AABE NYMAC Student Chapter Presents “Future Leaders in Energy"
Another One for the History Books
In 1977, when Clarke A. Watson gave birth to the idea of the American Association of Blacks in Energy (AABE), it was in the spirit of fairness and inclusion. After the enactment of the Department of Energy Organization Act, President Carter’s administration created a special task force to study and combat the energy crisis facing the country. Watson, who owned an energy-consulting firm in Denver, Colorado, noticed the underrepresentation of minorities on Carter’s task force and feared that its suggestions would “reflect the somewhat elitist attitude that was common among environmentalists and militant advocates for alternative fuel.”
Not only were there no people of color to represent the minorities of the population, but there were few professionals with any experience in any of the major energy sectors. Most of the task force members (composed of educators, environmentalists, and conservationists) opposed many programs and policies that would promote economic growth and resource development—which Watson believed largely impacted the opportunities for disadvantaged minorities to participate in the U.S. economy. AABE was founded to ensure the input of African Americans and other minorities into the discussion and development of energy policies, regulations and related environmental issues.
Almost 40 years later, in an evening that built upon what Mr. Watson began, NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering’s AABE New York Metropolitan Area Chapter (“NYMAC”) celebrated “Future Leaders in Energy.” On, February 11, 2015, jazz seeped from speakers in the Regna lounge, as a gathering of young and mature, seasoned and still-being-seasoned, exchanged warm smiles, pats on the back and business cards. Wafts of Caribbean and various comfort foods (provided by restaurants partnered with the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce) mingled amongst the guests as well.
To open the evening, Anita Farrington, Associate Dean of Student Affairs, welcomed guests and acknowledged the significance of gathering for “Future Leaders in Energy” during a time of year dedicated to highlighting contributions of African Americans. She brought into perspective that although it’s called Black History Month, many of the attendees were not so far removed.
“The truth is that for many of us in this room, we are making black history,” Farrington said. “We stand on struggles and the accomplishments of all of those that have come before us. When I think of that, AABE, NACME [National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering] and organizations like that, come to mind because those accomplishments inspire us. To continue to do, to lead, to mentor, which is a huge, huge part of what AABE does. “
“AABE has a big mentorship program,” said Ramon Parchment, President of AABE at NYU. “We set up students in college with energy officials. The student and mentor grow a relationship from the moment they get into the chapter…That person is supposed to be in your graduation picture with your family. That’s how close I want that relationship to be.”
In a ceremonial moment, the familial essence of Parchment spoke of showed through. The AABE NYMAC Student Chapter, now one year old, received formal acknowledgement in the presentation of its charter. AABE members, long-standing and newly-received, along with School of Engineering faculty and members of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce gathered together to pose for a photograph of, what William Suggs, AABE Regional Director, called a “historic moment.”
Sederick Dawkins, a student of civil engineering, who only recently became a part of the organization this past summer, mentioned the impact of AABE’s legacy on him thus far.
“I see the world differently,” Dawkins said. “I feel like a have some kind of a duty…The implications of AABE and what AABE can do in terms of energy and other groups is something I’d like to be a part of.”
The night continued on as a demonstration in a community committed to collaboration and inclusion. A feature of the event’s programming was a panel discussion moderated by Alim Williams, AABE member and alum. Ramon Parchment, Justin Paul Sutton, Savana Sampson, Michael Maddox and Nima Simon all took to the stage to share information on their respective experiences interning in the energy field. These future leaders in energy gave insight and opinions on everything from educational challenges to new energy policies to the importance of time management. Current students made mental notes and maybe pondered their own career paths. The veterans of AABE in the audience applauded the panel’s answers and nodded in approval; clearly, pleased with where the energy field was going and who was taking it there.
Clarke Watson took it upon himself to ensure that there were enough minorities making energy policies. Because of him, and many others of our trailblazing predecessors, NYU School of Engineering’s AABE NYMAC Student Chapter will continue to make history, every day.