Black History Month at the United States Patent and Trademark Office

♪ ♪ The Patent & Trademark Office is a performance
based organization. And as a
performance based organization African Americans
have been allowed to weave
themselves into the fabric of what constitutes the
Patent & Trademark Office. And that is because of
the attitude and the ability to be able to be
judged by your performance, and how you conduct
yourself in this environment. Darnella: I was born and raised, right here, in the
City of Alexandria, and I’ve had the
opportunity of incorporating some of that history in
our Black History programs here at the USPTO. A couple of years ago we
started taking field trips as part of our
black history events, for the month of February. And last year we
decided we wanted to emphasize historic places in
the City of Alexandria. It was a trading
post, and it’s literally almost across the street from the Patent & Trademark
Office, on Duke Street, where when slaves were
brought they were held there until the slave owners came and moved them to
their plantation. We walk past it every day, and I was born and raised here, and I had never known that and
had never visited that site. I would consider the U.S.
Congress as hallowed ground. When I studied
some of the history, and I hear the
first black congressmen arrive after Jim
Crow was imposed, to be able to — for
people who were empowered. I also consider, not a
place, but maybe people who are instrumental,
who may not be black, there were the
judges in the South that were very
instrumental in undoing the shackles of Jim Crow. I would have to say it would
be the church where I grew up. The place that I think
of as hallowed ground, probably because my
mother grew up in New York, is definitely
the Apollo Theater. She took my there as
a kid, a long time ago. For me, at least in
the black community, that’s a big —
it’s a big thing. Like, if you
wanted to be a performer you had to go there. I mean, Michael
Jackson performed there, and Smokey
Robinson performed there. It would have to be my
grandfather’s print shop. He owned a print
shop in Richmond, and I think he
commanded probably, I’m going to say a
majority of the city contracts, for the most part. The number of people who
actually put trust in his work was a big deal. ♪ ♪ Darnella: I have a
cousin who traced our roots, our family is
from North Carolina, but we came here by
way of Sierra Leone, and she talks
about that journey, she talks about the nine slave
families at that plantation, and it was called
Somerset Plantation, and now it’s a historic site. I will never forget the day —
that day August 30th, 1986 — where I had an opportunity
to meet my family members that I had never
seen, never known. So it was very inspirational, I was really proud to
see how far we’ve come in these families, and the pride that everyone
had visiting that plantation. I always had a
teacher who told me, “You got to know
where you came from in order to know
where you’re going.” So I just think that we should
never forget our heritage, and that we should
always remember what people went through, so
that we may have a better life. ♪ ♪ James:
I’ve seen a lot of change, I’ve seen us progress and become
more acceptable, and accepted. The progress that we’ve seen in these United
States cannot be denied, I look at state governors, and I think we have
something to cheer about. Darnella: I see where my
ancestors, how they fought, so that I could vote. I’ve never missed an
election because of that. Schquita: 50 years ago the
world was completely different, but I think things are
changing and improving, so, it’s nice that
Black History Month, or maybe reflecting on
blacks in a positive way has led to us being considered
equal members of society. I grew up in Richmond, Virginia, and it seems like their Black
History Month is 365 a year, that’s all you heard in school, my grandparents that’s a
lot of what they stressed, black history, the first black
governor since the Civil War, Douglas Wilder, he’s
actually from Richmond. When you talk about
anything for black history it’s slavery and Martin Luther
King, during the civil rights, and I feel like there’s
way more to black history than just those two things. My mother was very big on
educating us outside of school, for Black History Month, we
spent the majority of the month talking about slavery,
or Martin Luther King Jr., and she thought
that wasn’t enough, so she bought these
books so that she can say, “In addition to one
civil rights leader, we can also sing
and dance, and explore, and do chemistry,
and things like that.” I think it’s excellent, because it really
encouraged me and my brother to just sort of
set our expectations really far and really wide,
saying, “We can do anything.” We don’t have to just be Martin
Luther King Jr. or Jay-Z. We can, you know, be
Oprah or Josephine Baker, or Matthew Henson, Richard
Allen, Mary McCleod Betune. I can go on.
[chuckles] ♪ ♪ Black History
Month is important to me because it highlights
some of the achievements and achievers that we do have. Whoever writes your history kind of controls
your destiny, of sorts. So when I tell kids not just
about civil rights leaders, but about inventors, and about other people
who are doing great things, I want to see the light
bulbs go off in their head, “Yes! I can do that too.” My mom was really
big on education. She noticed early on that
I was really good at math, and she was like, you know, there are black astronauts if
you ever want to go to space, and things like that, just so I didn’t think I
couldn’t do something in science because I was the
only person in my class who really just took to math. The STEM it’s this
field that’s really lacking, especially in America, and especially in the
black community. Scquita: I think the numbers are
like 6% for African Americans. Angela:
Yeah, the numbers, in terms
of collegiate graduations, it’s about 6 or 7%
are black engineers. The National
Society of Black Engineers is a nationally
known organization, NSOBE is important
because it builds the community amongst black engineers, which
is a very small community, and a lot of times, for
example when I was in Hopkins, I started off as an engineer and I was the only
black person there. And so, NSOBE kind of brings
all the students together and let’s you know
that there are other people who are in the
same predicament as you and the same situation. What I’ve seen in
50 some odd years is an increase in the number of
African Americans in politics. Notably, we have an
African American president. I am also well aware of
the impact that we have had in music, art, and
as an African American, here at the Patent and
Trademark Office, in invention. How African
Americans have actually made tremendous contributions. ♪ ♪ The USPTO proudly recognizes the contributions of African
Americans to our great country, especially their
invaluable contributions to the realm of
intellectual property. African American
employees have been at work, at the USPTO for over 180 years. Anthony Bowen was our first
black patent clerk in the 1830s. USPTO’s work supports
America’s innovators. This includes African
Americans whose inventions made life easier,
better, or safer for all of us, but who may not have received the recognition they
deserved at the time. As America’s innovation agency, we celebrate not
just the history of African American innovation, but the fact that that
history is being made every day here at the USPTO. Today, nearly a quarter
of USPTO employees are African American. And the agency
employees more than 1,000 African Americans
scientists and engineers, more than any other
time in our history.

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