This February, we celebrate U.S. Black History Month and reflect on the struggles, triumphs, and resilience of the Black community, while also recognizing the ongoing fight for equality and justice. This year’s theme celebrates African Americans and the Arts and serves as a reminder of the countless individuals who have shaped our world through their activism, leadership, art, science, and innovation.
To mark this month, Viasat asked employees around the globe to highlight people who have inspired them and impacted the world.
Marcus Scott, Cyber Security Analyst/SysAdmin (COMPUSEC)
The person I want to spotlight is Alexandre Dumas. He was a French novelist and playwright and is one of the most widely read French authors. Some of his notable works include “The Three Musketeers” (part of The D’Artagnan Romances) and “The Count of Monte Cristo.”
Alexandre Dumas strikes a chord with me because “The Count of Monte Cristo” was the first novel that I personally chose to read in high school. I can’t remember why, but I know it was not a part of any assignment. The book has happiness, sadness, adventure, revenge, and so much more. Then I found out that he was also the author of “The Three Musketeers” and “The Man in the Iron Mask” – all of which are movies now. A few years ago, I did a search on him for some reason and found out that he was of African descent. It amazed me that a Black man has contributed so much to the literary community. To this day I read “The Count of Monte Cristo” at least once a year. It is my favorite book of all time, and the movie is pretty good too.
Pherin Bailey, Executive Escalations Team Lead
Dr. Marie Daly was a biochemist and the first Black woman to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry in the United States, overcoming biases of both racial and gender. She conducted important studies on cholesterol, sugars, and protein; and was also committed to increasing enrollment of minority students into STEAM programs, primarily medicine and graduate science programs.
Dr. Marie Daly should be important to everyone, and it’s unfortunate that she isn’t a household name given all her accomplishments. Because of her findings, we now know that histones are important in gene expression; understand the structure of DNA; know how heart attacks occur and can connect them to clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol; and have determined the conditions under which muscle tissues best absorb creatine. These are discoveries that impact everyone daily. For myself, high blood pressure runs in my family. While I have no doubt that these links would have eventually been made, it’s nice to know that a Black woman contributed to these discoveries. It’s almost a comfort, honestly, since Black people (especially women) experience a lot of medical neglect and gaslighting when it comes to our health concerns.
Danielle Ellis, Project Manager
Alice Walker was the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for literature. Walker was a political activist who participated in the 1963 March on Washington. Walker became a major voice in the feminist movement led by mostly white middle-class women. Aware of issues of race in that movement, she later created a specific Black woman-centered feminist theory, which she called “womanism” to identify and assess the oppression based on racism and classism that African American women often experience. Walker as a social activist and author has encouraged African American women to pursue their artistic passions, and she will continue to inspire African American women for years to come.
Walker is important to me because her work(s) constantly reminds me that everyone has a voice, and their voices need to be heard. Her works also remind me that creativity and art are powerful tools.
Ash Brooks, Account Manager
Where do I start? Maya Angelou is a legend. Her words, whether they were spoken aloud in a live performance or in her writings, inspired millions. A poet, singer, autobiographer, civil rights activist, first female Black director, and the list goes on. As well as one of the people who famously organized the historic fund-raising event for the civil rights campaign of Martin Luther King Jr. at the Village Gate jazz club, “the Cabaret for Freedom.”
One of the main reasons why Maya Angelou is important to me is because my grandmother taught me about her (amongst several other prominent Black figures) as a child. I can recall my grandma reading several pieces of her work, most famously “And Still I Rise,” “On the Pulse of Morning,” and “The Heart of a Woman.” Maya Angelou was a remarkable person who fought for what she believed in, and her impact on the world lives on and will continue to do so for many generations to come.
“You may shoot me with your words, you may cut me with your eyes, you may kill me with your hatefulness, but still, like air, I’ll rise.” It is difficult to read those words without feeling empowered.