INTERVIEW Issue 005
Blacks in Science and Engineering: Perspectives of Associate Provost Gary L. Harris
By Cherie Ward
Cherie Ward is a doctoral student in mass communication and media studies
This was not just another "Black History" program; it was an informal gathering hosted by the Preparing Future Faculty Program which convened faculty, staff and students to hear guest speaker Dr. Gary Harris’s informative and inspirational presentation on the scientific achievements of Africans and African-Americans across the diaspora. The presentation was held in the Graduate School during the month of February 2014. Associate Provost Harris engaged the attendees in his discussion of the history of medicine dating back to Imhotep (2300 BC) through the architectural genius of the design and building of the pyramids, up to the writings and work of Asa Hilliard (a former professor at Howard) on the Condition of Africa/Black People.
Additionally, Harris’s fluency on the modern scientific contributions of such historical figures as beauty industry entrepreneur Madame C. J. Walker, sports giant George Grant, mathematics genius Cheikh Anta Diop, for examples, amazed the audience as they discovered contributions of blacks largely ignored in mainstream celebrations of Black History.
In an interview, Dr. Harris stated, "One of the things I always try to achieve is to discuss perspectives that people have not thought about, forgotten about or did not realize the significance of."
"I try to look at modern and to some extent ancient Black scientists and their contributions, and put them in some coordinated way so that it tells a message and leaves people with an impression about the truth…", stated Harris. The impact of his presentation was indelible as he discussed the price that the African community and culture have paid, included the loss of "our names, way of life, culture, memory, land, independent product capacity, and independent control over ourselves and our solidarity.