S3E2 - *Rebroadcast* On A Mother's Legacy w/ Dawn Wright

Episode 2 May 10, 2024 00:41:13
S3E2 - *Rebroadcast* On A Mother's Legacy w/ Dawn Wright
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S3E2 - *Rebroadcast* On A Mother's Legacy w/ Dawn Wright

May 10 2024 | 00:41:13

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Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

*This is a rebroadcast of the Season 2 Mother's day Episode*

In this podcast episode, Aisha and Dawn discuss Dawn's life and career. Dawn is a chief scientist, keynote speaker, and author who became the first Black person to go to the deepest part of the ocean. Aisha and Dawn discuss the struggles of being the only Black person in their respective workplaces and the importance of diversity and representation. They also talk about the impact of Dawn's mother on her life and career, and how her mother's words of encouragement have stayed with her throughout her life. Additionally, they touch on Dawn's experiences growing up in Hawaii, her work as an ocean-going science technician, and her pursuit of a PhD at UC Santa Barbara, which led her to discover her passion for GIS. Overall, the podcast is a heartfelt conversation about the challenges of navigating academia and science as a person of color, the importance of mentorship, and the impact of supportive parenting.

To learn more about Dawn's Expedition:  

https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/08a75d3687e749989840e7d236aab74d

View Full Transcript

Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Speaker A: Welcome to start to finish motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins, and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. I'm here to day with a lovely guest. You might not know this about me, but I am one of a few black employees. I consider myself part of the black employee welcoming committee in my office that I work out of. I'm that person where if I see a black face, I'm going to smile, I'm going to wave, I'm going to jump up to make sure that you know that you're welcome here. I work in tech, so still majority white spaces, and I feel that it is my business, my honor, my privilege to reach out and extend a warm welcome to new black employees because I was one at one point in time, and it always felt nice to feel welcome and to know that there's somebody there who's walked in your shoes before. When I met our first guest in person, I was in my office, and when I heard that you were coming to visit my regional office, I was so excited you were coming to give a talk, and I knew that I needed to be there, so I made an appointment on my calendar to make sure that I was there. I was a little bit late getting to the room, so I didn't get a front row seat, but I got probably, like, a third row seat. And so I was just, like, I was so excited, and I'm not even sure if I registered to you when you were given the presentation, and I was just smiling, and I was so happy to see you there. I was so proud that you were there because it's a rarity in the niche market that we're in. It's a stem profession. It's the highest level in our company. And to have you there representing, and I hate to put that pressure on black women, but it felt like my sister was representing, and I was just like, I need to be there for it. So today I have with me Dawn Wright. Dawn Wright is a chief scientist, a keynote, an author, and altogether badass and the first black person to go to the deepest part of the ocean. Still, we're having first, which is mind blowing. But to me, dawn is a mentor, a friend, a coworker, a fellow scientist, someone I greatly admire. And I only grew to appreciate you more over the past couple of years. In terms of being a confidant, that someone I can go to where I'm just like, this can't be it. What should my next steps be? And you'll tell me, stay the course. You'll tell me, hold for now. And I've really appreciated that because you are one of those people who get to be in rooms that don't always have a lot of black people in them. And so to have you take some of that time to give me those cues and that guidance, I've greatly appreciated it. So, dawn. [00:02:55] Speaker B: Oh, Aisha, thank you so much. I am truly honored to be here. And I saw you. I saw you in the audience, and it gave me great encouragement and strength. So I am so blessed to be on your podcast and for your listeners. I am that fellow it professional with Aisha. I am also still a professor at Oregon State University. And when I was hired at Oregon State University and then left that post full time to come to Esri, I remained the only black person on the faculty, on the tenure track faculty in my college at Oregon State University. So, yeah, we are still in the era of first. I grew up in the thought this was all going to be solved by the time I got to college. No. In some ways, we are in the struggle, and this is a lifetime effort for us and for those of us who are parents. You are my hero, Aisha, because of the beautiful young