Amber Alexis Turner looks forward to graduating from UNLV next year with a degree in geology. The Las Vegas native — and Army reservist — comes from a strong family of college graduates, and her scientific brilliance has delivered unique opportunities: an internship at UNLV’s High Pressure Science Engineering Center, under the guidance of Dr. Oliver Tschauner, which ultimately led to an internship opportunity at NASA in Houston.
“I study how minerals change chemical composition and physical makeup when exposed to high pressure temperatures at the UNLV lab,” she said. “That gives us insight into meteorite activity and how minerals behave in the mantle of our earth.”
Turner’s lab experience helped her qualify for the competitive internship at NASA. She impressed the attendees at a national symposium, and was soon approached by a representative of NASA contractor Jacob Technologies about applying for the prestigious internship.
“My internship studying meteorite activity helped me secure an internship at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory before working at NASA — and gave me the opportunity to work with material scientists and physicists on projects that UNLV prepared me for,” she said. “While working my second internship at the national laboratory, I had the opportunity to utilize advanced machines to conduct my research and then present that research at a national symposium. Dr. Lisa Danielson walked up to me after my symposium presentation, and encouraged me to apply for her internship program working for NASA — because it was essentially the same work I was already doing. My experience positioned me to be one of the more competitive candidates that was chosen for the NASA’ internship.”
Asked to explain why her field of study is so important to the world, Turner responds that “rocks and minerals tell stories about our past and our future. … Different processes make different minerals, and the study of these minerals can teach us about what happens on our planets. The study of meteorites on Earth, Mars, and their chemical makeup can give conclusions about the geologic process on our planets. I gave my symposium presentation on the green mineral Olivine that is found on the upper mantle of the earth, moon and in meteorites. By studying its behavior with pressures and temperatures, we learn about how a meteorite behaves in space — and how this mineral changes on the upper mantle of earth.”
Turner said that she loves working at NASA, and hopes to return to the agency after completing graduate school. “NASA is a great place and I feel so happy here,” she said. “Everyone at NASA is so excited about what they are researching and it makes a fun working environment. I was happy to see many African-American scientists there, and hope my story inspires others to pursue a career in science.”
She added: “My advice to young people who are interested in the sciences is this: to become their own advocate. They need to be active in the area they are interested in. Don’t just go to class and then try to apply for an internship. You need to go to symposiums, go to conventions, go to conferences, go meet people, and make your own business cards. Sell yourself and be openminded about meeting people. I feel that my work and experience has propelled me into a positive direction, but I know for a fact that my networking ability is what landed me here at NASA.”
“I have lost many people that I love — mother, father, aunts, uncles, friends. Losing Dick Gregory has hurt me deeply because he was more than an individual.
He represented a generation that stood up with courage for not only themselves but for all of us. He told the truth none of us wanted to face — integrating comedy for the first time, and putting his life on the line daily because he cared. He was not ego-driven or self centered. He was selfless. He loved us.
He is gone, and I will miss him and never forget him. I cry today not only for his loss but the loss he represents. The loss of a generation that to a great extent has been forgotten. Without their sacrifices, we would not be empowered today. We are not all cowards — but compared to him and the generation he represented, we are. My tears will stop soon, but not my resolve to make a difference that honors his and his generation’s sacrifices.”
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS | OTIS HARRIS
Otis Harris has lived through and witnessed so much change in Las Vegas.
He arrived here as a child in 1943, after his father learned that he could earn much more in Las Vegas than in their Texas hometown. They were part of a wave of black migration to the Silver State during the first half of the 20th century, when people from all over America were lured with the promise of good-paying jobs in a land of plenty.
Today, Harris is Chairman/CEO of Unibex Global Corporation, and he has a deep understanding of how African-Americans in Nevada can regain economic power and a sense of unity that many feel has been lost. We sat with him for a candid discussion, drawing on his unique historical perspective on race relations and his current work for financial empowerment.
How do race relations in Las Vegas today compare to the 1950s and 1960s?
Las Vegas was a segregated community when I first arrived in 1943 — but it wasn’t a hostile community. It was not like a plantation. There were people of color who lived downtown and owned property. Lubertha Johnson and her family owned a ranch in Paradise Valley, where McCarran Airport is today. She would have big picnics, and many people from the black community would gather there and have a great time. There were families such as the Hodges and Christensen families who owned land in the downtown areas and around the Clark County Courthouse. In the 1930s, many people got around Las Vegas with a horse and carriage — because few owned cars.
Why did the Historic Westside become the heartbeat of the black community?
I don’t really have the answer for that, but the heart of the Las Vegas Black Community was around Jackson Avenue in the Historic Westside Community. Where all the black churches stand today. Actually, there were Latinos who lived in the Historic Westside originally.
There are many debates over the pros and cons of segregation, but what are your feelings about the effects of segregation on the Las Vegas black community?
