Astronaut MAE JEMISON flew as Mission Science Specialist on a seven day flight aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1992. She was born in Decatur, Alabama on October 17, 1956 just as the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, which launched the civil rights movement, was reaching its climax. Dr. Jemison entered Stanford University at the age of 16, graduating with a double major in African American Studies and Chemical Engineering.

Dr. Jemison is an avid jazz dancer and an accomplished choreographer. As a college senior she was torn between going to medical school in New York and becoming a professional dancer. Her mother advised her that, “You can always dance if you’re a doctor, but you can’t doctor if you’re a dancer.” She received her medical degree from Cornell University in 1981, and went on to practice medicine as a volunteer in a Cambodian refugee camp and as a medical officer with the Peace Corps in West Africa. Dr. Jemison was working as a general practitioner in Los Angeles, California when NASA recruited her. Currently she is a member of the Dartmouth Environmental Faculty, and is the head of the Jemison Institute, which she established to improve healthcare in Africa and advance technology in developing countries throughout the world. Here are three quotes from Dr. Jemison.“When I’m asked about the relevance to Black people of what I do, I take that as an affront. It presupposes that Black people have never been involved in exploring the heavens, but this is not so. Ancient African empires — Mali, Songhai, Egypt — had scientists, astronomers. The fact is that space and its resources belong to all of us, not to any one group.”“I want to make sure we use all our talent, not just 25 percent. Don’t let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity.” “It’s your place in the world; it’s your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live.”

Whereas Mae Jemison literally blasted off into space, OCTAVIA BUTLER not only took off into the cosmos, she traveled backwards and forwards in time, with the use of her mind. Octavia Butler was one of the greatest science fiction writers ever. She looked at race, gender and class from a variety of imagined, often scientifically grounded, allegorical settings. Her novel, Parable of the Talents, won the 1999 Nebula Award. Her short story, “Speech Sounds,” took the 1984 Hugo Award. The 1984 Nebula Award for Best Novellete went to her groundbreaking tale, Bloodchild.

SOPHIA STEWART is also a science fiction writer. However, she has not received much recognition. In fact, she is suing the producers of The Matrix films for using her manuscript, The Third Eye, to make the first Matrix. She also asserts that the Terminator series is based on her work. The matter has been in the courts for a number of years. For more information go to Clearly, Mae Jemison, Octavia Butler and Sophia Stewart have let nothing keep them from reaching their fullest potential. Should we not follow their example?

(by Dr. Arthur Lewin, from Africa Is Not A Country: It’s A Continent by Arthur Lewin,