ladies that you are raising as a single mom. And my mom raised me as a single mom. I don't know how you do it. All I can manage is to raise my puppy dog. So that's my contribution to raise this dog who makes people so. [00:04:11] Speaker A: Okay, so don's a dog, mom. What's your dog's name? [00:04:15] Speaker B: My dog's name is Riley. Riley is named after the daughter of Stefan Curry, the star point guard for the golden state warriors and living in California, well, probably throughout the country. Riley, his little girl, Riley showed up with him in several tv commercials and just captured hearts everywhere. And so when my mother and I decided to get a new puppy, she said, well, you should name this dog. Know, we are both fans of the Golden State warriors and of Stephen Curry in particular. So that's where her name comes from. [00:04:49] Speaker A: And so we are currently in the process. We're about a year out from getting a family pet. We've decided on a dog. And so I have two girls. My oldest, she'll be nine this year, and the youngest will be four in a few months. And we've decided on a dog as a family pet. And right now, my daughter is leaning toward a boxer or a boxer mix. And because she googled and she said, what's a good dog for kids in a family? And she came up with boxer. So we'll see how that pans out. [00:05:26] Speaker B: I think that's wonderful. My next door neighbors had two boxers for quite some time. [00:05:31] Speaker A: Okay. And were they easy to manage? [00:05:34] Speaker B: I have no idea. I've always had shelter dogs, dogs with a mix. And you don't know what their background is. But this time, for years, had heard about how wonderful golden retrievers are. I mean, all dogs are wonderful. But I really wanted to try the golden retriever, and their nature is so loving. And Riley is happy all the time. She's affectionate, just really pleased. She's five years old now, and she is doing just wonderfully. [00:06:05] Speaker A: Yeah. I ended up having to tell my daughter, well, we'll see what they have. Because all of my friends were like, get a rescue dog. You won't know what you have. But if you talk to the people there and you tell them your living situation, and I want a dog that's going to be good with kids. [00:06:23] Speaker B: Yes. [00:06:25] Speaker A: Medium. My daughter said, I can't get a small dog, and she wants a large dog. And I said, it's going to be a medium dog. [00:06:33] Speaker B: Maybe something about 40 or 50 pounds. [00:06:36] Speaker A: Maybe that's where we are. I will keep you posted on how the dog situation evolved. But the reason why I brought you on today was, yes, I definitely want to come back to the evolution of your career, how you got to go to the deepest part of the ocean. But I did want to talk about your mom. So this is the mother's Day episode. And let me take a step back. To get on my parenting journey was not an easy decision for me to make. But I'm here, and I did it, and I did it intentionally as a single mother, by choice. And once the children arrive, you get a second chance at one reliving a childhood. You get a second chance at being a human being in society and how you want it to go and what legacy. So legacy is a big part of my parenting approach. I want to raise wonderful people in the world, but I also want them to look back and say, I had a wonderful upbringing and my mom. These are the things that I really appreciate about my mom. And so when you let us know that your mom passed away and you were having a memorial service to listen to you speak about your mom, I was like, now, how does one get to be remembered like that? And so I wanted to bring you on. And for you, if you could share a little bit about your mom, the way you shared it with us, because it was really touching. Yeah. So if you can kind of start there and we'll go, yeah. [00:08:07] Speaker B: Well, thank you. And I'll try to keep from crying, because one of the things that we all, there's some things that we just never get over. And we will always experience loss. The pain and the loss lessons get smaller over time. But with people who are truly special in our lives, like our moms, like the way that I'm sure you will be to your daughters, there's this presence and this assurance that is always there. And I think with my mother, she gave me a birthday card when I was five years old, and it was Batman and Robin, and I was already a Batman comic book fan at that young age. And the card said, it's you and me against the world. And also at that time, there was a hit song, helen ready, so this is going to date me. This was in the 60s. Helen Ready had a hit song, you and me against the world. And we have just been good friends. I know there are situations where the Parent has to be the authority figure, of course, but it's so nice when that authority figure can just be your friend, too. So my mother had the perfect mix of being a leader, an authority figure, a protector, but also just my best girlfriend. And for us, we had that by necessity because she