Las Vegas’ African-American residents supported each other and our businesses more when there was segregation. That is why I say integration was somewhat detrimental to the black community. During segregation, we shopped where we lived. We had about four black-owned grocery stores that were doing very well and surviving. There was a clothing store in the community, barbershops, nightclubs and casinos.
What made race relations hostile in Las Vegas?
I think when black people started to recognize that we wanted a better life, our expectations were communicated. We could see the better conditions for people who didn’t look like us had and we wanted a better life. When the demand for a better life became evident by the white establishment, a resistance was created — and an increase in segregation, along with discrimination, took hold. When the population of African-Americans in Las Vegas was small in the early days, the masses didn’t really worry about us. But as the black population grew and people started asking for more, that’s when the white establishment became hostile.
It seems that there was more unity in Las Vegas’ black community during that time.
Absolutely. As a matter of fact, the NAACP galvanized everyone in the black community whenever there was meeting. There would be one hundred to two hundred people at each meeting. Everyone was there — including our elite black community leaders.
What do you think caused the breakdown in Las Vegas’ black community?
Politics came into play. When people saw they could get paid by supporting … the politicians, they opted to give their loyalties to the political system and not to the wellbeing of the community. Non-profits were established within the impoverished Westside community to receive political “earmarked” dollars to operate — creating a status quo for the community to remain dilapidated to qualify for those dollars. My personal opinion is that some of these dollars never reached the community to make it better, but made a lot of politicians rich. I just want people to know that the Historic Westside community has minimum positive change not because of the people from that community, but it is by design. Many fight to maintain an appearance of poverty in the historic black community to continue receiving funds from the federal government. Today, discrimination based on race has transcended into an economic apartheid that I am committed to changing — by assisting black-owned businesses and the community with economic opportunities that the whole state of Nevada can be proud of.
For additional information, contact Otis Harris at (702) 646-7068.
Las Vegas has always been the Mississippi of the West. Some Metro Police officers have killed black men when they entered homes without warrants. I think Las Vegas uses inquest and not grand juries when it comes wrongs committed against black people.
Race relations suck in Las Vegas — and we aid and abet racism by not being organized.
STEPHEN HARVEY MUNFORD
I feel that there are race issues wherever you go. The difference is that in other communities, there seem to be better unified and proactive groups that come together to help the oppressed. Stakeholders … in other states have established policies and programs to create opportunities for those who have disadvantages in many social and economic areas.
When Bob Bailey and my dad Harvey Munford were around in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, the Las Vegas black community leadership was much more unified and respected. Today? Our black leadership seems fragmented, and demands no respect from the current power structure in Nevada. We have black and minority elected officials, but we have no unified agenda.
Is racism alive in Las Vegas? Our fathers would say, “Look around at the community in old west Las Vegas, and look at the number in the state education system to see how black and Latino students are performing. Look at how many black-owned businesses are operating and employing other blacks, look at how many blacks are sitting in jail and prison and look at how many blacks have access to health and social programs.” Numbers don’t lie.
When you look at the community and the data, you can see racism is still alive and well in Las Vegas and Clark County. It will continue until there is unity among all of us, and we set the agenda for what needs to happen to make things better. Personally, I can deal with the Nazis, skinheads, and white nationalists — but what is hard to deal with are those who seem to keep us pacified and fooled into thinking they care. When in fact they are doing more damage than openly racist groups.
The subject of racism needs to be studied within the context of capitalism.
My family moved to Las Vegas in 1985. Our journey with housing, education and employment was challenging. Soon I went to work for AFAN and was able to see discrimination and racism at its best. We were given a satellite office in the Edmond Plaza because the administration thought it better to serve the African-American community in the Historic Westside. The Latino and Asian communities never received offices.
I also feel higher education has left the Historic Westside high and dry. Why don’t UNLV and CSN have satellite offices in the Enterprise Complex in the Historic Westside community?
Well, I haven’t experienced any racism since I’ve lived in Las Vegas since 2009.
When I first moved here, I recall watching a documentary on one of the local channels about the history of racism in Las Vegas and it was also about the educational system. It was a great documentary, but I was astonished on how racist Las Vegas was toward African-Americans in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Black people back then had horrible, inhabitable housing conditions. It almost looked like a third world country on the Historic Westside in the 1940s through the 1970s. Las Vegas does have some black-owned businesses — but not as many as when I first got here. We need more local blackowned businesses.
SHELIA HENDERSON GLENN
Since being in Las Vegas for almost 20 years, my observation on racism is displayed in different subliminal ways. The disproportionate children of color suspended and expelled for the smallest infraction at Clark County schools. This is like a slow way to take their security and confidence away.
BY CAPUCINE HOLMES
History, it has been said, usually repeats itself. Today, we hold out hope that America can avoid fulfilling that axiom — especially when it comes to the kind of prejudice and hatred that leads to death.
