Gigi Mac’s Cool Chicks For Black History Month (Part 6)


Nichelle Nichols, B: December 28, 1932


This is Nichelle Nichols, and we are now entering into the upper regions of coolness. Hold onto something. I just want to know how just THREE years of a series can propel a cast into such legend as the cast of Star Trek, original series! What sort of wizardry is behind this Mr. Roddenberry?? Nichelle will always be Lt. Nyota Uhura to me. Zoë Saldana & JJ Abrams have tried their best, but it just won’t do… meh, somebody’s gotta do it tho, and so far, so decent…

Sometimes typecasting works to your favor. Did you know Nichelle Nichols began her career singing? She can proudly attest to performing with the likes of Duke Ellington & Lionel Hampton. There were also other acting roles she had, including an earlier, short-lived project by Gene Roddenberry called [how fitting] “The Lieutenant”, but all that she did would never equal the groundbreaking event that is Star Trek. Star Trek spawned an animated series, a slew of supplemental series depicting other facets of the franchise—one of which is due out in 2017, hopefully starring Angela Bassett [?! if that’s true, I hope everybody’s ready for those amazing cheekbones on-screen!] movies that are still being made this very day [Uhura even made it to Admiral!] in fact ‘Star Trek Beyond’ will play this summer. There’s a bit of resistance to JJ Abrams’ style by some of the Trekkie purists, but it’s out there, and I’m sure he’s banking on the fans not giving up on Roddenberry’s vision & cutting him some slack… hm… [besides, we know resistance is futile… bahaa…]

OK, back to Nichelle! At one point during the first year of filming Star Trek, and possibly with a broken heart, as Gene Roddenberry, a former lover, had chosen to be formally linked to Majel Hudec [also part of the cast & as well as the voice of the computer in Star Trek: The Next Generation] and would later marry her, Nichelle was tempted by Broadway. She was actually going to leave the show to pursue the stage, until Martin Luther King Jr. himself, a big fan of the show, appealed to her to stay on. See, this was the first time the public had ever seen a black woman in a series NOT being someone’s servant, working alongside a diverse crew—in space! This was exciting!! Women & little girls would be inspired for years to come. So she stayed. Oh boy did she stay! Even after the last episode wrapped, Nichelle, always passionate about space travel, went on to be a volunteer at NASA, recruiting women & minority personnel and even participating in some of the voyages as an honorary guest, launching all kinds of programs for pursuit of space travel, writing books. As long as her health permits, she tries to make it to as many appearances as she can, always holding up the ‘Live Long & Prosper’ hand greeting, always genuinely happy to represent her franchise and she what she believes in. Even though actors have to fight the typecasting gremlin with other roles they pursue, it seems Nichelle had no problem at all slipping into other roles in unrelated shows and movies. In the backs of our minds, we kinda know she’ll always be Uhura, but her acting chops lends itself to whatever she’s doing, and seamlessly –that’s an actress’s actress right there. Class.



Her health… this brings me to recent events for Nichelle. Just last year, she succumbed to a mild stroke while at home and as of this date is recuperating. I think this year, if I do Halloween that is, I want to be Uhura… I just need a good Captain Kirk…

“Science is not a boy’s game, it’s not a girl’s game. It’s everyone’s game. It’s about where we are and where we’re going. Space travel benefits us here on Earth. And we ain’t stopped yet. There’s more exploration to come.”


Harriet Tubman, B: 1822 – March 10, 1913


OK, I’m convinced Harriet Tubman had a twin or was a cyborg from the future, because how could this petite 5’0” tall woman throughout her 91 years of life, some of which she spent as a slave [and the only thing she knew, as she was 3nd generation] do so many death defying things, all for the freedom of others? We’re talking covert ops, secret escape messages thru singing, night time maneuvers, bounties on her head, spy stuff! later serving as a nurse during the civil war, and she was doing this with ongoing head trauma injuries suffered when she was younger at the hand of an angry overseer– constant dizzy spells and hyperinsomnia… maintaining a family, and in a full skirt with petticoats! From her memoirs: “Tubman told the tale of one man who insisted he was going to go back to the plantation when morale got low among a group of fugitive slaves. She pointed (a) gun at his head and said, “You go on or die.” Several days later, he was with the group as they entered the United Province of Canada.” gasp emoticon Yes Minty! [that was her nickname] Get em! that man probably has great-grand kids eating poutine & elongating their O’s as we speak!

Frankly, I’m overwhelmed & intimidated… you remember what we touched on during black history month at school! Underground railroads and all that jazz… and you know there was that one kid who didn’t get the concept and thought there were actual trains down there & stuff… but all that didn’t even broach what Harriet [nee Araminta Ross, btw — hence the ‘Minty’… cool nickname! –after she married her husband John Tubman, she took her mother’s first name, Harriet, out of respect] accomplished to bring people to freedom. Abolitionist, Humanitarian, during the Civil war a Nurse & Union spy [yeayy!] even Women’s Suffrage when she was older, alongside Susan B Anthony. That is a life. I’ll leave it here, because I’d be writing into infinity… plus, I’ll be late for work…




 Pam Grier, B: May 26, 1942


“Baddest One-Chick Hit-Squad That Ever Hit Town!”

I always wanted to be Pam Grier when I grew up [or maybe raid her closet] she was just so cool! Early on there were some painful moments in Pamela Suzette Grier’s little girl life, and with a military father, her family moved constantly—not good for stability, but a decent opportunity to observe human nature and learn from that— perhaps a helpful way to start an acting career?


Now, I wouldn’t know the purpose of a ‘Blaxploitation’ film to save my life. Maybe we came to the States too late in the game, and of course I was a wee one, my main priority  figuring out how I could get my hands on my own set of fluorescent Crayolas [which JUST came out at the time] instead of borrowing the popular kids’ sets who would begrudgingly lend them out to the new black girl from ‘exotic lands’… excuse my eye roll… and knowing my parents, I’m certain this genre of film was banned at our house [please… nobody was even trying to explain the stills on my brother’s Clockwork Orange album! and my questioning was incessant!] I just remember the movie titles had big rounded & colorful fonts and weird names, almost everybody was black, they called the white people weird things like honky and cracker, and the men wore brown-themed and odd colored polyester suits with really big collars and ties– and platforms, lots and lots of platforms; and afros as far as the eyes could see!


Most of the women were extra damsel in distress-ish, but Pam knew how to put the hurt down on the bad guys and still look fabulous doing it, and she was crafty! like a spy! my favorite! Perfect fro, super-light highlighter right under perfectly arched eyebrows and a luscious lip! and what about those clavicles! all of which were unruffled after a few well-choreographed roundhouse kicks & karate chops or a gun battle — Ha! Love it! But honestly, I had no clue then; I just always thought Pam was awesome. I guess at this point I have an overall idea on the reasoning of the over-the-top Blaxploitation genre— still not sure if they help or hinder us, but they’re a fun tongue-in-cheek indulgence, and I definitely appreciate homages on their behalf, be it via Quentin Tarantino or a more blatant comedic angle like Dave Chappelle, MadTV, etc., but I could take or leave them. Glad Pam has had the opportunity to branch out and work on other projects to round out her career, and it’s inspiring that her roles are normally ones of strength and independence.


“…and as I reinvent myself, and I’m constantly curious about everything, I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner in newfound art and entertainment, and exploration”