Celebrating and recognizing Black women in psychology on Wikipedia

Dr. Kirsten Westmoreland recently completed her PhD in Psychological Science at the University of Bristol. To stay connected with the scientific community, she joined the Association for Psychological Sciences (APS) and has been even more involved during the pandemic with the rise of online webinars. When she received an email from APS about the Black History Wiki Scholars course led by Wiki Education, Westmoreland knew she had to take on this major opportunity. She was one of 11 APS members whose participation in the course was sponsored by the organization in an effort to improve Wikipedia’s coverage of Black psychologists.

Dr. Kirsten Westmoreland

During Westmoreland’s time in the Black History Wiki Scholars course, she expanded on the Wikipedia page for Dr. Lisa Bowleg, who is a Black woman psychologist.

“I chose to edit an existing Wikipedia page for Dr. Lisa Bowleg because her page was outdated and included various inaccuracies that were not clearly supported by relevant references. Additionally, there was very little information to begin with,” Westmoreland says.

Not only did Westmoreland choose to research Dr. Bowleg for the purpose of expanding information, but she felt that it was important to recognize a BIPOC and woman scientist.

“I chose this article because I wanted to highlight both a BIPOC scientist and a female scientist as the course took place across both Black History and Women’s History month,” Westmoreland says. “Furthermore, female and BIPOC scientists are often under-represented, and I want to do my part to help elevate their accomplishments and voices and through this course I had a real opportunity to do that.”

Westmoreland believes she holds a responsibility in learning about the accomplishments psychologists, especially non-white individuals, contributions to the field. She hopes that her Wikipedia article on a Black woman psychologist promotes a bigger movement in bringing recognition to figures in underrepresented communities.

“I hope that by boosting the work and contributions of a Black, female psychologist that I am in a small way promoting representation for any future student, scientist, or psychologist who doesn’t often see scientists or professors that look like them in their classes,” Westmoreland says.

To spread the knowledge and motivation on covering diverse topics, Westmoreland encourages scientists and professionals in her field to enroll in the Wiki Scholars course and learn how to productively research and contribute to this growing encyclopedia.

“Scientists and professionals in my field could benefit from understanding how these mechanisms work so that collectively we could improve much of the field-specific information on Wikipedia and better educate students on how to use Wikipedia as a starting point for more thorough investigation,” Westmoreland says.

While editing Wikipedia articles, Westmoreland met other individuals who shared similar interests and passions, resulting in natural collaboration.

“The best part about editing Wikipedia articles is the sense of collaboration with other editors who are just as passionate about providing the most complete information about a given topic,” Westmoreland says. “That, and the sense of accomplishment that comes with improving something that someday someone else may be able to use to further their own knowledge in an area.”

Westmoreland hopes that APS and other academic associations take the initiative of hosting courses with Wiki Education that focus on relevant and diverse topics to support the drive of accurate representation and informing the public.

“Including greater publicized promotions during key time points such as Black History Month, Women’s History Month, Pride Month, and others will promote both further education on relevant topics for diversity education and will prompt greater diversity within the people adding to Wikipedia,” she said.

Westmoreland’s first contribution to Wikipedia will certainly not be her last, as she plans on bringing recognition to well-deserved figures with future improved articles.

To take a course like the one Kirsten took, including a course we’re currently enrolling on improving biographies of LGBTQ+ people, visit learn.wikiedu.org.

Image of Kirsten Credit: KWiki2021, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Hero Image Credit: BristolIcarus, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons


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