Nichelle Nichols: A Farewell

I don’t have a lot of very strong memories from my childhood. Surprisingly, a lot of them involve Star Trek. Well, perhaps it isn’t that surprising. The memory I want to reference at this time was of watching Lt. Uhura, the communications officer, fixing her own station. I remember sitting there with wide eyes for two reasons, the first being that NO ONE in my child mind touched Scotty’s ship but Uhura was doing just that. While she was there, sparks flying, Mr. Spock commented that he could think of no one better to fix the station. The second was that it added to the list of things that Uhura could do in my mind, which was getting very long. It became a very inspirational scene for me. 

That is my first memory of Nichelle Nichols. Prior to that I knew Lt. Uhura was beautiful. I knew she was fearless. I knew she was beyond competent. I loved that she could sing and dance. Little did I know that the attributes I gave her face and form due to the character she played were also true of the actress herself. 

Nichelle was born into a large family on December 28, 1932. She always knew that she wanted to act, dance and sing despite the fact that the rest of her family did not. Well, except for her father who was the mayor of their town and who could tap dance as well. Nichelle honed her talent and her hard work paid off. At age 15 she was touring with Duke Ellington as a dancer and a singer. It is not surprising that her career took off, including many roles in film. Nichelle was also nominated for the Sarah Siddons Award as Best Actress of the Year on two occasions. 

The role she is best known for was one that she almost walked away from. Gene Rodenberry approached Ms. Nichols to be in his science fiction series that was set in a utopian future. He and Nichelle worked together to help create her character but she missed her career in the theater. Nichelle often told the story that she was told that a fan wanted to see her, it turned out to be Martin Luther King Jr. He explained that Star Trek was one of the few shows he and his wife allowed their children to stay up to watch and how important her character was. Up to that point women of color had only been portrayed in offensive stereotypes. Her character was a Lieutenant, a person of rank and importance on the ship. 

Needless to say I was not the only child who was inspired by Uhura, and by Nichelle Nichols herself. After this meeting Nichelle decided to stay on Star Trek. Her time on the show, in the following features, movies and fan appearances would cement her in the minds of fans everywhere. It would also give her a larger platform to lift up others. Even to lift some up to the stars themselves. 

Nasa and Nichols partnered to bring more persons of color into the program. One such applicant was Dr. Mae Jemison. Dr. Jemison has had many accomplishments to her name, one of which is being the first woman of color in space. It isn’t a surprise that she was also a fan of Nichelle. Nichols kept her ties with Nasa and even got to go to space herself!  In September 2015, she flew into space as part of NASA’s Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA) telescope mission

Nichelle Nicholes worked to make a future she could be proud of. She used her career to open doors for others. She has been credited by many for helping pave the way for them in their own careers. She entertained with her lovely voice. She was a part of the first interracial kiss on television. She pushed boundaries and helped people she would never even get to meet. She was an example of excellence. 

Her time on Star Trek was just one part of her career but it had a lasting impact. For exampl,e she was the few woman of color I can remember seeing on television when I was a child. She made me want to be intelligent, brave, and kind. As I got older and got to learn about Nichelle the person I was inspired again to be tenacious and to work for others. I am grateful for all that she has done and for showing me how amazing a person can be. I am sad to say that she passed away on July 30, 2022. She will not only be remembered but celebrated for her legacy.

Thank you, Nichelle. I send my deepest love to her family, friends and to other fans at this time. 

ALWAYS KEEP SPARKLING!!!

Published by thiathebard

Lover of games, writer of articles and member of Real Women of Gaming. Thia the Bard has been writing from a young age and has always been a fan of the fantastic. She grew up playing video and board games. She loves trying different table top and role playing games. Thia is a proud geek and member of many fandoms. She is also interested in cosplay and Steampunk. Thia is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism. Time not spent gaming or running around in garb is usually spent writing. Always keep sparkling!

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