Race In Space

The Race in Space conference is a first of its kind event that seeks to explore the issues of race, culture and nationality in the colonization of space stations, planets and stars in space.  This two day conference will highlight astronauts, researchers, artists and authors who have studied both the realities and imaginative events involving the dynamics of race and space settlements. 

Keynote Address: Dr. Mae Jemison will present her groundbreaking project the "100 Year Starship," which has set a goal of interstellar travel within the next 100 years. The address will establish a specific need for minority scientists trained in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics), and the specific and transferrable skills necessary to develop technology for interstellar travel and space settlement.



Friday, October 25, 2013
Location:  107 White Lecture Hall

5:00pm: Dr. Mae Jemison's Keynote Address
6:30pm: Reception

Saturday, October 26, 2013
Location: 115 Ernestine Friedl Building 

8:00-9:00am: Breakfast and Registration
PANEL#1: 9:00-10:30am:  Speculative Fiction: Space Settlements Under Conditions of Ethnic Diversity
With the probability of space settlements rising with each new discovery, the panel will address the growing concern about the ethics, rules, and relationships such new advances will bring. On earth, westward expansion in the former New World was paralleled with a host of human atrocities all justified in the name of profit and resettlement with the term “alien” closely reflecting notions of otherness that created racial categories class based divisions that exist to this day.

  • Danielle Belton (Blacksnob.com)
  • L.M. Davis (Author)
  • Karla Holloway (Duke University)
  • Priscilla Wald (Moderator, Duke University)

PANEL#2: 10:45am-12:15pm:  STEM Fields in Space
While the conference will not eliminate the factors impeding the successful completion of STEM undergraduate degrees for students of color, it can be a step to facilitate toward achieving both global collaboration in the pursuit of space exploration and settlement, and encouraging students to pursue advanced degrees in aerospace engineering, astrophysics, math or computer science.

The panel will address why collaboration with researchers from other parts of the world are essential to success in the endeavor, and examine the importance of Black, Latino, and female participation in space exploration and settlement.

  • Ayana Arce (Duke University)
  • Ebony McGee (Vanderbilt University)
  • Tarek Echekki  (North Carolina State University)
  • Rhonda Sharpe (Moderator, Duke University)

LUNCH: 12:15-1:15pm

PANEL#3: 1:30-2:30pm:  Rayla 2212 : Afrofuturism, Space and the Imagination
Ytasha L. Womack is author of the soon to be released book Afrofuturism: Black Sci fi and Fantasy Culture (Lawrence Hill Books, Fall 2013) as well as creator of the eBook and multimedia series Rayla 2212 .  Womack will discuss the creation of the Rayla 2212 series, a story that follow Rayla Illmatic, a war strategist and her quest for identity as she travels through space, time and virtual worlds in an effort to find the missing Neo Astronauts and to restore her planet back to its utopian roots.

Craig Stevenson & Cory Stevenson will create original digital and graphic arts highlighting the history of Planet Hope, the distant Earth-like planet that Rayla Illmatic calls home in the Rayla 2212 series. This series will debut at the conference.

PANEL#4:  2:45-4:15pm:  Logistics of Space Exploration (Specific Planets) and Space Travel
NASA may have retired its space shuttles, but its recent historic rover landing on Mars marks a new beginning for the nation’s space program.  Virgin Galactic, headed by wireless leader Richard Branson, is one of several private companies throughout the world launching commercial flights. Although such companies are currently partnering with celebrities and millionaires to popularize their escapades, the goal is to make commercial space flights accessible to the average citizen. The panel will not only inform participants about space settlement endeavors and the issues involved, but also discuss how those invested in space colonization can balance scientific advances with ethics and humanity.

