Well… damn. Nichelle Nichols, the legendary Lieutenant Uhura from Star Trek has passed away at the age of 89.
As a big Star Trek fan, this makes me sad. She was a woman who was a terrific actress and singer, of course, but who also changed a lot of lives as a representative of what the future should bring – acceptance, diversity, inclusion: In the 1960’s she showed a strong Black woman onscreen in a position of authority. To quote the article below: She portrayed “A capable officer who could man other stations on the bridge when the need arose, she was one of the first African American women to be featured in a non-menial role on television.” The article has many more details, and I encourage you to read a little about this wonderful woman.
There’s a ton more to say but, honestly, whenever one of the Original Seven from the Star Trek Universe passes, I get emotional. I love the show, and the subsequent franchise, for tons of reasons – the sci-fi, the characters and stories, the optimistic (usually) look at what the future could hold, and because I have such memories of sitting on the floor of our living room, watching the reruns with my Dad.
Instead of rambling on and being sad at her passing, though, I want to share something I wrote on Facebook about 7 years ago – in 2015 – when I had the most wonderful chance encounter, a moment that any great fan of something can understand and appreciate. A moment that left me a little stunned, with my son asking “You okay?” and me not even being able to answer him:
July 13, 2015: “Sometimes you’re at the airport, and suddenly Nichelle Nichols is there. 2 feet from you. And you lock eyes with her and your whole mind freezes up. And she smiles warmly at you and recognizes the look of stunned adoration, and says “Hello” and and gives you a smiling, loving wink and nod that says “yes, it’s me, you’ll be okay, just keep breathing” and she continues on her way. And after she’s gone, you feel lighter, and taller, and like you’ve been touched by a power of goodness and light from a time long ago, spoken of now only in song and legend.”
Rest in peace, Ms. Nichols. Thanks for the wonderfulness that you brought to the world. And thanks for that 10 seconds of kindness you showed to a nerd that you saw get overwhelmed by your very presence.