had married someone who just completely failed. That just didn't work out. He was not a good father. He pretty much left us when I was eleven, but he was even up to that point, he had not been a good father. And during that year where I got the birthday card from my mother, and it was you and me against the world, she had just moved us to Canada. She was pretty much the leader of our family because she was getting the teaching positions at universities. And my father was a basketball coach. He wanted to play in the NBA, and he got a tryout with the Detroit Pistons, and he didn't make it. Certainly no shame in that. But he became a coach. He was a very successful high school basketball coach. And because of that, he could pretty much get a job coaching at the high school level wherever we ended up going. So she made the decisions in terms of what was the next step for our family. And so we were in Canada during that year, and he was just not around. Things were starting to really fall apart then. I could see it as a very little girl. I could see that I really only had one parent, and so when she said, it's you and me against the world, I was like, yeah, I'm in. Yeah, let's do this. And because I think she was a mother, too, and I was a little girl, there's something very special about mothers, mothers and daughters. Of course, there's something special about fathers and daughters or mothers and sons, but I can only speak from my experience with the special situation that is a mother and a daughter. And she was able to pretty much be everything. It's all that I needed was a good mother. There were other men who came into my life, such as coaches. I was in basketball and track growing up, so I had some very good coaches. I had some very good teachers throughout my schooling. In fact, I remember it was so unusual to get a male teacher in elementary school, and we had a fifth grade teacher. I can almost remember his name, Mr. Matsuyama, because this was in Hawaii. So most of our teachers were japanese, and our whole class was just excited that we were getting a male teacher. He was our fifth grade teacher, and he was wonderful and very nice role model. But anyway, me, that was the special relationship that I had with my mother as a single parent. Different circumstance, but single parent. And I think it was just the quality and the strength, her integrity, her character, especially during this time in the 1960s, where there were many universities, many scenarios throughout american culture where if you were a single black woman, there is no chance. And yet, not only did she strike out, she went to Canada and she got a teaching position, and this university hired her. She used to always tell me that there are always when a door, and I don't think this originated with her, but the saying, when a door slams in your face, there's always the window, and go through that window. She was very good at finding windows. [00:12:25] Speaker A: Can I pause you there for a minute? [00:12:27] Speaker B: Sure. [00:12:27] Speaker A: So it sounds like your mom, you and your mom were already on a path to the nontraditional, right? Because you all were pioneers. Single mom, one kid, a mom and kid family is what we call it, and just kind of going out and striking out in the world to wherever the adventures took you. And I'm curious, because between your mom's lifespan and your lifespan, you're covering a huge swarth of history, right. And so did you encounter different types of dynamics from when you were in the states to when you moved to Canada to what you experienced in Hawaii in terms of how your family structure was welcomed or not welcomed? [00:13:12] Speaker B: Well, Canada, we were only in Canada for one year, and I remember only good things about know it's Canada, especially recently. We now look to the north, some of us to our know, if things go south, if things just get intolerable here in the United States, given our political situation or whatever is going on in our country, maybe there's a place for us in Canada. [00:13:36] Speaker A: I know, I thought about that. [00:13:39] Speaker B: Although the Canadians have their problems too, because it's the indigenous people that they really have had trouble with and have mistreated along with the way that we have treated our indigenous people, the native people. But that's another podcast. But we were welcomed there. It was a wonderful experience. And then when we moved to Hawaii, Hawaii was an eye opener, because Hawaii is known as this cultural and ethnic melting pot with all of these different groups, all of these different ethnicities of people there, the different mixtures of people in Hawaii. In fact, as a little girl, I remember in the schoolyard at recess, if you were new, or if you introduced yourself, if you wanted to introduce yourself to someone else, you would say your name and then your ethnicity. So I remember, like a little boy would say, my name is Kimo, and I'm part Hawaiian, part Chinese, and part Filipino. And I used to