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#BlackInPhysics Week 2021 essay series

25 October 2021

This year’s essays focus on burnout, which is a critical topic as Black physicists confront systemic racism both within and outside of academia.

Burnout: Physical or emotional exhaustion, especially as a result of long-term stress or dissipation. (Source: American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language)

It has been a year and a half since George Floyd’s murder brought the deep-seated anti-Black racism in our country under societal scrutiny. Almost two years since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic that has taken close to 5 million lives worldwide. Less than a year since the 6 January insurrection that shook the fabric of democracy. And in June, more than 23 million people watched a jury in Minnesota deliver the first-ever guilty verdict against a white police officer for the murder of a Black individual.

Black In Physics logo.
Credit: Black In Physics

Black In Physics was born during a moment of chaos as a way for the community of Black physicists to come together and gain a foothold as the world around us seemed to be on shaky ground. The impacts of COVID-19 and the civil unrest due to anti-Black racism and police brutality have brought the issues of mental health to the forefront of physics institutions across the country. In these unprecedented times when the mental wellness of Black physicists is continuously under attack, Black In Physics is reimagining what support infrastructures look like. We strive to develop programming that highlights the Black physics community’s beautiful multiformity, and we lean into topics of mental health, disability, queerness, anti-Black racism, and the intersections among them. We underscore our creativity, we spotlight our lives in and out of physics, and throughout everything, we proclaim our Blackness with pride!

Black In Physics’ second annual #BlackInPhysics Week is 24–30 October 2021. The aims of the week are (1) building lasting community for Black physicists at all career stages through culturally centered programming, (2) amplifying the work of Black physicists, (3) commissioning historically significant articles written by Black physicists, and (4) creating a complete picture of what a physicist looks like.

The theme of this year’s #BlackInPhysics Week is “Blaze Beyond Burnout.” The organizers are partnering with Black mental health experts to lead discussions of burnout, self-care, and ways to mitigate the harm caused by anti-Black racism in academia. To strengthen community building, we’ve augmented our social programming, which includes a cooking class led by a Black mental health therapist who is also a chef and a virtual painting class led by the members of a Black-owned art studio. To be more inclusive, Black In Physics is providing American Sign Language interpreters for all of our events.

Finally, we have commissioned this collection of articles written by Black physicists that covers burnout from different perspectives. The essays are copublished by Physics Today and Physics World.

We are grateful to the #BlackInPhysics community for supporting our journey as we travel from a grassroots movement to an organization that will bolster Black physicists for many years to come. For more information on Black In Physics, visit our website or follow us on social media.

— Jessica Esquivel, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, co-leader of #BlackInPhysics Week

#BlackInPhysics Week 2021 in Physics Today

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