Black Inventor Brilliance

During Black History Month we should all take the time to learn the inspiring history of notable African- Americans, both past and present. African – Americans are famous by leaps and bounds for everything from Hollywood to Wall street. As an engineer, most fascinating of these icons are the inventors, who have taken an innovative idea from conception to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Inventors are out-of-the-box tinkerers who are able to see the unseen and in most cases willing to fail forward.

“Education is the key to unlocking the golden door of freedom”  

George Washington Carver

George Washington Carver (peanut products), Thomas Jennings (dry cleaning system), Norbert Rillieux (sugar-refining process) Garrett Morgan (improved gas mask), Marie Van Brittan Brown (audio-video alarm system), Charles Drew (blood preservation for transfusions), Dr. Patricia Bath (laser cataracts surgical device), Lonnie Johnson (super soaker and more than 80 other patents), Frederick Jones (refrigeration machine), Granville T. Woods (streetcar and telephone), Madame C.J. Walker (hair care products), Elijah McCoy (cotton gin and 57 total patents), Percy Julian (chemical synthesis of drugs), and Henry Blair (seed planter) just to name a few. These are some amazing pioneers that were able to achieve success through perseverance and trial and error during times in American history that were not so favorable for professional African – Americans. These genius inventions help us in our everyday lives and most of them we can’t live prosperous and comfortable lives without. 

“I want the great masses of my people to take a greater pride in their personal appearance and to give their hair proper attention” 

Madame CJ Walker

An awarded patent is automatic monopoly for the inventor for a period of time – which is a dominant asset. In American history there existed a time when African – Americans were not permitted to apply for patent rights because they were considered property and not extended the rights granted to those considered a whole human. At times some of the unknown inventors would apply for a patent under the name of their white slave owner of their respective lawyers, also generally white males. African – Americans knew during these times that they were more likely to have their patent approved using a white person’s identity. Unfortunately, during this time many of the slaves’ inventions were exploited by their white owners for economic and social gain. Nevertheless, these pioneers have fully contributed to the industrialization of a nation and the progress of a people. 

“Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man” 

Dr. Charles Drew

I’d like to take this time to say “THANK YOU” to these black inventors who embody the true entrepreneurial spirit. The intellectual contributions they have made to society through their devices and products will forever stand in perpetuity. I stand on the shoulders of these brave titans and others whose names we do not know and I celebrate their achievements not only during Black History Month but 365! 

-Sophoria Westmoreland

Becoming Better … A Journey

In January of 1980, I was given the news that I would not graduate with my class. I was one credit short. So with that blow, I decided it was time for me to change my life for the better. I pushed through; passing my test in summer school. And in the summer of 1980, I graduated and gave birth to my third daughter Nicole that evening.

except from “The Start of My Transformation” by Anita Westmoreland

On that evening in the summer of 1980, Dr. Sophoria Westmoreland, CEO and President of The Westmoreland Group, was born – that was an excerpt from her mother’s testimony.

And with that our story begins.

It was just over two years ago that my generous benefactor, good friend and colleague, Dr. Westmoreland would launch her company, The Westmoreland Group, secure a contract and become employee #1. Congratulations, Dr. Westmoreland. 

So, it was no surprise that Dr. Westmoreland would elect to embark on a new journey – to share her dream. One that celebrates her entrepreneurial spirit. One that promotes women in leadership. One that embodies her commitment to serving others. One that hopes to leave a legacy for future Westmoreland generations. And one that promotes her relentless pursuit of joy and encourages others simply to do the same. That’s a good dream.

If your actions create a legacy that inspires others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, then, you are an excellent leader.”

Dolly Parton

Becoming Better, is Dr. Westmoreland’s new journey, a dream to simply encourage others in becoming better both personally and professionally. 

While, Dr. Westmoreland’s mom graduating and giving birth on the same day could be an interesting coincidence, I beg to differ. Dr. Westmoreland was ‘different by design’ even before she was born.

Dr. Westmoreland holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering, a B.S. in General Engineering, and dual degrees, M.S. and Ph.D., in Mechanical Engineering. Clearly, she is bright, accomplished (just google her) and well educated. But, wherein lies her strength, is her desire to exceed expectations, express joy by how she elects to live her life and empower others to do the same. 

Dr. Westmoreland believes that the key to succeeding is through service. She is an active member of her church, Metropolitan Baptist Church, participating in various ministries to include the choir, Vacation Bible School and P.U.S.H., the prayer ministry. She is an active member of her sorority, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., having served as her chapter’s chaplain.

Dr. Westmoreland’s past work experience includes teaching an 8th grade engineering design course at the Grantham Academy for Engineering and Senior Design, and Statics as an Assistant Research Professor at the United States Naval Academy; where she mentored and served as a faculty advisor to the academy’s NSBE Chapter.  

Currently, Dr. Westmoreland supports the Office of Naval Research (ONR) as an employee of none other than the Westmoreland Group. Dr. Westmoreland seeks to provide customer-focused, technically astute support – believing that clients should be served, not simply supported, with integrity. Dr. Westmoreland is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and currently supports her client, ONR, as a Business Specialist, providing Navy financial management system expertise; giving administrative direction and support to ONR research, STEM outreach and NREIP/SEAP internship programs. Her other duties encompass event planning, logistics and administrative program support. 

Dr. Westmoreland is published in a number of academia and technical publications and has been formally recognized by both NSBE and the National Science Foundation to name a few. Her dissertation, entitled ‘Design Thinking: Cognitive Patterns in Engineering Design Documentation’ was featured in a book, Sisters in the Dissertation House. She is a consummate thinker, problem solver and continues to color outside the proverbial lines. 

In her free time, Dr. Westmoreland enjoys writing, baking, event planning, reading, singing in the choir and working out. Her hobbies include history (she volunteered as a docent for the Smithsonian), photography, being punctual and helping others become more organized. 

Dr. Westmoreland is outgoing, engaging, easily affable, humorous and comfortable with herself. She is well versed, unpretentious, unencumbered with titles or pedigree; and her humility belies her personal and professional accomplishments. 

One of her favorite poems is Robert Frost’s The Road Not Taken which she has prominently displayed in her home. The last two lines read:

“I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.”

That is Dr. Westmoreland’s daily reminder to be fearless on this journey to becoming better. We hope you enjoy the ride.

“Be light … be you … be better.”

~Blog by Dorothy’s Daughter