say, well, what am I going to say? Because they don't know anything. And back then, when my mother was teaching me about black history, she was using the term american negro, and she used it very intentionally because of the history. We are Americans, we are not Africans, but we descend proudly from african people. We are of the negroid race. And using pronouncing, she was a speech teacher, so to use the word, it's a proud word, and speak it correctly. She did not actually like the term black because she said, look at our skin. We have brown skin, we are brown people, and we are a mixture. We are this color because we are a mixture of african slaves who were raped by their slave owners, or there were mixtures. So there's probably native heritage in there. There are all kinds of mixtures. And so the american negro is a unique group of people, and be proud of that. So that's how I introduced myself. I said, my name is dawn, and I'm part american negro and part indian, because we were trying to research background for a little bit. And we can only go back to my grandmother, my great grandmother's time, and only on my mother's side. At any rate, my experience overall in Hawaii was good. After the first year, the first year that we were, the second year that we were there, the first year we were in Honolulu, and she was teaching at the University of Hawaii, she had gotten the post there. Honolulu is very cosmopolitan city. It's a city, and we were welcome there. Blended in. Everything was wonderful. My father was playing semi professional basketball and doing well, but then she was doing so well that they assigned her to one of the neighboring islands. So we moved to Maui, and back then, Maui was extremely rural. Maui was nothing like the way that it is now as a major tourist destination. She had to start this program from scratch, a curriculum in speech communication. At any rate, we had some difficulty renting a house at first, and I was bullied in school. And my mother used to say, it's sort of like what's playing out on tv at this time with the race riots, watts and so forth. It's like the people here are seeing what's on tv, and they are putting that on us. We were the first black family to move to Maui. [00:16:53] Speaker A: Okay? [00:16:54] Speaker B: And so people had never. They'd never had black people living in the, you know, our physical features. People used to think she was from tonga or Samoa, because we have a lot of similarities with those people. Or people from Fiji have similar texture, hair. It was just ironic, and it was painful, but it only lasted for the first year because we stayed there and contributed to the community. She became a very popular professor. My father became a very popular basketball coach. I loved being in school. In fact, I was bullied by an older boy who was not in my class. I was a second grader and he was a fifth grader. And I look back at him now. I say, shame on you. [00:17:38] Speaker A: Should be ashamed of yourself. [00:17:41] Speaker B: And he actually, I became a track star on the island, and I was on track to go to the 1980 Olympics, and I had acquired a coach, someone who was coaching me for free. And so I was well known on the island by the time I got to high school. That guy ended up asking for my autograph. I don't think he remembered. [00:17:59] Speaker A: He didn't remember you. [00:18:00] Speaker B: He was the big, bad fifth grader who bullied me as a little second grader. [00:18:06] Speaker A: It's so interesting. I ran a track, too, in high school. [00:18:09] Speaker B: What were your events? [00:18:11] Speaker A: I was a sprinter. The 400 meters was my event and also the jump. So I did high jump and triple jump. [00:18:17] Speaker B: Oh, my goodness. Oh, I would have loved to seen you in action. I was 100, 200, and long jump. [00:18:22] Speaker A: See? Yeah. [00:18:23] Speaker B: And I always admired 400 meters runners because you have to be the strongest athlete to make 400 meters. [00:18:30] Speaker A: It's a combination of sprinting and distance running. [00:18:34] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:18:35] Speaker A: It was hard. [00:18:36] Speaker B: Yeah. It is just the right distance to be absolute agony. You are awesome. And triple jump. You go, girl. [00:18:48] Speaker A: I have such fond memories of being an athlete, being on the track team. I still am in contact with many of the members of my track team. So it's a love. [00:18:59] Speaker B: Yeah. [00:18:59] Speaker A: John, how did you get develop a love of science? How does a mom raise a kid who loves science? And especially you say your mom was in language and communication. How does that happen? [00:19:12] Speaker B: Yes, she was the total liberal arts. She was a speech major. She got a bachelor degree in speech and then went on to get a language arts master degree, but still with a speech concentration. And she did oral interpretation of literature. So she was totally on the humanities side, but always admiring science. I think sciences and