  • Derrick Pitts (Franklin Institute in Philadelphia)
  • Jarita Holbrook (University of the Western Cape)
  • Jeff Foust (Spacereview.com)
  • Arlie O. Petters (Moderator, Duke University)


Ayana Arce

Assistant Professor
Duke University

Hadron colliders are attempting to produce evidence of phenomena beyond the "Standard Model" of particle physics, which is our current, best description of how fundamental particles interact. This description works very well for collider experiments, but is known to be incomplete: it doesn't explain neutrino masses and mixings, it cannot account for dark matter, and it doesn't treat gravity or the accelerating expansion of the universe. The observation of particle interactions that the Standard Model cannot explain would help us build up a better theory that accounts for these striking phenomena. In my research I concentrate on better understanding what takes place in hadron collider events with complicated final state topologies, like the production and decay of top quarks and heavy gauge bosons. In these events, I am looking for any hint of non-Standard Model interactions. My current studies use the ATLAS detector at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), and consequently, many of my recent research activities also support the broader experimental program of ATLAS.

Danielle Belton


Born and raised in St. Louis, Mo. on a healthy diet of news programming, pop culture, black history and “snark,” Danielle Belton, daughter of loving “regular folk” and wife of no one, examines the irreverent side of American life.

With two million readers in less than two years, Belton is best known as the editor/writer of the pop culture-meets-politics blog The Black Snob. Belton started the blog in 2007.

Belton is currently Associate Editor for The Root. Previously she was Editor-At-Large for Clutch Magazine Online, and was recently head writer for the late night television show Don’t Sleep hosted by T. J. Holmes on BET.

L.M. Davis


Tarek Echekki

NC State University

Dr. Echekki’s goal is to play an important role in the development of the next generation of combustion models. The next generation of combustion models will enable engineers to consider more daring designs in terms of the types of fuels, the range of operating conditions, the materials used, and flame stability.

At the graduate level, Dr.Echekki teaches Fluid Dynamics of Combustion I (MAE 504). This is a lecture-style course in which students, during a portion of the semester, work on projects. He also teaches Principles of Fluid Dynamics (MAE 550). This is a fundamental course with the added feature that the students in his class perform flow visualization experiments. He also teaches Turbulence (MAE 776). In his presentation of the material, there is a strong emphasis on empirically-based modeling of turbulent phenomena.

At the undergraduate level, he teaches Engineering Thermodynamics I and II (MAE 301 and MAE 302) and fluid Mechanics I (MAE 308). All of these classes are foundational. Drawing on personal experiences, he discusses new applications in combustion in the second thermodynamics course to give the students a greater appreciation of the challenges in the field and to encourage further reading.

Jeff Foust

The Space Review

Foust edits "The Space Review," an online publication whose focus is on publishing in-depth articles, essays, editorials, and reviews on a wide range of space-related topics. The Space Review is not a space news site that will publish short news articles on a daily basis; there are plenty of other sites that do that. (Please check out its affiliated site, Spacetoday.net, for links to dozens of space news articles published online each day.) Instead, we focus on articles that will provide a deeper examination of key space issues, events, history, and related topics.

The Space Review is a reaction to the difficulties faced by publications, both online and print, which have focused primarily on space. Magazines like Final Frontier and Space Illustrated could not get enough subscribers and advertisers to be viable ventures. Space articles can be found in a variety of other publications, from Air and Space to Discover to Sky and Telescope, but are usually only a small part of their overall editorial mix. Several online publications continue to focus on space, like SPACE.com and Spaceflight Now, but these sites focus more on reporting news (and do a good job at it) than publishing lengthy articles and opinion pieces. There are, of course, a few sites that do publish lengthy articles and commentary, including NASA Watch, SpaceRef, and SpaceDaily, but there is certainly room for more.

Jarita Holbrook

Associate Professor
University of Western Cape

Dr. Holbrook uses interview based inquiry to collect data on a variety of topics within Cultural Astronomy. She did research among sailors and navigators to identify modern day uses of the stars for ocean navigation which resulted in the book “Following the Stars” to be published by USP Press. Her research on the national astrophysics education program revealed strategies on how to successfully educate underserved populations. Currently, she is researching practices of inclusion and exclusion through analyzing socioeconomic class, gender, and ethnicity among database driven astrophysics collaborations.


