By Airik Myers, The Seattle Medium
“Hey, Google, what happened on that day in black history? Is a term that could become a daily ritual for many people across the country. Thanks to a new partnership between Google and Dr. Carl Mack, publisher of the Black Heritage Day Calendar – a full-leaf calendar that highlights 366 African-Americans and notable African-American accomplishments, over 500 million people can get a dose daily Black History using Google Assistant.
Just before Juneteenth, the Google Assistant team unveiled the new feature that allows users to receive information about Black History by date. By saying “Hey Google, what happened that day in black history?” You get a unique verbal response, fed by the information in Dr. Mack’s calendar, which will provide you with a brief account of black history. that happened that day.
There are two ways to use the feature. The first option is to ask what is happening today, and the second is to ask what happened on a specific date in black history. For example, asking what happened on October 8 in Black History will solicit an answer about Powhatan Beaty, who was born into slavery that day in 1837, but later won his freedom and moved to Ohio. , where he proved his talent as an actor.
The functionality is accessible on over a billion devices compatible with Google Assistant, including smart speakers, phones, LG and Samsung TVs, Chromecast, watches and many popular soundbars.
According to Mack, the inspiration for the calendar came from a conversation he had with a white colleague in the ’80s, who asked him about a historical black figure he had never heard of.
“One day [my co-worker] came to work and he was telling me about this guy, Henry Flipper, who was the first black man to graduate from West Point Military Academy. And [he’s] looking at me like I know who this guy is and I have no idea who [he] was talking, ”recalls Mack. “I was literally ashamed and embarrassed that this white man knew more about my culture than I did. “
The interaction led Mack to learn more about black history and, over time, to become a full-fledged black historian. The discoveries he made gave Mack an increased sense of pride and fueled his passion to teach, learn and serve others. After a few years of research, Mack decided to share his knowledge more widely, which is why he produced the original version of the Black Heritage Calendar in 1992.
Fast forward to today and people are still mesmerized by the information in the calendar, which is now in its fourth edition. Some information such as Martin Luther King’s birthday is commonly known, but there are other lesser-known entries that have a common connection to our daily life, such as Elijah McCoy, an African-American inventor, whose high-quality inventions gained such notoriety that the phrase “the Real McCoy” was coined to distinguish his inventions from cheap imitations.
“I shared [the ‘Today In Black History feature] with almost a hundred people and their level of excitement is insane, ”says Mack. “It’s off the charts, but they’re coming back to me and every one of them including my mom said, ‘If you didn’t tell me that, how would I ever know it existed?
While Mack’s original intention was to share his information with the world, he had no idea that he would literally share it on a platform that reaches hundreds of millions of people daily.
“Did I think that 30 years later my research on black history would now be on the Google Assistant, and that 500 million people around the world could access it?” Mack said impressed with the achievement. “That’s right where God says big, God means BIG.”
The connection with Google came from one of Mack’s mentees, Justin Steele, who works for Google. Mack sent a copy of his calendar to Steele seeking comment. Unbeknownst to Mack at the time, Google was in the process of researching content that he could feature every day that matched his efforts for diversity and inclusion.
According to Beth Tsai, director of search policy and Google Assistant, Mack’s schedule was exactly what they were trying to do.
“We thought it was very important to educate the public about the black community and important figures in the black community who often don’t get attention,” Tsai said.
“The beautiful thing about Dr. Mack’s calendar is that it examines the parts of history that most people don’t know, it tells us about important moments in black culture and black history,” Tsai added. “This tells us about contributors who are not your big names. [It] helps people understand this big picture. And for us, that was the defining moment here. Here’s a chance for your average Google user who doesn’t know anything about these things to really get started, find out more, and learn in depth.
For Mack, who previously served as president of the Seattle King County NAACP and was the former executive director of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), the opportunity for people to learn and appreciate black history is a big step towards self-knowledge. and the pride of African Americans, and a chance for others to see and understand African Americans in ways not easily found in mainstream American history books.
“I mean, you look at Google. Google is arguably one of the best search engines on this planet. The fact that they have the calendar content and every day all you have to say is, “Hey, Google, what happened that day in black history?” And just like that, with just your voice, you could be exposed to 366 days of African American history with just your voice, ”Mack explains of how easily people can access information through Google Assistant. “You just learned something beautiful about our history and you know, the reason why this is important to me, [is] because I know what self-knowledge has done for me.
Regarding the “Today in Black History” initiative, this is Google’s first partnership that has been “specifically designed to educate and raise awareness about equity and inclusion on the Google Assistant “.
Tsai says the Google Assistant, from the start, has been all about inclusiveness and is an assistant that anyone can connect to.
“Everyone, no matter who you are, no matter what your race, no matter what your gender, no matter what your ethnicity, your religion, we wanted the system to recognize you,” Tsai explains.
“I hope our black users… listen to our calendar, and I hope they feel like the Google Assistant is theirs,” she continued. “I hope they see each other in the Google system. [I hope it feels] as the Google Assistant recognizes them and considers them an ally. Because, basically, it’s the most important thing for us.