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Race in America: Mae Jemison, MD

Mae Jemison joins Washington Post Live on Monday, March 1 (Video: The Washington Post)

Mae Jemison made history as the first woman of color in the world to go to space on Sept. 12, 1992, aboard the space shuttle Endeavour, which carried her and six other astronauts on 126 orbits around the Earth. A physician, engineer, educator, social scientist and entrepreneur, Jemison has led an inspiring life of breaking barriers and continually “testing limits” for herself and others. A Cornell-educated physician who served in the Peace Corps in Africa, Jemison is a member of the National Women’s Hall of Fame and currently leads the 100 Year Starship global initiative.

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Astronaut Mae Jemison says that when she went into space in 1992 she wanted to make sure she included others in the historic experience by taking items to represent them on her flight. The items included: a poster of Alvin Ailey dancer Judith Jameson performing “Cry,” a bundu statue from the women’s society in West Africa and a flag from Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, the oldest historically Black sorority in the U.S. “For me it was making sure that I included others. People who would not necessarily be involved.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
When asked how NASA can increase the diversity in its ranks, Mae Jemison said, “I think there has been some evolution, but a lot of times it’s about being able to hear and understand and go to the places that people are to recruit them.” (Video: Washington Post Live)
Astronaut Mae Jemison says the election of Vice President Harris shows that progress is being made. “It’s an important image for everyone to see…so everyone knows that it’s not only possible, it’s a reality.” (Video: Washington Post Live)

Mae Jemison

Dr. Mae C. Jemison leads 100 Year Starship (100YSS), a bold, far reaching nonprofit initiative to assure the capabilities exist for human travel beyond our solar system to another star within the next 100 years. Jemison is building a multi-faceted global community to foster the cultural, scientific, social and technical commitment, support and financial framework to accomplish the 100YSS vision—An Inclusive, Audacious Journey (that) Transforms Life Here on Earth and Beyond. 100YSS programs include: annual public conference NEXUS – Pathway to the Stars: Footprints on Earth; the Canopus Awards for Excellence in Interstellar Writing; the 100YSS Crucibles—invitation only, transdisciplinary workshops to generate new disciplines to disrupt technological and systemic hurdles; and 100YSS True Books to engage elementary students. The 100YSS Way Research Institute seeks to generate the radical leaps that accelerate knowledge, technology, design, and thinking not just for space travel, but to enhance life on Earth. Jemison led the team that won the competitive, single awardee seed funding grant in February 2012 from premiere research agency DARPA.

Jemison, the first woman of color in the world to go into space, served six years as a NASA astronaut. Aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour, STS-47 Spacelab J mission in September 1992, she performed experiments in material science, life sciences and human adaptation to weightlessness.

Jemison started The Jemison Group, Inc. (JG) a technology consulting firm integrating critical socio-cultural issues into the design of engineering and science projects, such as satellite technology for health care delivery and solar dish Stirling engine electricity in developing countries. JG researches and develops stand-alone science and technology companies. BioSentient Corporation, a medical devices and services company focused on improving health and human performance is such a company. An Environmental Studies professor at Dartmouth College, Jemison worked on sustainable development and technology design particularly for the developing world. Before joining NASA she was the Area Peace Corps Medical Officer for Sierra Leone and Liberia and a general practice physician in Los Angeles.

LOOK UP, led by Jemison, focuses people, on a single day worldwide, to weave a global tapestry of what individually see, feel, think, love, fear, offer, need and hope as we look up at the sky. Jemison is Bayer Corporation USA’s national science literacy ambassador. She is a series hosts for NatGeo’s “One Strange Rock” and advisor for its global miniseries MARS.

In 1994 Jemison founded the international science camp The Earth We Share™ (TEWS) for 12-16 years old students from around the world, a program of the non-profit Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence (DJF). From 2011 to 2014, DJF held TEWS-Space Race in collaboration with the Los Angeles Unified School District training hundreds of middles school teachers in experiential science education and over thousands of middle school students. Other foundation programs include Reality Leads Fantasy—Celebrating Women of Color in Flight that highlighted women in aviation and space from around the world. EXPO Inspire is a hands-on public STEM fair.

Jemison is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine and is on the boards of directors of Kimberly-Clark, the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards and the Texas Medical Center. She was the Founding Chair of the Texas State Product Development and Small Business Incubator Board, Chair the Texas State Biotechnology and Life Sciences Industry Cluster, Chair of the Greater Houston Partnership Disaster Planning and Recovery Task Force and served on the board of Scholastic, Inc. and Valspar Corporation. Jemison is an inductee of the National Women’s Hall of Fame, the National Medical Association Hall of Fame and Texas Science Hall of Fame, International Space Hall of Fame as well as a recipient of the National Organization for Women’s Intrepid Award, the Kilby Science Award and National Association of Corporate Directors’ Directorship 100 most influential people in the boardroom in 2014, Honorary member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the New York Academy of Sciences among many honors. She was a featured panelist on the CNBC special “The Business of Science” (9/2011) and was one of the teachers on “The Dream School”. Jemison is an author including “Find Where the Wind Goes: Moments from My Life True Books series on space exploration. She was the first real astronaut to appear on Star Trek TV series and is a LEGO figurine in the LEGO Women of NASA kit.