The Rainbow Village at AAS: Ashley Walker and Black in Astro

This post is part of a series advertising the newly-formed Rainbow Village. The Rainbow Village is a gathering space centered in supporting, celebrating, and building community with people of color at AAS meetings. The space is designed for folks to connect with each other, share and celebrate milestones at the AAS meeting, and grow together through exploratory (‘salon-style’) discussions. For a broader overview of the Rainbow Village and the organizations working to create this space, see our introduction post. Today we interview astrochemist Ashley Walker, Black in Astro (BiA) President and PhD student at Howard University. 

Ashley Walker, Black in Astro President (Image Credit: Ashley Walker/Black in Astro)

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Astrobites has had a longstanding relationship with Black in Astro, but could you quickly describe Black in Astro and its mission for some of our newer readers?

Black in Astro was created from love. It was created from compassion for Black people, for Black people all over the diaspora, and our mission is to continuously support Black people, whether you’re in astronomy, whether you’re no longer in the field, whether you want to be in the field, whether you’re an aerospace engineer, an artist. It’s just something that is for the culture, and for everyone. Our goal is to primarily support all our people, all the Black people and our allies around the world.

Black in Astro is a constant fixture at AAS meetings. You run your own sessions, you run your own social events, how do the AAS meetings help you achieve your goals as an organization?

The AAS has been extremely supportive in our mission. I will say, it’s really exciting to be back in a Black city for the first time in 20 years. It’s fantastic to go back and also see how they support other people of color, how we have the CSMA, and how they’re helping them get ready with booths and making sure that everyone knows each other. And from what I’ve seen, it’s a jam packed session full of a lot of early career things this year. So I’m really excited to see how that’s gonna go.

Black in Astro is partnering with AAS CSMA (the Committee on the Status of Minorities in Astronomy), LUMA (the League of Underrepresented Minoritized Astronomers), and VanguardSTEM for the Rainbow Village. Could you talk a little bit about that partnership and what’s exciting and what you’ll be doing at the Rainbow Village?

To come together and work on the Rainbow Village has been just a joy to see. What can you expect from the Rainbow Village? You can definitely expect mentorship, you can expect community, you can expect fun, maybe some dancing (hint, hint!). You can definitely expect togetherness when it comes to Black and Brown people and our allies. We’re still getting everything fleshed out. At the current moment, however, we’re excited to see the hype around the Rainbow Village.

Just before we go, are there any last plugs you’d like to make for Black in Astro events? Anything else people should be looking for? Where can they keep up with you?

You can find me on all my social media handles (@that_astro_chic). I’ll be at AGU this upcoming December in a few weeks, giving a talk based on some of the work I’ve done with Black astronomers over the course of my time being an astronomer. And Black in Astro has a dinner that we are having (registration link here), which is hosted by the University of Michigan. Caprice [Phillips, BiA Vice President] has been graciously working on this for such a long time. I’m so proud of her for this one. There’s also a session for HBCUs in astronomy that I will also be running at AAS!

A previous version of this article neglected to mention that the Rainbow Village is a collaboration between AAS CSMA, LUMA, BiA, and VanguardSTEM.

Astrobite written by Yoni Brande

Astrobite edited by Keighley Rockliffe

Featured image credit: Black in Astro

About Yoni Brande

I'm a fourth year PhD candidate at the University of Kansas, working on exoplanet atmospheric observations and modeling. I primarily work with atmospheric transmission spectroscopy with Hubble and JWST, and I'm also interested in enabling more collaborative science with open source astronomical software tools. When I'm not doing research or writing Astrobites, I can be found in a sci-fi streaming binge, running, lifting, cooking, or on Twitter @YoniAstro.

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