"Well, when I was nine years old, Star Trek came on, I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, 'Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there's a black lady on television and she ain't no maid!' I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be.”

Whoopi Goldberg

7

Uhura never had another name during the series. One of the fan writers wrote “Upenda” - which means “peace” in Swahili, I understand — not officially, but in some of their fan writings. And it sort of took hold. But when they were going to do the official history of Star Trek in a published book, the writer called Gene and asked him was “Uhura” her first name or her last name? Gene said, “Well, Nichelle and I never decided.” We always leaned towards it being her last name because it’s taken from the Swahili “uhuru” which means freedom. So it would sort of be like the same as “Freeman.” So he said, “You can make it her last name.” The writer said, “What about her first name? I’ve come up with one in Swahili. It’s Nyota.” Gene said, “I can’t give you that permission because Nichelle and I named her together, and she has rights to that, so you’ll have to call her and get her permission.” So he gave him my number, and he called me and I laughed and was delighted. He said, “I have a name and it’s Nyota.” I said, “That’s quite beautiful. What does it mean?” He said, “It means ‘star’.” I said, “You can have my permission!” So I have since said that her name is Nyota Upenda Uhura, which would mean a free-floating star: “star of freedom and peace”. I like that.—NICHELLE NICHOLS

8

Nichelle Nichols on meeting Martin Luther King jr. 

"I said "I’m going to leave Star Trek because (I was going to say ‘because  I have an offer to star in) …I never got that far”  

He said "You cannot - you cannot"

and I felt like that little boy Willis "What you talkin’ about dr. king"

(laughs) "But you know I didn’t say that"  

"But I was taken aback, and I didn’t say anything, I just looked at him"

He said "Don’t you know understand what this man [Gene] has achieved?"

"I just looked at him" and he saidFor the first time on television we will be seen as we should be seen every day – as intelligent, quality, beautiful people who can sing, dance, but who can also go into space, who can be lawyers, who can be teachers, who can be professors - who ARE on this day, and yet you don’t see it on television – until now…

"and he went on and I could say nothing, I just stood there, realizing every word that he was saying was the truth"

"and he said, "Gene Roddenberry has opened a door for the world to see us. If you leave that door can be closed. You see your role is not a black role, and it’s not a female role, he can fill it with anything - including an alien"

"And in that moment the world tilted for me, and I knew then, that I was something else, that the world was not the same. That’s all I could think of, what dr. king said ‘the world sees us as we should be seen’ "and i remember being angry come sunday. "Why me? Why should I have to?…

"Whatever happened come monday morning I went to Gene, and I’m not sure to this day what I was going to say. He’s sitting behind that same dang desk and he had whoever he was talking to leave because I went there first. And I said "Gene, and I told him what happened" and I told him "If you still want me to stay, I’ll stay - I have to" and he opened his drawer and said "God bless dr. martin luther king, somebody knows where I’m coming from" and he took out my resignation — that was torn into a hundred pieces  and handed me the pile, and we just stood there looking at each other, and I finally said "Thank you, Gene, and he said "Thank you, Nichelle"

"And my life’s never been the  same since, I’ve never looked back, I’ve never regretted it. Because I understood the universe had somehow put me there, and we have choices - are we gonna walk down this road? are we gonna walk the other..and it was the right road for me"

3

Nichelle Nichols (Uhura on the original series):”Whoopi Goldberg, she’s just marvellous. I had no way of knowing that she was a Star Trek fan. When I finally met her it was her first year on the Next Generation.

She loved the show so much and she told her agent she wants a role on Star Trek. Well agents go ‘Big screen, little screen, no, you can’t do that’. Well you can’t tell Whoopi ‘You can’t do that’.

And so they finally asked, and they had the same reaction at Star Trek office, specifically Gene. And she said, ‘I want to meet him and I want him to tell me to my face. If he tells me he doesn’t want me and why, I’ll be fine.’

Knowing Gene he had to take that challenge, and so he met with her. She said, ‘I just wanted you to tell me why you don’t want me in Star Trek.’

Gene said, ‘Well, I’ll just ask you one question and I’ll make my decision on that. You’re a big screen star, why do you want to be on a little screen, why do you want to be in Star Trek?’

And she looked at him and she said, ‘Well, it’s all Nichelle Nichols’ fault.’

That threw him, he said, ‘What do you mean?’

She said, ‘Well when I was nine years old Star Trek came on,’ and she said, ‘I looked at it and I went screaming through the house, “Come here, mum, everybody, come quick, come quick, there’s a black lady on television and she ain’t no maid!”’ And she said, ‘I knew right then and there I could be anything I wanted to be, and I want to be on Star Trek.’

And he said, ‘I’ll write you a role.’

http://www.bbc.co.uk/cult/st/interviews/nichols/page4.shtml

Nichelle Nichols inspires Whoopi Goldberg to become an actress because she was the first black woman Whoopi’d ever seen on tv that wasn’t playing a maid.

Whoopi gets her career launched by starring in The Color Purple.

Lupita Nyong’o was inspired to become an actress after watching The Color Purple because she was finally watching a film with people who looked like her.

So just to be clear, An African communications officer (who Nichelle never would’ve played if not for MLKJ encouraging her about representation) inspired the lead actress in the best black film of all time (which was based off a book written by a black womanist) where the women carried the weight of the film, which led to an African actress to get the role in a high profile film, directed, written by and starring black folk before even graduating school and now has the most nominations I’ve ever seen from someone so inexperienced.

But by all means, keep making racist powerpoints about how representation has no affect on anyone just because you don’t see color.

2

Nichelle Nichols talks to a group of students at NASA Mission Control in 1977 and visits the Lewis Research center that same year.

In the mid-1970s, Nichols had given a speech that criticized NASA for not selecting women and people of color as astronaut candidates. The agency’s response was to hire her to find and recruit talented minorities and women, and she did exactly that. In her tenure as a recruiter, she helped the agency bring five women, three African American men and an Asian American male on board.

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