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‘Star Trek’ actress Nichelle Nichols dies at 89

George Takei tweets ‘we lived long and prospered together’

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(Screenshot/YouTube The Smithsonian Channel)

She was a groundbreaking cultural icon who broke barriers in a time of societal upheaval and battling for the civil rights of Black Americans. An actress, a mother and thoroughly devoted to the legions of fans of “Star Trek,” Nichelle Nichols, Star Trek’s Lt. Nyota Uhura, has died at 89.

The announcement on her Facebook page by her son read:

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Friends, Fans, Colleagues, World

I regret to inform you that a great light in the firmament no longer shines for us as it has for so many years.

Last night, my mother, Nichelle Nichols, succumbed to natural causes and passed away. Her light however, like the ancient galaxies now being seen for the first time, will remain for us and future generations to enjoy, learn from, and draw inspiration.

Hers was a life well lived and as such a model for us all.

I, and the rest of our family, would appreciate your patience and forbearance as we grieve her loss until we can recover sufficiently to speak further. Her services will be for family members and the closest of her friends and we request that her and our privacy be respected.

Live Long and Prosper,

Kyle Johnson

Nichols was born in Robbins, Ill., in 1932, according to her IMDb page. Legendary composer Duke Ellington “discovered” Nichols and helped her become a singer and dancer. She later turned to acting, and joined Gene Roddenberry’s “Star Trek,” where she played Uhura from 1966 to 1969.

Out actor George Takei who played ‘Sulu’ on Star Trek the original series with Nichelle Nichols who played Lt. Nyota Uhura, at a Star Trek convention in this undated photo. (George Takei/Twitter)

It was in that role of Uhura that Nichols not only broke barriers between races, most famously her onscreen kiss, the first between a Black person and a white person, with castmate William Shatner, who played Capt. James T. Kirk, but she also became a role model for young Black women and men inspiring them to seek out their own places in science, technology, and other human endeavors.

In numerous interviews over the years Nichols often recalled how the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a fan of the show and praised her role and personally encouraged her to stay with the series.

When the first series ended Nichols went on to become a spokesperson for NASA, where she “helped recruit and inspire a new generation of fearless astronauts.” She later reprised her role in several successful “Star Trek” films and continued to advocate for the advancement of Black Americans especially in the areas of science and technology.

Formerly a NASA deputy administrator, Frederick Gregory, now 81, told the Associated Press he once saw an advertisement in which Nichols said “I want you to apply for the NASA program.”

“She was talking to me,” he recounted. The U.S. Air Force pilot would apply and later become the first African American shuttle pilot.

President Joe Biden weighed in Sunday afternoon on her passing in a statement issued by the White House:

In Nichelle Nichols, our nation has lost a trailblazer of stage and screen who redefined what is possible for Black Americans and women.
 
A daughter of a working-class family from Illinois, she first honed her craft as an actor and singer in Chicago before touring the country and the world performing with the likes of Duke Ellington and giving life to the words of James Baldwin.
 
During the height of the Civil Rights Movement, she shattered stereotypes to become the first Black woman to act in a major role on a primetime television show with her groundbreaking portrayal of Lt. Uhura in the original Star Trek. With a defining dignity and authority, she helped tell a central story that reimagined scientific pursuits and discoveries. And she continued this legacy by going on to work with NASA to empower generations of Americans from every background to reach for the stars and beyond.
 
Our nation is forever indebted to inspiring artists like Nichelle Nichols, who show us a future where unity, dignity, and respect are cornerstones of every society.

Nichols son said that services will be private for family members and her closest friends.

In 2008 the actress at a news conference, coordinated by the filmmakers of the motion picture “TRU LOVED,” in honor of the more than 900 students at Los Angeles’ Miguel Contreras Learning Complex’s School of Social Justice who participated in the GLSEN Day of Silence.

Nichelle Nichols speaks on LGBTQ rights:

Her fellow castmate and life long friend, openly Out actor George Takei shared his sadness on hearing of Nichols’ passing on Twitter:

From the September 2016 edition of the Smithsonian Channel: “Star Trek’s decision to cast Nichelle Nichols, an African American woman, as major character on the show was an almost unheard-of move in 1966. But for black women all over the country, it redefined the notions of what was possible.”

