Black History Month Retrospective: Dr. Mae Jemison

Dr, Mae jemison, the first black woman in space, speaks to a large audience at Forest Lawn during a Black History Month gala. Photo by Thai Lee/

What better way to kick off Black History Month than with an evening of exceptional conversation with Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. and author of “Find Where the Wind Goes.”

Jemison shared her history about growing up on the south side of Chicago, her aspirations to be a scientist, her experiences in Africa as a medical student, and her ultimate journey into space as a NASA astronaut. The remarkable night was held at the Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills.

Dr. Jemison was one of 15 selected from a pool of two thousand applicants for the month of June 1987 Astronaut Training program. In 1992, with the flight of endeavor, she became the first woman of color from any country to go into space.

An attendee at the event, Alma Houston brought a couple of young ladies and her church family to hear Dr. Jemison speak.

“I am really interested in seeing what she has to say and very interested in her career. Overall, I am very impressed with her. I am hoping that the young ladies that I brought, one is 14 years old and the other is 15 years old will get something out of this event tonight,” said Houston.

Members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. were in attendance to support their sorority sister, Dr. Jemison.

Leslie Freeman, affiliated with the Epsilon Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha shared her thoughts on the conversation to come.

“I am expecting to be enlightened and to find out a little bit more about her journey and how she got to where she is, what she is doing currently and it is just a good feeling to see a prominent African-American women with goals that are positive. I have always been interested about the field that she is in. You always hear about space shuttles and the different movies about outer space or reading her biography, but I never imagined that I would be able to meet her. This is just history in the making and I feel blessed,” said Freeman.

Dr. Jemison (center) with her sorority sisters, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated. Photo by Thai Lee/


The moment Dr. Jemison stepped foot on stage, she expressed how excited she was to speak and to see everyone.

“I consider it an honor and a privilege to be here with all of you tonight. It really is a privilege and an honor, because right now you are sharing with me your time. Time truly is the one irreplaceable commodity that we all have at our disposal. While our time is limited, it has infinite possibilities,” said Jemison

Dr. Jemison shared with the audience that her parents had a lot to do with why she was confident enough to not limit her imagination and go off to space.

“As a little girl, I remember lying outside on a summer’s night and I would stare up at the stars all night using my imagination. I would imagine myself there; I wondered who lived there, what were the stars made of? I just assumed that I would go. Some might ask, ‘how did I imagine that I could go into space?’ When Allan Shepherd, Scott Carpenter, John Glenn… didn’t look anything like me or share anything in common with me. I could because; I was raised by parents who helped me to maintain my self-confidence. I learned to never limit myself, because of others limited imagination. You know what else I have learned? Never limit anyone else because of my own limited imagination,” said Jemison.

The work that she is doing now is called, 100 Year Starship (100YSS). 100YSS is an organization that seeks to ensure that all the capabilities required for human interstellar travel is a reality within the next 100 years. The organization is three years old this month. It was started with a competitive DARPA seed-funding grant in 2012 to establish a long-lived, private organization to foster the capacity for human travel beyond our solar system to another star.

The organization is meant to create, inspire, nurture and maintain an environment over the next 100 years so that a bold endeavor can be accomplished by someone.

Jemison believes that space is not just for rocket scientist and billionaires, but for everyone. Membership is available for all who desire to participate in history in the making. For more information about Jemison’s organization, go to

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