the humanities, all of these areas, they can reach all of us, and so you can be a parent. If I had a child who wanted to be a writer or to make film or to be a historian, I would be all over that. I would love that. I would encourage that child because I so adored those subjects in school, even though I knew that I was not going to go into that area. But I loved my history classes. That's what she did. She just realized what my interests were, and I shared my interests with her, and she encouraged me. She said, let's go see this Disney film or let's go to this museum. I found this article in this magazine I want you to read just anything like that. And the one thing, though, was that as an athlete, and I was developing as a sprinter in track and a jumper and also as a basketball player. But she said, one thing that I think would really help you is to take ballet. And my heart just sank. [00:20:38] Speaker A: But I hear that quite often. [00:20:41] Speaker B: And she said, just humor me. We have this new program that's come to our island, and it's a wonderful opportunity, and just give me one year. Just try it for one year, then I won't press you further. But I just think it would really help you. It will help your running. It will help your overall poise and your flexibility for everything else. And she was right. And it turned out that I took ballet for two years. I stuck with it for two years. But other than that, she was completely behind me in everything that I was interested in, including my growing interest of oceanography. Because living in Hawaii, the ocean, of course, is all around you, and you can explore, and it's just there. And so I love doing a lot of swimming and body surfing and collecting of rocks and shells. And we would go to Kala, which is the national park on the island, visit that volcano. But during that time, the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau was pretty much on every television screen, every, you know, that was during the days when there were only three networks and the whole country was unified in a way, was really nice. The whole country was unified. We were getting the same news sources, the same three networks. There was no Internet to speak of. There were no streaming. There was, of course, nothing the way that it is today. But I was very enthralled with the undersea world of Jacques Cousteau. And I said, well, I want to do that. If there's a way to study the ocean, I would love to do that. So I'm going to try to find out how it's possible to do that. And over the next few years, Jacques Cousteau is not a scientist. He was really an underwater photographer and also a conservation activist. And he also invented. So. So he was an engineer. And I really did want science. I loved science in school, along with all the other subjects, but I really love science. And so that at age eight, I said, I want to become an oceanographer. [00:22:44] Speaker A: All right, so funny you say that, because when I was doing my undergrad, I was a biology major, chemistry minor, and one of the electives that I took was lenology, study of benthic ocean environments. Right. And so some of my fondest memories is going out on Lake Erie, Prescott Bay, on the kayaks. We were gathering water samples to come back and look at the algae and the plankton and all of that stuff under the microscope. So I definitely, I'm a city girl. I'm from York, New York, right. Originally. So kind of going that far north for school and being in that type of environment was totally different, but similar to you, I think I've always wanted and gravitated toward the sciences, just out of curiosity. And funny you mentioned rocks. I'm like, I was cringing because I was like, that phase never ends. Like you're an adult. Kids go through a stage where they are rock and stick collectors. In my parenting groups, we ask, when will this end? And you're telling me never. [00:23:47] Speaker B: No, I've got rocks on my. Some rock samples on my shelf here. [00:23:53] Speaker A: Well, at least they are going into your pockets and not mine. Yes. Okay, so take us through from eight. You knew that you had a love for sciences. Jacques Cousteau helped you to further refine that vision for yourself. Can you tell us how, talk a little bit about college, but also, how did you get to the deepest part of the ocean? [00:24:15] Speaker B: Oh, that's a big arc. Let me see if I can lessen the distance. Well, geology became a love of mine because I realized that, or I found out by actually sitting in a library, a real library, because my mother used to say, when you finish class, walk down the street to the library and wait for me there. That's a safer place for you to be, and it's a library, and I will pick you up. When I get off work, I will swing by the library, and that's where I will pick you up, because I would have to be at the library for an hour or so after school ended. So I couldn't just stay at the school. All the kids are supposed to be picked up right away. So I would walk safely a couple of