‘Celebrating You’ is an annual event run by the BWIS network that aims to bring together Black women in Science and STEM-related fields to socialize, network, reflect on the year so far and ultimately celebrate ourselves and our achievements. Black women are often overlooked and not given the accolades they deserve, which should not be the case but the BWIS network aims to change that narrative. The event ran for the second time this year and fell right in line with this year’s theme for Black History Month: Saluting Our Sisters, which is exactly what we did! Here are some personal highlights from the ‘Celebrating You’ event this year.
The Ambience and The Melanin!
We kicked off the evening with games that facilitated a lot of chit-chat and believe me, it wasn’t long before the nerves and awkwardness flew away as I watched strangers form a sisterhood before my eyes. The atmosphere soon became ‘warm’ as sounds of chatter filled the room. I certainly felt at home. It was as if, for one evening, I could let my guard down and relish in the comfort of being surrounded by others who could relate to the difficulties faced as a Black woman in STEM.
Here is what some of the attendees had to say about what it felt like to be at the event:
“Amazing event! A really nice and comfortable setting to interact and meet other like-minded black women.”
“I found the event to be more than what I expected. An evening well spent. Thank you”
“If you have the opportunity to come along do. Don't be concerned about coming alone. I came on my own and was scared to speak to people at first. But everyone is so warm, friendly and open. You can easily go up to any group of people and they will welcome you into their conversation. Well worth the trip after a long day at work. I walked in feeling tired and overworked - walked out feeling invigorated.”
The Networking & Activities
It was lovely to see people networking and giving each other advice on PhD applications, fellowships, how to step into certain career paths etc. But I have to say that one of the major highlights of the evening had to be the ‘Celebration Jar’. During the evening, we were all instructed to write down an achievement this year that we were proud of. This was either something career-related or an achievement within a different area of life. We later formed a circle as every person selected a card within the jar written by another individual. We each read aloud what was written inside and celebrated the individual who wrote it with rounds of applause from everyone in the room. While some celebrated the attainment of new job positions, others were proud of themselves for overcoming mental health challenges this year. And for a moment, we all felt seen…
“It was beautiful to see so many black women in science in one room. We are not often celebrated so it was lovely to think about our own successes and hear what other people are doing”
“Being in a room full of fellow black female scientists was so inspiring and I felt extremely proud of us!”
The Affirmation stand returned a second time this year and it was a beautiful touch to the evening. The stand was full of affirmation cards that everyone could take with them, as a memento and source of encouragement, especially for the tough days. I took 5 affirmation cards with me (in addition to the four I took last year!), which are now plastered on the walls of my bedroom reminding me that ‘The world needs my light’, ‘Today is a new day to begin again’, ‘My melanin is popping!’ etc.
I left the event feeling encouraged and uplifted. Getting to meet other Black female scientists reminded me once again that I’m not alone. I realise that I’m not the only one who battles feelings of inadequacy or the fear of taking new steps. Overall, I left with my head raised a little higher.
Here are some comments from other attendees and what they had to say about the impact of the event on them:
“BWIS events remind me why it’s so important for me to be my authentic self and make me feel proud to be a Black woman - period!”
“I was able to engage with so many women who aspired to or have started a career in my industry and it seemed to make a difference just having a conversation”
“This event was incredible and it was so nice to connect with other black women in science. Because of this event, I got to learn more about the field I want to go into after I finish my degree and might potentially be able to get an internship!!”
“Black Women In Science Network is a welcoming and inspiring group and I was so thrilled to join the Celebrating You event 2023! I met some wonderful women doing such diverse roles in science and went home truly feeling celebrated and seen for the first time in a long time. Keep doing what you do!”
“This is my second event and I have loved every moment of it. Thank you Tomi and Rachel for the amazing event can’t wait for the next one!!!”
“I remember hearing about BWIS and wanted to attend their first event. I was so nervous and almost didn’t go but I’m so happy I did. I’ve met so many amazing people thanks to this network! I’ve grown a lot and learnt to celebrate my achievements. Thank you!”
This year’s ‘Celebrating You’ event aimed to not only be a time to network and socialize, but to provide an opportunity for Black women ‘to come and feel seen and supported amongst others with similar experiences in Science’. I believe it did just that for myself and others who attended.
I’d like to say a huge well done to the BWiS Events Team: Juliana and Amen, for putting together a fantastic event. A special shout-out to The Academy of Medical Sciences, especially Vivien Kintu and Nick Hillier, for their ongoing support and for helping to make it a wonderful evening. I look forward to next year’s ‘Celebrating You’ and hopefully many more.
Here’s to saluting our sisters. Always.
All event photography credits: Empire Scheme Studios for Academy of Medical Sciences and BWiS Network.
By Success Fabusoro (Blog Writer)