There were less than seventy thousand people living in Chibok at the time. Many were Christians although there were Muslims living in the area. They spoke the Kibaku language and were living in one of twenty seven local government areas of the Borno State. Most of the people trace their genealogy to the Kanuri people, a sedentary (non-nomadic) people who were mostly farmers and fishermen, occasionally doing some trading and salt processing.
Like many areas in the most ancient part of the world, there are remnants of earlier civilizations. Also living in this region are Shuwa Arab ethnic cultures, descendants from earlier dynasties. These people make us most of those practicing Islam. Nigeria gained independence from the British 1960 and previously powerful emirs saw their power and influence drastically reduced.
Because of gender bias, trying to locate information on female inventors from the African continent is almost impossible. What is easy to learn, however, are the contributions, successes, and names of African American inventors. Today we will discuss several because today we remember not only their accomplishments but the still missing potential of two hundred schoolgirls. Today is the two year anniversary of the kidnapping of almost three hundred school girls from their school in Chibok by member of the militant group Boko Haram. Two hundred and sixteen girls remain missing today.
The women we are going to discuss today were remarkable but no more than others who were given the opportunity to learn and try, to think and then make the world a much better place. I cannot imagine what wonderful things the missing girls might accomplish if we are able to return them to their homes and families, let them continue their education and journey of life.
Marie Van Brittan Brown was born in Queens, New York in 1922. Following a typical education/career path for women, she became a nurse. Her husband Albert was an electronic technician and neither worked the usual 9-5 hours of many jobs. Marie was worried about being home alone and wanted a way to discover who was knocking at her door without needing to actually open the door. It would be even better if she could learn who was at the door without having to get out of her bed.
In August of 1966, Marie and Albert Brown filed and received a patent for the first home security system. The Browns’ system relied on wireless radio signals that fed images from the front door back to a television monitor in their bedroom. A two-way microphone enabled the homeowner to speak to the person at the front door. There was also a button that, when pushed, would remotely unlock the door. The Browns not only invented the first such security system, they also had two children. One is a daughter who herself is a nurse and also holds over ten patents.
Dr. Shirley Jackson became the first black female to earn a PhD. from MIT, Massachusetts Institute of Technology. She was the first African-American to study theoretical physics at the prestigious college. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., Shirley Jackson is a perfect example of what a person can accomplish if given the opportunity to follow her dreams.
Dr. Shirley Jackson described once her interests: “I am interested in the electronic, optical, magnetic, and transport properties of novel semiconductor systems. Of special interest are the behavior of magnetic polarons in semimagnetic and dilute magnetic semiconductors, and the optical response properties of semiconductor quantum-wells and super-lattices. My interests also include quantum dots, mesoscopic systems, and the role of antiferromagnetic fluctuations in correlated 2D electron systems.”
Dr. Shirley Jackson continued to work in education and in 2014 was the highest paid president of a private university in the United States. She has also explored possibilities and is responsible for or participated in the invention of the automated teller machine, commonly known across the world as ATM’s, electronic key punch, and hard and floppy computer disks. We don’t often think of theoretical physics as having practical applications but under the eye and hand of Dr. Shirley Jackson her exploration of such led to the telecommunication devices such as touch tone telephones, caller ID, call waiting, the portable fax, and fiber optic undersea cables that make overseas telephone calls possible and successful. When someone asked “Can you hear me now?”, Dr. Shirley Jackson found a way to answer in the affirmative.
Born in Harlem, New York, Dr. Patricia Bath had a vision. In fact, she wanted us all to have a vision – a crisp, clear vision of everything. This Howard University School of Medicine graduate embarked on her own personal “Right to Sight” campaign. In 1985 she developed a received a patent for a tool that would change the surgery for removing cataracts and enable millions of people to once again see.
Patricia E. Bath is not just an ophthalmologist, she is also a laser scientist. Her firsts as a female ophthalmologist are plentiful and she credits such to her dream and beliefs: “My love of humanity and passion for helping others inspired me to become a physician.” Dr. Bath also invented a new discipline known as “Community Ophthalmology” which extended vision care from the doctor’s office to the community at large. Despite prevailing prejudices against both her gender and race, Dr. Patricia Bath has enables thousands to see and taught many more through one of her newest passions, telemedicine. “The ability to restore sight is the ultimate reward,” she explains.
Two years ago today, a group of girls left their homes to go to school, also dreaming of what they might one day accomplish. In this region Boko Haram has claimed credit for the burning of almost one hundred and fifty schools and the abduction, rape, and/or murder of hundreds of school girls. Four months ago the town of Chibok saw more bloodshed and terrorist activity.
We must continue the fight to retrieve these girls. Everyone should have the freedom to worship as they please but no one group should have the power to terrorize. Each life matters and these girls are some of our most precious natural resources. Their potential is what our world needs and we need to give them the chance to learn and become whatever great gift of self they have to offer. #BringOurGirlsBack. Please. Our future – yours and mine – depends on it.