blocks down the street to our local library, and I had an hour to kill. So I would go and read books about the ocean and also about going into space, and I would copy words that I liked, like atmosphere or octopus, that I just thought were cool words. I just copy them down into my little notebook, pretending to be a scientist, gathering data. I think that's what I was doing. And also reading about the great universities where you could go to learn about the ocean and become an oceanographer. So that's where I discovered that you major in geology or biology or physics or chemistry, and then with that degree in one of the basic sciences, you take that knowledge and you go to graduate school, and that's where you can find the best programs in oceanography. And it's still, in a sense, there are many places now where you can get a good bachelor degree in oceanography or marine science, but for a lot of people, that's still the way to do it. Major in one of the basic sciences, including now, geography. And then you go to graduate school for the hardcore oceanography training if you're going to become a professional oceanographer. So I followed that path. A geology undergrad, an oceanography mess at Texas A and m, three years at sea as an ocean going science technician on a drilling vessel and getting to go all over the world. I had ten expeditions in the Antarctic, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, and the Pacific. So that was a wonderful job. And then going to realizing that I wanted more schooling. So I went back to school, and I did a PhD at UC Santa Barbara. And that's where the destiny with GIS was forged, because I learned about gis there and also ended up doing sort of like a double major, but it was a blended degree in physical geography and marine geology and focusing on mapping the ocean floor with GIS, which is very straightforward now, but back then, in the early 90s, people were like, you're doing what? And then also linking up with some wonderful professors and lab groups in two departments and getting an opportunity to dive in. Alban as part of leg. That background carried me through many years at Oregon State, but also as a professor, but also teaching GIS and having my own research lab, which was named Davy Jones Locker because it was a lab about studying the ocean floor and doing gis on the ocean floor. And all of my machines were named after pirates. The students loved it. The lab had all kinds of pirate posters and decorations. And anyway, that led me to Esri because I was recruited as chief scientist at EsrI. And part of that recruitment came because I used to write letters to Jack Dangerman, the CEO of EsRi, telling him how much better Esri's products could be if they were more amenable toward studying the ocean, especially if they had the ability to do 3d. Never got a response back, but I was always involved with. There was a new SIG special interest group that was created at the Esri user conference focused on ocean gis that I quickly got involved in and sent my students to the user conference, published a couple of Esri press books. I was really in the Esri family until one day I got this letter from Jack and also from Scott Morehouse, who was the chief software architect, at times asking me to consider coming to Esri as a chief scientist and being the liaison for Esri between all of the sciences. And now it's even moved to social science. Anyway, fast forward. There's been a lot of work to do that job at Esri and a lot of connections with some wonderful partners and projects which led us to a partnership with Caledan oceanic. And Caledan oceanic is the organization that has made all of these fantastic discoveries and has taken this special submersible to the five deepest places in the ocean, the deepest place in Pacific, the Indian, the Arctic, the Atlantic, and the Southern Ocean. And through that partnership, that's how I was asked to participate, to go to challenger Deep last year and to use EsRI technology along the way. So we have data that we're preparing for the Esri GIs living atlas of the world from that dive of last year. [00:29:30] Speaker A: That's amazing. Let me pause. All right. When you announced that you had completed the challenger Deet, and your handle is Deepsea dawn, which I love. And I let you know that my daughter's a budding scientist. And so my daughter and I, we talked about you because we were sitting down and we had these national Geographic books, where we talk about the different scientific professions. And she's just like, black people are not geologists. I said, yes, they are. I said, mom's a geologist. No, you're not. And I was just like, yes, I am. I work with a bunch of black geologists, geographers. And so she's just like, no, you don't. So I was just like, yes, this is my friend Dawn. Dawn just went to the deepest part of the ocean, the first black person to go. So we went on this journey with you, and then I reached out to you, and my daughter's so excited. You sent us trading cards, you sent us just