If you were lucky enough to grow up in the eighties (where my 80’s babies at?) or even the seventies (the 70’s had all the great fashion!) then you know how much of a phenomenon Star Trek once was. Everyone you knew back then either had a parent or an auntie or uncle who was a bonafide “Trekkie.” By the time I was old enough to understand what a Trekkie was, Star Trek: The Next Generation which was a spin-off of the original Star Trek series had already become a huge hit. My mom who was a self-proclaimed Trekkie herself made sure that every television in our home was set to Star Trek: The Next Generation every Sunday night. So, I had no choice but to watch.
Star Trek: TNG had some really fun and futuristic characters (the Klingons were my fave). However, I still found myself more interested in the original series which was still in heavy rotation at the time. The original series featured Nichelle Nichols as Communications Officer Lieutenant Nyota Uhura. Lt. Nyota Uhura was a beautiful Black woman calling some serious shots on a spaceship full of men. As a young Black girl growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y. in the late 80’s, this was so dope to watch. Lt. Nyota Uhura brought so much color and class to the cast and I loved to see it!
Nichelle Nichols was born Grace Nichols in Robbins, Illinois in 1932. In 1959, Nichols got her first major role in the Samuel Goldwyn production of the popular play “Porgy and Bess.” After a chance meeting with the creator of Star Trek Gene Roddenberry in 1963, Nichols was able to finesse her way into a lead role on the television show that would later become a huge success. Nichols’ role as Lt. Uhura made her one of the first Black women to have a lead role in a television series in such a highly esteemed position. And although the original Star Trek series only ran for three seasons (1966-1969), the Star Trek phenomenon lasted for decades and Nichelle Nichols was able to influence generations of aspiring Black astronauts. In fact in 1977, Nichols was hired by NASA to specifically recruit more minorities and African-Americans for its space shuttle program. Nichols held this position with NASA all the way up until 2015.
In this new digital culture, Star Trek is no longer credited for being the first futuristic show of its kind. However, all the new advances in tech today can be attributed to “The Milky Way” in some way, shape or form. The barriers that Nichelle Nichols tore down back in the 60’s made it possible for all women not just African-American women to say, “Hey, I can do that, too!” Rest in power to Nichelle Nichols and thank you for taking the chance given to you to represent Black Women with such grace and beauty because without Nichelle Nichols there would surely be no #BrooklynGirlCode™ -xoxo!!! 🚀🚀🚀