I’m so honored to be here in Dublin, Ireland, at this year’s InspireFest. Let me first thank Miss Ann CEO of Inspirefest and Mr Ian founder of Lottie Dolls for working so hard to get me here.
Wow. InspireFest. Let me take a minute to take all this in. Ok, now, let me thank some cool women of STEM women like, Sally Ride, Dr Mae Jemison, Katherine Johnson, Annie Easley, Yvonne Cagle and the many other women and women of color who are no longer Hidden Figures but true warriors of STEM. I’m standing on the shoulders of these ladies and I’m truly humble.
If someone would have told me, seven years ago that one day I would be in Dublin, Ireland, at an event called InspireFest an international festival of technology, science, design and the arts and would actually be a speaker for it; I would had definitely not believed it.
But here I am and what I know is that I want to be, no scratch that, I will be a scientist, engineer and an astronaut. I know that everything that has happened to me in my past not only makes my present hopeful and bright but will also have my future reaching straight to Mars and beyond. So, being here, right now at this moment in my Her Story is Just unbelievable.
Now, what most of you have read in my bio is who I am today. An advocate, an activist, a philanthropist. A girl who dreams of going to Mars. Inspiration behind Lottie Dolls Astro Adventures space suit that let’s all boys and girls know to be bold, be brave, be YOU. Some have even call me an agent of STEAM science, technology, engineering, arts and math.
What most of you may not know are some of the obstacles that I had to go through to get me where I am today.
As a younger kid I wasn’t a strong reader. My poor reading skills meant that I had to be retained in second grade, but my mom didn’t give up on me and ensured that I had books in our home and read to me daily until I could confidently read on my own to become one of the top readers in my elementary class. Now imagine a kid who doesn’t have books in their home. I did and that inspired me to help other kids who didn’t have books to help them get books.
So I started a book club and drive called Taylor’s Take Flight with a book where kids could have home libraries and books to take flight towards their own dream and aspirations. To date I’ve read to over 500 kids in my city of Jacksonville, Florida, in addition, I’ve collected and donated over 8000 STEM books to kids all over the U.S. to ensure kids have home libraries and to promote STEM literacy.
And while many know of my successful fundraisers, what many don’t know is that I’m a product of a single parent who doesn’t make much money. So when I decided at age 9 to go to Space Camp after reading my idol Dr Mae Jemison’s book who is also the first African American female astronaut to go into space, I knew my mom couldn’t afford it so I asked to do a GoFundMe campaign to help me. I was shocked that not only did I raise the funds but exceeded it. Thanks to the kindness of strangers who wanted to help me accomplish my dream. So I went off to space camp and of course had a blast. For the record, that was my first campaign but it wouldn’t be my last.
After attending space camp and being the only African American at camp I knew then that representation truly mattered and something, somehow, someway needed to be done. But what? I was only a kid.
Well I figured since my first campaign was so successful I would do others to help someone else’s dreams come true. Which I did and so fast forward five years later to where my GoFundMe campaigns have raised over $150,000 for STEM initiatives that have included space camp scholarships, donations to other STEM focus programs, more STEM books for kids, non-profit organizations and even local libraries and children hospitals, and yes STEM inspired movie screenings that have sent over 8000 kids to see Hidden Figures and most recently Ava Duvernay and Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time. The success of the campaigns ended up inspiring screenings in over 80 cities and 30 states for both movies.
And I’m not stopping there, my current campaign #wrinkleintimeGhana will allow me next month to continue my STEM advocacy in Africa to do a movie screening of A Wrinkle in Time and bring many other educational resources to 17 girls in a local orphanage there. And I’ve been incredibly lucky to so far receive donations from some pretty cool and inspiring people like movie producer JJ Abrams and his wife Katie McGrath, actor Chris Pine and TV mogul herself the Oprah Winfrey. Who I got the opportunity to meet in person on Good Morning America. My hopes for this and all the work I do is to empower, engage and yes inspire girls who look like me and girls who don’t to dream STEM big!
