NEW ORLEANS, LA – Dr. Calvin Mackie is the founder of STEM Global Action (SGA), a campaign and network of affiliates that bring science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to children and teenagers in New Orleans, and other parts of the country. As a veteran STEM professional, he sees a strong bond between Marvel’s fictional cinematic universe and the vital role that STEM education plays in propelling children from under-resourced and underrepresented communities into high-paying and sustainable careers.
His brother, New Orleans native Anthony Mackie, portrays Sam Wilson on the Disney+ miniseries The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and recently became the first Black Captain America in the Marvel Universe. “As a superhero, Wilson overcomes ferocious enemies and his own doubts about bearing the legacy of Capitan America,” says Calvin Mackie. “He also confronts the concerns of others that no self-respecting Black man should even want to protect America considering its historic mistreatment of Blacks. In real life, my brother has also prevailed against the odds. When we lost our mother growing up, our family banded together and made his dreams come true: Anthony went to acting school.”
Through hard work, Anthony Mackie is a star of the stage, film and television. In today’s America, that creates an inspiring narrative. “A powerful triumph,” says Calvin Mackie, noting that African Americans face unconscious and conscious bias in a nation built on the discredited belief in a racial hierarchy that puts people of color on the bottom rung of society.
In the show, Sam Wilson is never the strongest in battle. He relies on STEM to win. From his mechanical wings infused with Vibranium from Wakanda that enable him to fly, to his “Redwing” combat and reconnaissance drones, Wilson wins with a mastery of science and physics, of calculations and probabilities, and most importantly, by turning smarts and technology into paths for success. “Kudos to Marvel for elevating a Black man to succeeding with his intellect, rather than stereotypical physical attributes like speed, agility or brute force,” adds Dr. Mackie.
First from his garage on weekends, and now through comprehensive videos, virtual classes and gatherings sponsored by government, philanthropic and private sector leaders, Dr. Mackie lectures that STEM is the great equalizer. “Armed with STEM education, racial, ethnic and gender barriers can’t block the success of our children,” says Dr. Mackie. “STEM will lead to quality careers that can support families and lift communities.”
Dr. Mackie, a former tenured Tulane Engineering professor, first founded STEM NOLA in 2013 to expose, inspire and engage communities in learning STEM. Their award-winning programs provide activities, events and virtual learning to communities. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization specialized in hosting events and bringing STEM experiences to urban neighborhoods. Over the past eight years, STEM NOLA, which is now an affiliate of STEM Global Action, has engaged more than 70,000 students, 17,000 families and 2,150 schools across the U.S. and in five other countries. Their programs are continuing to expand to new locations across the country.
“Think of STEM as Captain America’s new indestructible, vibranium shield,” says Dr. Mackie. “It can help tackle life’s toughest foes, like racism, poverty and discrimination. They are no match for it. STEM is the doorway to the future, the superhero providing careers, family security and neighborhood stability. The best part is students don’t have to live in a cinematic verse to experience it, just study hard, learn STEM and it can create pathways forward.”