Star Trek’s Nichelle Nichols on Uhura’s Radical Impact:

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Celebrity News

John Waters released from hospital after car accident

Crash took place in Baltimore County

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John Waters (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

BY TAJI BURRIS | Baltimore filmmaker John Waters was released from the hospital Tuesday morning following a car accident.

The 78-year-old released a statement saying that although he was hurt in the Baltimore County crash, he did not sustain major injuries.

The rest of this article can be found on the Baltimore Banner’s website.

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More than 1 million people attend Madonna concert in Rio

Free event took place on Copacabana Beach on Saturday

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Madonna performs on Rio de Janeiro's Copacabana Beach on May 4, 2024. (Screen capture via Reuters YouTube)

An estimated 1.6 million people on Saturday attended Madonna’s free concert on Rio de Janeiro’s Copacabana Beach.

The concert, which was the last one as part of Madonna’s Celebration Tour, included a tribute to people lost to AIDS.

Bob the Drag Queen introduced Madonna before the concert began. Pabllo Vittar, a Brazilian drag queen and singer, and Anitta, a bisexual pop star who was born in Rio’s Honório Gurgel neighborhood, also joined Madonna on stage.

Congresswoman Erika Hilton, a Black travesti and former sex worker, and Rio Municipal Councilwoman Mônica Benício, the widow of Marielle Franco, a bisexual Rio Municipal Councilwoman who was assassinated in 2018, are among those who attended the concert.

“Madonna showed that we fight important fights for the human rights of Black (people), young (people), women and LGBTQIA+ people, and against all injustice, discrimination, and violence,” said Associaçao Nacional de Travestis e Transexuais (National Association of Travestis and Transsexuals), a Brazilian trans rights group known by the acronym ANTRA, on its X account. “What they call identitarianism’ is our subversion to the retrograde and conservative tackiness that plagues the country.”

The Associated Press reported the concert was Madonna’s biggest ever.

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HRC releases ‘Queer Renaissance Syllabus’

Beyoncé’s hit album inspired curriculum

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Beyoncé performs at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., on Aug. 6, 2023. The Human Rights Campaign has released a curriculum that her "Renaissance" album inspired. (Washington Blade photo by Isabelle Kravis)

In a move aimed at celebrating the beauty, brilliance and resilience of the LGBTQ community, the Human Rights Campaign unveiled the “Queer Renaissance Syllabus” that Beyoncé’s “Renaissance” album inspired. 

Curated by Justin Calhoun, Leslie Hall and Chauna Lawson of the HRC’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Program, the syllabus includes a variety of academic articles, essays, films and other media rooted in Black queer and feminist studies. Each piece is directly inspired by the tracks on Beyoncé’s Billboard 200-topping dance album, “Renaissance.”

Beyoncé’s album “Renaissance” stands as a cultural milestone, celebrating the Black queer roots of dance music while shedding light on overlooked Black queer artists. Inspired by her late-Uncle Johnny, the album not only garnered critical acclaim but also shed light on the often marginalized contributions of Black queer artists. Winning four Grammys and yielding chart-topping hits like “Break My Soul” and “Cuff It,” the album sparked discussions about economic impact and cultural representation.

Amid its success, legislative challenges arose, with Florida and Texas enacting bans on DEI initiatives in public colleges. Recognizing the album’s transformative potential, HRC developed the “Queer Renaissance Syllabus” to leverage its impact for education and activism.

Tailored for educators, youth-serving professionals, DEI practitioners, higher education leaders and admirers of Beyoncé’s artistry, the syllabus aims to encourage meaningful discussions, enrich lesson plans, and explore innovative ways to honor the vibrancy and significance of LGBTQ individuals and their culture.

With six themes anchoring the syllabus, ranging from “intersectionality and inclusivity” to “social justice and activism,” it provides a comprehensive exploration of various facets of LGBTQ experiences and expressions. Fan-favorite tracks from the album are paired with scholarly readings, offering insights into empowerment, self-acceptance and the transformative power of artistic expression. The syllabus also reinforces HRC’s efforts to highlight, amplify and re-center Black and queer voices.

By providing links to articles, books, podcasts and interviews, each associated with a song from the album, it celebrates the rich cultural heritage and contributions of the Black queer community.

The concluding section of the syllabus includes Beyoncé’s tribute to O’Shea Sibley, a young Black queer person who was murdered in Brooklyn, N.Y., last July while voguing to “Renaissance” songs at a gas station. HRC also includes a statement that condemns hate crimes.

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