This column is dedicated to the memory of Nichelle Nichols who for many years played the iconic Star Trek character Nyota Uhura. (Uhura is derived from the Swahili word “freedom,” and Nyota means “star.”) Ms. Nichols took art beyond the studio when she lobbied and encouraged NASA to recruit minorities and women. (See the film: Women in Motion: Nichelle Nichols, ST Remaking of NASA).
I have always enjoyed science fiction, but I became a STAR TREK fan the minute I saw a Black woman in a TV role other than maid, nurse, performer or secretary. I followed all the incarnations – television, movies and animation.
My family has encouraged my love for all things Trek. I have several pictures, dozens of Christmas ornaments, a costume, and, coolest of all, WARP (drive) vanity plates. A Trekkie is a groupie, but I’m a Trekker – someone who embraces the science and the humanity of different peoples, places and maybe even planets.
I wonder if Gene Rodenberry realized what a difference casting Ms. Nichols would mean for television. Star Trek was so unlike the male dominated space heroes of Buck Rogers or even Doctor Who. And the bridge of the Enterprise reflected the Vulcan philosophy of (IDIC) “Infinite Diversity in Infinite combinations,” there was an alien-Vulcan, Asian, Russian, a de rigueur macho captain, and, best of all for me, a Black woman!
The current Uhura’s carry on a great tradition with the feisty Zoe Saldaña in the new movies and, the “trying to find her way and fresh out of the academy” Celia Rose-Gooding in ST Strange New Worlds. Challenging storylines, action and thought-provoking questions makes this a series with universal appeal that we still want to tune into. Okay, only if you like Sci Fic – at least a little bit. And ground-breaking casting opens the eyes of our young people to their possibilities.