We have lost three great people over this past week. Bill Russell, a barrier-breaking basketball player for the Boston Celtics has passed on. Russell’s awesome rebounding triggered a Celtics fast break that overwhelmed the rest of the NBA in his days. In his final 14 years as a basketball player, Bill’s team participated in 21 winner-take-all contests, and of course, his team won all 21. Talk about a GOAT.
And let’s not forget Mary Alice, an Emmy and Tony award-winning actress who brought a delicate grace and quiet dignity to her roles in Hollywood blockbusters, The Matrix Revolutions, television sitcoms like A Different World, and Broadway plays like Fences. Alice died this week in her home in Manhattan at age 85.
And finally, Nichelle Nichols, best known for her groundbreaking portrayal of Lieutenant Nyota Uhura in Star Trek: The Original Series, died at age 89. And what a lady she was. I remember seeing her just before the pandemic because she was always busy.
When Star Trek began in 1966, Nichols was a television rarity, a Black woman in a notable role on a primetime TV series. Well, there had been African American women on TV before, but usually they were playing domestic workers and had small roles. Nichols’ Uhura was an integral part of the multicultural Star Trek crew. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. called it the first non-stereotypical role portrayed by a Black woman in television history.
Nichelle is really known for participating in one of the first interracial kisses on TV when her character kissed James T. Kirk portrayed by white Canadian actor, William Shatner. After her Star Trek years, Nichols dedicated herself to the space program. She actually helped NASA in making the agency more diverse. She helped recruit astronaut Sally Ride, Judith Resnik, and Guion Bluford.
Mary Alice, Nichelle Nichols, and Bill Russell: may you all rest in power.