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"Black in X" hashtag aims to amplify, celebrate Black voices in science

Two women — both Ph.D. candidates at the University at Buffalo — are leading the charge for more diversity and inclusion.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — If you scroll through social media, you may have noticed the hashtag #BlackInX and wondered what it's all about.

It's gaining traction as a way to celebrate and elevate the voices of Black scientists, and two women at the University at Buffalo are leading the charge.

Raven Baxter and Olivia Geneus are pursuing their doctorate degrees. 

Baxter is working toward a Ph.D. in science education. Geneus is working toward a Ph.D. in physical chemistry and is focused on nanomedicine. She wants to work in the field on cancer research.

Their concentrations may be different, but they both have a common goal — to encourage more people of color and women of color to make their mark in the world of STEM (science technology engineering and math).

Baxter started #BlackInSciComm.

"I wanted to create a space where people who have a shared lived experience and a shared cultural identity can come together and feel like their voices in science are valued," said Baxter. "And also create a place where they can receive training and gain new skills and techniques and how to communicate their science."

Baxter, who also goes by Raven the Science Maven, is an award-winning molecular scientist, educator, and rapper who wants people to know that science isn't just a white lab coat and test tubes.

"I think it's important to normalize not compartmentalizing who we are to exist in certain spaces. I want to normalize not feeling like you have to hide certain parts of yourself to be in the science space," said Baxter. 

Baxter combines her love for science and music in her science rap videos. She's also working with a few networks to create more content. 

"It's a little under wraps right now, but I will say it is about science. It will be another extension around the community I built around science but more focused on teaching people about human biology and molecular biology," said Baxter.

Geneus is behind #BlackInNano, which is aimed at addressing longstanding inequalities in her field.

"Unfortunately there are very few people who look like me, and I definitely want to pave the way for other women of color who are not only interested in STEM but science in general and nanotechnology," said Geneus.

Geneus started a mentoring program for undergraduate students of color and partners with a non-profit to develop STEM skills in students in Haiti.

She says it's all about empowerment and representation.

"We want to highlight both the contribution of Black scientists and the barriers they face in the field of nanotechnology and build sustainable networks to address foreseeable challenges in the field and advocate for Black voices to be heard while inspiring the next generation," said Geneus.