Programing Party: The Science of Chocolate

Type: Educational/ Social

Topic: Chocolate, Chemistry, Biology

Cost: $15

Materials: Chocolate, Spice Gum Drops, Toothpicks


During this program, residents were able to learn what goes into their sweet treats. The first thing that residents did was to assemble theobromine, which is a chemical found in cocoa and when digested interacts with the body in ways that induce the pleasurable feeling associated with eating chocolate. Residents were put in pairs, and competed against each other to see who could build the most structurally sound molecule, and the winning duo was awarded a giant chocolate bar. Following the short activity, a presentation about how neurotransmitters work in the body, as well as chocolate’s role in increasing the activity of certain neurotransmitters was given by me. The residents were then able to participate in a quiz type activity, where each group would answer a question presented by me. As they got the answers right, they were awarded with mini candies, as well as points. At the end of the program, the team with the most amount of points were also awarded giant chocolate bars.

I assessed the learning by handing out a pre-assessment and a post-assessment. Both assessments contained the same question, and learning was assessed by seeing the difference between previous knowledge and knowledge gained after the end of the program. Also, the short, but fun quiz based on the presentation that I gave served as another way to see if the information was being retained. In the quiz there were also questions that discussed topics that were not in the presentation, but could be answered due to the answers being common knowledge.

The residents were able to learn about the history and origins of chocolate. How chocolate as we know it came to be as well as the modifications that chocolate undergoes to get to how it is eaten today. The residents were able to learn about the chemistry behind components of chocolate such as theobromine, serotonin, tryptophan, and phenyl ethylamine and how they interact in the body.

This program ended up being better than I thought. It was a little slow at first, but the anticipation of getting chocolate made them eager to participate. My residents are super competitive, so anything that they can win riles them up, and for this program that was a plus. The hardest part for me was keeping myself from overly explaining the science, or diving into the rabbit hole. Most of the residents who attended were not in any kind of STEM major (which didn’t mean that they couldn’t enjoy it) so I knew that getting too technical would cause interest to be lost.

Overall, it was a fantastic program!


There wasn’t a lot of prep for this. The only thing that took time was creating the PowerPoint that I used for my presentation. I did have to separate the gum drops by color, but that took only 5 minutes or so!

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Real Talk: Why Is White History Month Not A Thing?

History is written by the winners. That’s how the world works. The weak get erased and the strong prevail and are blessed with an on-going legacy.

So, what does that have to do with anything? Especially with Black History? Well how many of us would have known about  Katherine G Johnson,  Dorothy J Vaughan, or Mary Jackson if it wasn’t for the movie Hidden Figures? Do we know who Barbra Jordon is, or who  Pauli Murray, or why there are such things are HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities. Do we know what happened to Black Wall Street or that Aretha Franklin was the first woman EVER to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, or that Madam C.J. Walker was the first self-made female  millionaire?

The truth is that the African American community has been greatly shortchanged in our representation in history. There is wrongful dichotomy that black history is composed of only slavery and civil rights, and we are subject to being pushed to the background of history as if George Washington could have led the American army if it wasn’t for the fact the his livelihood was already secured by the labor of hundreds of black men and women. Thomas Jefferson had no business traveling to France and spending his time writing books and being scholarly if he had to plow the fields to provide for his daily meals.

Since the beginning this country, which was literally built on the backs of slaves, has profited by oppressing and marginalizing people of color including Indigenous Americans, Asian Americans, and Latino Americans. We have had to be pacified with a sham of a treaty. Here, take your Black History Month and be done. You should be happy, you have a whole month dedicated to you (not mention the irony of it being the shortest month of the year, but who’s counting?). What else do you want?

What I want is a fair share of the country I helped to build. What I want is the continual acknowledgment of the contributions that the African American community has made to the progression of this country. There is not part of this wonderful country’s history that hasn’t been touched by black hands, and it’s about dang time that we started learning a more cohesive history. I want to be able to open a text book and see someone that looks like me without the words slavery or Jim Crow on the page. I want other people to be able to list scholarly African Americans the way that they can remember feuding rappers or basketball statistics.

What do we have to lose? What is the worst thing that can happen if little black girls and boys see heroes that they can emulate coming from their own communities? We strengthen the African America community? There can be something associated with being black that doesn’t include the stereotype of athleticism or the  assumption of “ghetto” culture?