We can consider that history anew when it is explored in art. The new film “Detroit,” directed by Kathryn Bigelow, looks at four deadly, racially-charged days that shook that great American city in July 1967. It covers the 12th Street Riot, a series of horrific events took place at the Algiers Motel and involved three young black men — Carl Cooper, Fred Temple, and Aubrey Pollard — who were beaten, tortured and killed. Three white Detroit Police officers — Robert Paille, David Senak and Ronald August — faced charges, along with a black security guard named Melvin Dismukes.
The movie was screened in Las Vegas on the 50th anniversary of the Algiers Motel incident. While there, people who relocated to Las Vegas from Detroit recalled the riot and reflected on how it impacted their lives.
Native Detroiter Alex Thomas said he knew the young men at the center of the tragedy — and would have been at the Algiers that night if his parents hadn’t been so adamant about him making curfew. All in all, “Detroit” is an impactful film that leaves you wondering whether humanity has evolved from prejudice, hatred and racism — and whether history will indeed repeat itself.
Author Michael Pollan puts it quite simply: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”
This may seem easier said than done. The typical American diet consists mostly of processed foods, meat, and dairy which largely contribute to serious health issues including cancer, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes.
By incorporating more plants into your diet, you get a welcome boost of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. A plant-heavy diet can aid with weight loss, prevent — and even reverse — chronic diseases, and lower mortality rates.
In his book “Food Rules,” Pollan writes, “If it’s a plant, eat it. If it’s made in a plant, don’t.” But fear not! It doesn’t have to be done overnight, and it doesn’t have to be daunting. In fact, baby steps can be more effective in making sustainable lifestyle changes.
Upping your daily plant intake can be easy and inexpensive. Don’t be afraid to get creative! Here are some ideas to get the ball rolling:
• Participate in meatless Monday (meatlessmonday.com)!
• Add a fruit to breakfast and lunch
• Try zucchini noodles as a healthy but equally delicious alternative to pasta.
• Snack on nuts and raw veggies instead of chips and cookies
• Make cauliflower rice (and then eat it!)
• When in doubt, throw it in a smoothie.
• Experiment with less familiar fruits and veggies — and don’t fear the tofu.
• At dinner, use meat as a side dish instead of a main entrée and double your usual serving of vegetables.
Ease into it, and have fun with it. Whether you adopt a fully plant-based diet or not is entirely up to you — but adding more whole plants into your diet is the goal, not deprivation.
If you have any questions about how you and your loved ones can stay healthy, send an email to email@example.com. You can also visit the Vegas Roots Community Garden to purchase fresh, life-giving vegetables straight from the source. For more information, go to vegasroots.org.
In Las Vegas, no ethnic group has more barber instructors than African-Americans. And now, Saleemah Abare has broken another barrier by becoming the state’s first black female barber instructor.
“It is a process to become a barber instructor in the state of Nevada,” she said. “I first had to get a barber license and become a master barber for five years before taking any of the required courses toward becoming an instructor. I took 600 hours to get my instructor hours — and I had to take the State Board Exam and pass it. After all of that, I became the first female barber instructor.”.
Abare, 31, acknowledges that the process to become a barber instructor in Nevada is a sacrifice for established barbers. “Taking that extra plunge to become a barber instructor is a sacrifice of time,” she said. “For many barbers who already have their businesses and clients, it’s hard to break away from their routine to attend Barber College. Many barbers have families and children and going to Barber College full time to become an instructor is hard.”
A barber in Nevada for 10 years now, Abare has an established and respected following of clients. She is committed to helping other women who desire to become barber instructors.
“It is really great that other women have asked me, ‘How did you do it?’ They are very interested in becoming a barber instructor and I plan to hold seminars to keep them motivated and to help them to see the process through,” she said. “I am humbled to know that other women are now considering becoming a barber instructor … because they heard my story.”
She continued: “I think for anybody not only women … you really have to be dedicated and want to embrace the sacrifice. It was really hard being in school for six months away from my business. But it can be done — and I did it.”
BY EVA MARTIN
My late husband and I shared so much, and one thing that always united us was education advocacy. Parents should understand how engagement in your child’s education is essential to success — because while many things deserve our attention, none are more important than shaping our children’s future.
Just think about the power of the open house — this one-on-one engagement with teachers is a wonderful opportunity to open a dialogue about the learning process. Hectic schedules sometimes mean that not all parents can attend open houses in the beginning of the year, but we should always introduce ourselves to teachers and work out a plan to receive updates on student progress.
PTA meetings and parent volunteer programs are excellent opportunities to be more fully engaged in your child’s education. You might also have a wonderful time building new relationships with other parents who have similar interests.
You should also show an interest in elective activities that are important to your child. Take the time to go to a game, practice or performance that your child finds interesting. Your presence at extracurricular activities will assist in strengthening their confidence, performance, and peer relationships.
Engagement throughout the year is not only important for other adults to witness — but more importantly, for your child to recognize. Remember: you are building memories of a lifetime, and your role in their development is the blessing they will never forget. If you prioritize it today, education will be highly-valued for every generation in your family.