Karla FC Holloway

Duke University

Karla FC Holloway is James B.Duke Professor of English at Duke University. She also holds appointments in the Law School, Women's Studies and African & African American Studies. Her research and teaching interests focus on African American cultural studies, biocultural studies, gender, ethics and law. Professor Holloway serves on the boards of the Greenwall Foundation's Advisory Board in Bioethics, the Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies, and the Princeton University Council on the Study of Women and Gender. She is an affiliated faculty with the Duke Institute on Care at the End of Life and the Trent Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities. She has served as Dean of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Chair (and member) of Duke's Appointments, Promotion and Tenure Committee, and as an elected member of the Academic Council and its Executive Council. She is founding co-director of the John Hope Franklin Center and the Franklin Humanities Institute.

Caesar R. Jackson

North Carolina Central University

For Jackson's complete bio, please visit http://www.nccu.edu/directory/uservitas/crjackson.pdf

Ebony McGee

Vanderbilt University

Arlie Petters

Duke University

Dr. Arlie Oswald Petters is the Benjamin Powell Professor and Professor of Mathematics, Physics, and Business Administration at Duke University. He was also the William and Sue Gross Associate Professor at Duke from 1998-2003. Before coming to Duke, he was an Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Princeton University for five years (1993-1998) and an Instructor of Pure Mathematics at MIT for two years (1991-1993). Dr. Petters received his Ph.D. in mathematics from MIT in 1991 witha specialization in mathematical physics.
Dr. Petters began his career at Hunter College of the City University of New York, where he was part of an accelerated B.A./M.A. program for undergraduates. He graduated from Hunter in 1986 and was the recipient of several awards in mathematics and physics. Hunter College honored Dr. Petters byinducting him into the Hunter College Hall of Fame (1999) and awarding him an honorary Doctor ofScience degree (2008).

Derrick Pitts

Atmospheric Scientist

Astronomer Derrick Pitts was born on January 22, 1955 in the Tioga-Nicetown section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. As a child, Pitts was fascinated by outer space and rockets. After graduating from Germantown Academy, he received his B.S. degree in geology from St. Lawrence University in 1978.

Pitts began working at The Franklin Institute as a young college student. He was hired as The Franklin Institute’s chief astronomer and planetarium director after completing his degree. In these roles, he developed and oversaw all of the Institute’s astronomy and space-related programs and exhibits, frequently hosted the live “Sky Tonight” planetarium show and interviewed John Glenn and Carl Sagan. Pitts also served as the original director of Tuttleman OMNIMAX Theater and as museum vice president. In 2002, he oversaw the renovation of The Franklin Institute’s Fels Planetarium and played an integral role in the design of the new astronomy exhibit, ‘Space Command.’ Pitts became the host of “SkyTalk” on WHYY Radio in 2008. One year later, he served as the United States spokesperson for the International Year of Astronomy. In 2011, Pitts was named a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Solar System Ambassador. He has appeared on many national television shows as a science expert including the Comedy Channel’s “Colbert Report” and “The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson.” Pitts served as a regular contributor on Current TV’s Countdown with Keith Olberman as well as programs on CNN International and MSNBC.

Cory Stevenson

Craig Stevenson

Priscilla Wald

Duke University

Priscilla Wald teaches and works on U.S. literature and culture, particularly literature of the late-18th to mid-20th centuries, contemporary narratives of science and medicine, science fiction literature and film, and environmental studies. Her current work focuses on the intersections among the law, literature, science and medicine. Her recent book-length study, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, considers the intersection of medicine and myth in the idea of contagion and the evolution of the contemporary stories we tell about the global health problem of "emerging infections."

Ytasha Womack

Race In Space
October 25, 2013 to October 26, 2013
Duke University

Duke University African & African American Studies; Duke Office of the Dean of Arts & Sciences; Duke Office of the Dean of Social Sciences; Duke Office of the Provost; Duke Program in Literature; Duke Cultural Anthropology; Duke Sociology; Duke Research Network on Racial & Ethnic Equality