Even Black History Month hasn’t escaped the “Token Friend Phenomena”. Always there are cries and rallies about Martin Luther King Jr., about the great work that he has done and the wonderful things that he has said. We celebrate Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, and Barack Obama. Somehow the people who are quick to fling these names into the air are the same people who’s ancestors flung rocks into their homes. I find it very interesting, that somehow even in Black History Month, we are still tokens in a system that has never been intended to work for us. There’s still the hint of “look at how well they worked with white people to go about change” that leaves a lingering taste in my mouth. All of these people faced mass amounts of criticism on their performance because of their race, all of these people were considered less than their white counterparts, all of these people  were subject to unreal expectations with the intention of their failure.

Black History Month lives across the street from “I can’t be racist, I have a (insert ethnicity here) friend”. It perpetuates the idea that one interaction negates the effect of multiple years of oppression, or that association frees one from the implications of their actions, and the accountability of their peers. It’s something used to justify the continuation of a problem that our country has, that we, as an African American community, should be satisfied with the gift of a seat in the room of history. That our request for more is anything short of ungrateful, that we in our pleas for acknowledgment are in fact contributing to the problem.

I don’t want just a seat in the room, I want a spot at the table.

Also, here are some cool reads about why we don’t need a White History Month (you know other than the fact that the concept of whiteness is arbitrary, but that’s for a whole other post).




Recent Reads: Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery

Happy Black History Month y’all! The older I get, the more I appreciate Black History Month and the resilience that African Americans have to survive in a country that was built on our backs, and continues to oppress us systematically. However, that topic is for another post. This post is for lauding the magnificent work that is Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery by Charles Johnson and Patricia Smith.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is an accompaniment to a four part PBS special (that I have yet to watch), and it is truly a masterpiece. It starts at Jamestown and goes through American history to the brink of the Civil War. After I read this book, I realized how whitewashed the perspective of American history was, and it made me want to learn more about America from the views of the minorities, namely African Americans and the indigenous people.

The book itself is an easy read, you pick it up and from the first page it lays down the gravity of the topic that the book is about. Unlike many books that flirt around the history of slavery in a measly attempt to condemn the wrong and yet excuse the remains of its existence, Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery plods straight through. It takes the history that you’ve learned since middle school and flips the narrative. We know about Jamestown, about cash crops, about the Revolutionary War. Washington, Jefferson, Locke, Douglass are all familiar names to us, but there are sides to them that are conveniently glossed over or simply ignored in the history books that I’ve seen inside the walls of the American school system.

What Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery does is brilliant, everything is so familiar because it’s American history told chronologically, so as part of the brain remains in neutral territory, remembering what it’s learned over the span of X amount of years another part of the brain is absorbing the new knowledge and meshing it with the old to form a more holistic and complete knowledge of American history.

My favorite part of reading Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery was the short excerpts in the middle of the chapters. Some of them where historically influenced stories that related to the chapter, actual letters written by people of those times, or pictures and portraits of the land and the people. This made sure that the book didn’t read like a textbook, and it was very enjoyable.

This book does include a lot of facts, but it is to be read as a narrative and not so much as something that discusses slavery statistics in great detail. As a non-fiction, it does it’s job recounting history and showing how this country thrived on the backs of slavery. But do not expect to read this book and become an expert on colonial America. Many of the sources used are primary source, and are not scrutinized and picked apart, which I liked.

Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery is a book that has influenced the way I see myself as a black woman in America. It has exposed the gaps in my knowledge of history from a perspective that wasn’t written by the winner. It points out the flaws in the Constitution, it doesn’t shy away from the fact that the same men that are praised for defending life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness  are the same men that snatched those very ideals away from hundreds of thousands of people.

We clearly are still facing the effects of slavery today. Systematic racism is real. Mass incarceration is real. Gerrymandering and red-lining is real. Microaggression is real. There are so many problems that the African American community is facing because of the fact that America was built with a system of oppression, and we haven’t done enough to resolve it. Just because the slaves were “given their freedom” doesn’t mean that they were free from the violence, from the racism, from their place of disadvantage. The land that they toiled on, remained in the hands of their oppressors. With little access to funds or an education a whole race of people were slaves to a different system.

Everyone should read Africans in America: America’s Journey Through Slavery. It is truly a masterpiece, and beautifully twines together the history we are taught and the history that many tend to forget.