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Black In Immuno Week: Celebrating the contributions of Black immunologists

Black In Immuno Week was a week-long celebration in the last week of November 2020 to showcase, amplify, support and connect Black immunologists. We were delighted to support this initiative organised by Black In Immuno and to be able to contribute by raising the voice of our members and sharing their experiences. Here, BSI Marketing & Communications Manager, Teresa Prados, highlights the activities planned by the organisers of this important initiative and our members’ contributions.


Black In Immuno is a platform created by a collective of Black immunologists and allies aimed at raising, recognising and supporting Black voices in immunology. Their inaugural event in November last year was based on TEDx-style talks – each day focused on a different immunology topic. In addition, there were panel discussions, workshops and social networking activities. All of this was held online and was accessible to all free of charge. Most sessions can be found on the Black In Immuno YouTube channel.
 

Seven days, seven hashtags

Sunday 22 November – #BlackInImmunoRollCall
The week kicked off with a roll call to amplify the contributions from Black immunologists and talk about what it means to be Black in immunology. It was an important initiative which saw lots of Black immunologists sharing their brilliant work and important experiences on social media, with supportive allies helping to increase their visibility. Dr Keke Fairfax gave the keynote presentation entitled ‘My journey through science: From microbial pathogenesis to immuno-parasitology’.

Monday 23 November – #BlackInImmunoJourney
TEDx-style talks on innate immunity research and an early career panel discussion.

Tuesday 24 November – #BlackInImmunoCareers
TEDx-style talks on adaptive immunity research and a career panel discussion.

Wednesday 25 November – #BlackInImmunoTech
TEDx-style talks and a panel discussion on immunology technology.

Thursday 26 November – #BeyondImmuno
An all-day immunology talent show and a focus on science communicators.

Friday 27 November – #BlackInImmunoHub
Inspiring discussions took place on social media about outreach work and engaging with the community, individual and collective advocacy efforts and defining intersections within Black immunologists.

Saturday 28 November – #BlackInImmunoWellness
On the last day there was an insightful wellness workshop looking into managing your mental health in academia, identifying the warning signs, developing coping skills and building an effective support network. The week ended with a yoga session and a virtual party.


The BSI’s contribution

The Society made a donation to Black In Immuno to help support the planning and promotion of the inaugural week, as well as wider activities such as the development of the first database of worldwide Black researchers in the field of immunology ‘Black In Immuno Hub’ which should be launching this year.

As part of the week, we made our webinar on equality and diversity freely available for all. This webinar was part of our career development webinar series and was presented by Dr Faith Uwadiae (Francis Crick Institute) and Karim Boustani (Imperial College London). They shared practical solutions and effective ways to promote diversity and to enact positive change. Through their own lived experiences and as early career scientists, Faith and Karim talked about the issues surrounding diversity and inclusion. This webinar is free for BSI members and we encourage scientists looking for ways to become active participants around diversity and inclusion to watch it.

The BSI helped increase the reach of this amazing initiative by highlighting the activities that the organisers had planned to our members and the wider immunology community. We also wanted to showcase the work and experiences of Black immunologists who are part of the BSI community. We put together short profiles of our members and shared them through our social networks to raise their voices. Take a look at our Twitter thread to learn about their research and their experience of being Black in immunology.

What our members said

Dr Faith Uwadiae is one of the coorganisers of the Black In Immuno initiative. She’s a Postdoctoral Training Fellow at the Francis Crick Institute and an Early Career Representative on the BSI Forum. Faith commented: “I loved being part of Black In Immuno week. It was a great opportunity to connect with Black immunologists from all across the world and see so many Black people thriving within different fields of immunology. My favourite part of the week was seeing many Black immunologists present their research without the focus being ‘why are there so few Black immunologists?’. This is so rare! It was a celebration of Black researchers and it was wonderful. The best thing is Black In Immuno is more than one week, it is actually a movement and I know the team have loads of exciting ideas and events coming, so watch this space.”

Dr Donald Palmer is an Associate Professor of Immunology at the Royal Veterinary College (RVC), University of London and the BSI Education & Careers Secretary. Donald commented: “Initially I was not really aware of Black In Immuno week, so I’m grateful to the BSI for highlighting and promoting this event. It is becoming clearer that there is a need to highlight the contribution of underrepresented groups within STEM, so Black In Immuno week provided an opportunity to promote, inspire and to engage with Black immunologists all around the work. It was a delight to see many sharing their passion of immunology and demonstrated one of the main aims of this week which was to showcase the contributions of Black immunologists. The organisers should be applauded for putting this together.”


How it ties into the BSI’s strategy

The BSI is committed to achieving a fair and equal working environment in immunology, accessible to all and free from any form of discrimination. We continue to reflect on our work, educate ourselves and take action to promote the principles of equality, diversity and inclusion. Our aim is to provide a platform for immunologists of all backgrounds to share their voice and encourage greater participation from underrepresented groups in all aspects of the Society. We are currently working on an ambitious five-year plan which will set out our ED&I strategy and how we plan to support Black people in the immunology community. Our CEO, Dr Doug Brown commented: “The British Society for Immunology will continue to listen and work with our members to challenge inequality and take measures to widen representation of Black people in the BSI membership and break down any barriers hindering their progression in immunology.”

We are constantly monitoring and reviewing our progress and striving to improve. We are always open to new ideas to help us in our mission. Please email us at bsi@immunology.org with your comments and suggestions.

Teresa Prados
BSI Marketing & Communications Manager