She was acting, but she made a difference

I’m writing this piece to share some personal thoughts about Nichelle Nichols, translator, communications officer, and linguistics expert on the Starship Enterprise.

In case you’re wondering why I’m assigning role-model qualities to a fictitious character of a now, fifty-six-year-old TV/movie franchise. An article I read today where Whoopi Goldberg talks about the impact seeing Lieutenant Uhura on the bridge of the Enterprise will lead you in the direction of why talking about Uhura is important. Whoopi was nine years old when Star Trek debuted on television. See said when she first saw her, she screamed for others in her house to come see the Black lady on television who wasn’t a maid or servant. Those were my sentiments, too. Before then, I had been served up countless helpings of characters carrying luggage, cleaning floors, invisibly occupying unimportant space on the screen (big and small). I was sixteen when star Trek debut, and I was also coming into the knowledge that Black folks had done and were doing monumental things in building this United States of America.

One of the greatest stories I’ve heard about Nichelle Nichols is when she met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. This happened after the first season of Star Trek had wrapped. She told him that she was leaving the show for a career in Broadway. Dr. King convinced her that she couldn’t leave the show. Being a fan of the show himself, he told her of the importance of her role. It’s interesting how someone else can see the forest of which we’re a part. I often think of how Nichelle’s leaving might have changed the future of the show. Would there have been the same flavor to the interplay between Uhura and other characters on the Enterprise. Well, I must confess to my crush on Uhura, developed during season one. So, no anyone else playing that role would’ve been a travesty.

Uhura was a strong Black woman, equal to all others in importance, as she went about the galaxy on a mission to seek out new life and new civilizations, going where no one (no man in futuristic 1966) had gone before. She has now left us for a second and final time; the first time when she stopped appearing on Star Trek shows, and the second when she left us, as Nichelle Nichols on July 30, 2022.

Art can have an important influence on life, even when it stretches the imagination in a science fiction show that takes us where we can only imagine.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

P.S. This is my fifth mission into the Star Trek galaxy. Other posts I’ve made to little leased corner of cyberspace include Maybe we need a Star Trek, 11/26/19; Star Trek on my birthday, 7/21/21; Gene Rodenberry’s dream is good medicine for today, 2/28/22; Back to the future: Diversity for today from the 1960s, 11/15/2020. Do I have Star Trek on the brain? You bet!

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