a whole lot of memorable items. And so now, just from that spark, you sparked a flame that got me to talking to my daughter about professions in geography, geoscience, geostem. She took that information and she went to her school like a little virus, and she spread it to all her friends. Like, my mom knows the woman who went to the deepest part of the ocean. She took your trading cards and she showed it to her teachers, and it just sparked an entire conversation amongst her and her classmates. And that's the value of diversity, diverse experiences. So she's able to take her mom being one of a few in a traditionally white space and having to demystify for her that, yes, there are black people in this profession and I know one. And then she's able to tell her friends about it. And she loves books. She went to the library one day and she got a book on oceanography and she's like, look, mom, what made you pick that book? She was like, because your friend is an oceanographer. I had to make sure that I took a picture. But yes, that touched me. Let's talk a little bit about the work that you do with kids, because you're not just this untouchable chief scientist, you're like this real down to earth person who will get in with the kids and get muddy and dirty. Tell us a little bit about what you do with the k through twelve audience. [00:31:48] Speaker B: Well, I don't really have a special program or organization or thing structured. I get asked to do things with kids and I just love doing it. I take cues from our B k through twelve education team that we have at EsRi where they develop curricula and they're in the classroom with students. They are k through twelve teachers. They are elementary school teachers or high school teachers in their backgrounds before coming to Esri. So it's always been a pleasure to work with them. But GIs Day has been a real catalyst, I think, for me and for a lot of people, because for many of us. Well, I first learned about GIs Day, which is a special day. It's always the second week. It's always the Wednesday of November. So it's right in the middle of geography awareness week. And I had entered a geography department for the very first time in my life, having been at UC Santa Barbara. And so Santa Barbara had at that time, and still has a wonderful GIs day program that sends the students out to local schools to tell them about gis and to tell them about mapping. And so I signed up for that as a graduate student. And at that time, I had already had one dive in Alvin Merciful, which is famous. A lot of people know about Alvin because it was used to take the first photographs of the Titanic, once the wreck of the Titanic was finally discovered in the 1980s, at any rate. So I had that to talk about and to tell the kids about the ocean and how you go to the deepest parts of the ocean and how you make maps of the ocean. And so for kids, that is like, oh, they're going to be interested in that. I already have a winning topic. And then to bring them, like, the shrunken Styrofoam cups that gets a kid every time. And so I also had discovered that talking to fifth graders was my jam. Fifth graders are old enough to understand what you're talking about, but are young enough to not be so jaded. Sometimes high school or middle school audiences can be, but I really have not had a bad experience with any age group. But I seem to be able to communicate the best with fifth graders or fourth graders. Fourth and fifth grade. [00:34:00] Speaker A: All right. I've got a soon to be fourth grader and surely be a fifth grader. [00:34:07] Speaker B: Yeah. So recently with challenger Deep was a wonderful opportunity because I had to do so many media interviews and got so many requests. And even through some of the articles that were printed in black only or primarily black audience magazines. Then I started getting these requests by email. Can you come to our school? Mainly, can you come to our school? And of course, I don't have a program. I don't have an agent. I don't have the infrastructure around me to do that, but I just try to respond wherever I can. Or, like, when you sent me the information about your know, it's just little opportunities, like, you know, send the trading cards and the stickers. And there was one little boy who wrote to me from New Mexico. He's in the National Society for Black Engineers Junior Club for kids on the weekends, and they're called Justice Code, which I love. And he said, can you please come to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and talk to us? And I said, oh, my gosh, I would love to come to Albuquerque, but I just can't. I don't have the bandwidth and my schedule. But I'll do a Zoom session with you and I'll tell you all about the dive. I'll show you the videos. We can do that as part of your Saturday club session. And then I'll also send you books and stickers and so forth. So I just use this little boy as an example because we now have sort of a relationship. He's written back to me and he's told me about going to a