organizations. Please stay tuned to learn more about these organizations and get updates on the programming available for all throughout the AAS meeting in New Orleans this January 2024!

Astrobite edited by Sahil Hedge

Featured image credit: Arianna Long 

About Junellie Gonzalez Quiles

Junellie Gonzalez Quiles is a PhD Student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Johns Hopkins University. Her current research focuses on modeling geochemical cycles and outgassing on exoplanets to help us understand the evolution of the atmospheric composition and its effect on planetary climate. She is deeply passionate about outreach, science communication and diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Outside of work, she loves to knit, embroider, and do other arts and crafts. She also plays the trombone and enjoys practicing yoga.

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