Nichelle Nichols inspired black women to dream big for the future

How often in history does one live to see the impact of their legacy? As human beings with lives that stand as a drop in the ocean of time, one rarely sees the fruits of their labor moving toward a better world for future generations. Nichelle Nichols, who died on July 30 at the age of 89, is an incomparable exception to this concept.

Born on December 28, 1932, five years after the invention of television itself, Nichols was imbued with a love of the stage. She quickly garnered credits in a number of productions, but it wasn’t until her iconic role as Lt. Nyota Uhura in Star Trek that her star has truly risen. Acting opportunities for black women in the mid-20th century were often limited to maids, housewives, nannies, and slaves. Lt. Uhura was simply outstanding. Few today fully understand how groundbreaking her character was for its time. In pre-civil rights 1960s America, she was just “the woman who answered the phone” on the USS Enterprise. But for those with 20/20 hindsight, the woman was poised to author a new chapter in the history of black women in entertainment. Nichols once recounted to Whoopi Goldberg that when she saw Lt. Uhura on screen for the first time, Goldberg ran through her house screaming, “Come quickly! I just saw a black woman on TV, and she’s not a maid!”

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As the chief officer of Starfleet’s flagship, Lieutenant Uhura was the cool, unflappable presence overseeing the connections between species, playing it with a beauty and grace that made her stand out in an otherwise predominantly white and male world. In the 60s, a black woman in a position of power was an anomaly. Nichols’ portrayal of Nyota Uhura symbolized that Black people deserved a place of importance, equality, and respect in the future. Martin Luther King Jr. himself knew the importance of Lt. Uhura in representing Black contributions. Nichols recalled the civil rights icon telling her, “For the first time on television, we’re going to be seen as we should be seen every day, as smart, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance and go to space. professors, lawyers”.

Lieutenant Uhura quenched the thirst of black Americans everywhere who yearned for a future in which they could see themselves living, learning and loving in a world where the color of their skin did not limit their future – the world that freedom fighters were fighting in real time. It opened the doors for black women in entertainment to be seen as strong, capable, beautiful and intelligent. She worked on NASA initiatives to recruit more women and people of color. She went above and beyond, not only portraying an important Black woman in the future of space programs, but also paving the way for other astronauts, doctors and scientists to excel in their respective fields, further strengthening the role of women and people of color. today’s scientific progress.

To say that I would not have played Cadet Uhura were it not for Nichols’ brilliant portrayal of the lieutenant who would become my young cadet is, quite literally, the truth. It would fail to describe how I probably wouldn’t have a career without Nichelle’s dedication to making room for strong, smart, supportive, cute black women in entertainment. I’ve been very fortunate to have a career playing confident activists, bookstore owners, and performers with an appetite for what life has to offer and beyond, but I didn’t always think the life I live now was possible for someone like me. As a young black girl, I grew up wishing for the stars to see and accept me in my fullness—to represent me beyond the loveless best friend, comic relief, or simply someone secondary in the lives of my other, often whiter, peers. . In my youth, I didn’t realize that I craved the very representation that Nichols’ Lieutenant Uhura provided.

There is still a long way to go for the representation of black women and women on modern screens and stages, but Nichelle has been instrumental in shifting our stories away from the lives of servants and helpers. He didn’t just teach us to catch the lucky stars we wanted—he brought those very stars to us, into our homes, and into the forefront of our minds. She made the wildest dreams of Black Americans, especially Black women, come true. She taught us to dream big, wake up and follow those dreams with all our hearts because there is room for every different type of Black woman in the future. He taught us that we all deserved to have our dreams come true because our dreams mattered, whether we were officers with a hand in protecting the future, space explorers, dancers who bring smiles to their viewers, or us with songs in our hearts. must be released. And it taught us that we deserved representation and preservation of our future not just because of what we could do for the world, but simply because it was our God-given right.

I have embraced the role of student Nyota Uhura, understanding and grateful for the role Nichols played in paving the way and the work she did to establish a proud tradition of black women carving out a place for others to fill. I never had the chance to meet her, but I feel her presence on set every day and see her legacy reflected in the lives she touched. On the television screen and beyond, Nichols’ legacy lives on in all of us, myself included, who are grateful and benefit from her tenacity, talent and grace.

Η Celia Rose Gooding στο «<a href=.» της Paramount+Star Trek: Strange New Worlds‘” data-src=”–/YXBwaWQ9aGlnaGxhbmRlcjt3PTk2MDtoPTY0MA–/ /.M6GXGyN_rIdXcascbLwjQ–~B/aD00MDAwO3c9NjAwMDthcHBpZD15dGFjaHlvbg–/”/>

Celia Rose Gooding stars as Nyota Uhura in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds.

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