competition in Missouri, a science competition. He sent me a picture of all of the little children who went. They won twelve awards. Esri was there. Esri had a little career booth there. So he sent a picture with all of them in front of the Esri booth. And he has my email address now. He can reach. I've told him he can reach out. There are a couple of little children who I have pen pal relationships with. [00:35:59] Speaker A: Very sweet. Well, thank you for sharing that. It warms my heart. Last but not least, dawn, you've been a first. I can't believe we're still in the era of having firsts for black people, for black women, for African Americans. What advice would you give for someone who finds themselves as a first or as an only in a space that they weren't expected to be at? How do you handle that? How do you carry that with grace and hold the door open for the next person to come? [00:36:33] Speaker B: I'm trying to find the Bernice King quote, as in Martin Luther King's daughter. And I follow her on Twitter and she said that this whole area of equity and getting our society to the place where these firsts are not firsts anymore and that we don't have to. Not that it's not great to celebrate firsts, like the first woman doing something or the first american doing something, or. During my challenger deep expedition, we had the first two human beings go to this place in the ocean. I went to a place in the ocean. I was the 27th person to go to that place. I just happened to be the first black person. But then we went to the yap trench where no one had ever been before. You talk about going to the moon. No one had ever been to this deep part of the ocean. So we sent the first humans. At some point, of course, we want to not have to catalog this anymore. But what Bernice King was saying was that we're in this for the long run. They went through the civil rights striving and unrest and all of that effort, and it was just one step. And here we are now with black lives Matter. I think this is a trans awareness day for trans people. We have a long. There's a long way to go, and this is something that has been hard for me to learn. I'm 62 years old now, and I think I've finally gotten it, that we have to realize that this is for the long run. You have to be in this for the long game, and you have to be willing to, in some ways, to sacrifice and to lay down your life so that others can use that life as a stepping stone, and then they will have to be in the long game. Hopefully, it's not as long, but I think you have to embrace that and you have to not tire. We may be constantly asked, like, after the challenger deep thing, I was not prepared for all of the asks and all of the curiosity and all of the hate and vitriol that I got on social media from people who were, well, why is it such a big deal that a black person went this way? Why do we have to care about that now? So I think it just takes a lot of grace and a lot of patience, and there's a lot of joy that comes with it, too. Like these little children that I've met, or like your story with your little girl. Those things would never have been a part of my life had I not been in this situation of being first or any of us, those of us who are women in it, black women in it. Lord have mercy. As my grandmother used to long, this is really the long haul. [00:39:10] Speaker A: Well, don, thank you so much for joining me. Where can my listeners find out more about the challenger deep? I know they can follow Deepsey dawn, hashtag. Where can they find out more about your journey to the deepest part of the ocean? [00:39:26] Speaker B: Well, I would say for an easy address, there is esril.com. Challenge accepted. So that's all one string of characters. And that is the story map of the deep dive. It tells you from beginning to end what happened. But at the bottom of that story map are all of these other resources, such as the hub. There is an ArcgiS hub with even more resources. So if you go to the story map, you can get access to just about everything else. [00:40:00] Speaker A: Okay. And just one last point. I'm sorry that you had to experience the vitriol, and I think the sooner we learn as a country that black history is everyone's history and we stop cheating our children and keeping them from that history, I think the better off we'll be as a country because it does matter. We shouldn't still be having firsts, but the fact that we do says something about who we are as a country. [00:40:25] Speaker B: So well said. Thank you. [00:40:27] Speaker A: Thank you, dawn. Thank you for coming on and taking the time. Thank you for sharing about your mom and your career journey. Thank you for being my friend and mentor. [00:40:35] Speaker B: Thank you so much. [00:40:41] Speaker A: Thanks for listening to start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow start to finish motherhood on Instagram or email me at [email protected] if you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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