For me A Wrinkle in Time is very important because for the first time, there is a black girl protagonist in a science fiction movie for the young and young at heart to see.
I want all girls especially the girls in Ghana to see and read about #blackgirlmagic because representation matters. ALL kids should have equal opportunities in their education and by having books, each of the girls will be inspired to be warriors and never give up on their dreams, even when it seems impossible. These dreams are often fuelled by the same inclusion, and representation many of us sadly are never allotted. Which is another reason why films like “Hidden Figures” and “WrinkleInTime” are so important. Girls especially black girls deserve to believe they can do calculations to send astronauts to moon and Mars, girls deserve to believe they can save the world like Meg, go on wild adventures, accomplish the impossible and yes be warriors!
I want girls to know that not only can they touch the stars; they are already their own special and unique star!
So with all that said, let me re introduce myself. My name is Taylor Richardson. I am known as Astronaut StarBright. I am the product of a single parent home, and on top of what I’ve stated earlier I’ve been bullied for my skin color, wanting to be an astronaut, and my ADHD diagnose which I call Abundantly Different Happily Divine. Because I am and we all are.
I am not only changing game in STEM but the face in STEM. And while others may only hear and think of the failures and flaws that I’ve encountered, which by way girls it’s totally ok to fall just know you will get back up!! I have learned no one is perfect, so for me flaws and failures are just my testimonies and what has gotten me to this very stage standing in front of you today.
You see I’m not just a girl who rocks STEM but I am a Black Girl who Rocks it and I’m bringing girls who look like me and girls who don’t to this table we call STEM. Because all representation matters and its time that we reclaim our STEM.
Because Our voice and our worth matters! I want girls to know to Value yourself. Your name, your voice and your time because they all matter. And never compromise it!
Don’t let anyone tell you can’t accomplish your dreams. Our possibilities are limitless and it is who we are inside that makes the difference and that’s what makes each one of us special. So I say to those who try limit us and doubt our abilities! Don’t doubt. Dare us and watch us soar!
Yes, girls soar to be that scientist, that engineer, that congresswoman and yes, even that President.
I plan to soar right to Mars because one day I will be one of the first to walk on its planet and like in the movies Hidden Figures and A Wrinkle in Time, girls if we can dream it, we are already there and boys there will be more us. So support us, join us, coach us, but most importantly sponsor and invest us. The future is female.
We all have a responsibility to ensure equality across all boards and I believe if there are barriers then those Barriers must be broken and we as girls and women can no longer ask or wait for a seat at the table. So let’s build better stronger tables and chairs that will be financially secure, diverse and most importantly inclusive.
So I’ve said it before and will say it here today, you better get used to us girls and women because we are going anywhere. Women like Arlan Hamilton, Ann O’Dea, Ava Duvernay, Elena Rossini, girls like my STEM sisters Savannah Wright, Havana Edwards, Allie Weber, Erica Wagner, Julie Sage, and many others whose names you should not just know but support. They are our game changers, agents of STEM agents of equality! The time for breaking down the barriers of gender and racial inequality in STEM is long overdue! For it is right thing to do and definitely time.
So what’s next, well before I make those first steps on Mars, I’m continuing my education and until there is not a need for #representationmatters, I will continue to do my part to advocate for girls in STEM. Whether it be through a book drive, a space camp scholarship, or showing of STEM inspired movie screenings or maybe starting my own Foundation. I will continue the work.
Who knows maybe someone inspired by my speech today will make that investment in girls like me so that we can continue to invest in each other.
In closing I leave you words of inspiration from, Oprah Winfrey, who said, your legacy is not what but who. I ask you, who will your legacy be for. What will you stand for? I stand for representation and equality for all.
Let’s not only break barriers but eliminate them for a better world not only in STEM but for humankind. Let us here today go back to our communities and be our sisters and brothers’ keepers. I know We as youth, as women are here and we are ready. Are you?
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