12 // Black Future Month // African Space Programs

Posted on February 13, 2012

I held out as long as I could. I really did. But now I’m saying “uncle”. It has been 12 days of Black Future Month-ing, and I have yet to talk about space travel. That goes against every fiber of my mathlete, meteorology summer camp, Great America Roller Coaster Tester squad, blue ribbon science fair geekery. Gimme a sec, lemme push my glasses back up my nose.

Ahem. Space. The as yet undiscovered. The greatest equalizer, the yonder that puts Earth issues into perspective. Like, okay, right, consider for a second — that the twinkles you see in the night sky overhead, tonight — are really just representations of what those planets, satellites and space debris looked like when the light they emit left them, and traveled actual light years to reach your line of sight. Looking at the evening ether is like traveling back in time. I like thinking about things like that. Especially when I consider bills. And homework. And Romney. In the grand scheme of our galaxy (and the other galaxies that exist in tandem) it’s all small potatoes. I’ll stop there, before I go off on another tangent about the Hadron Particle Collider and the possibilities of scientists creating a big-bang-esque environment on Earth.

When Nick James, designer-among-other-things, shot me his T-Shirt design for Black Future Month 2012 I couldn’t have been more juiced.

I like the idea of wondering what Marcus Garvey‘d be on, if he were living today. Considering he spent every dime he had (and a few he didn’t) on creating a fleet of ships that would return descendants of stolen Africans to the continent…. Yup, perhaps he’d be ’bout building ships that travel beyond the exosphere, in pursuit of live-able, tenable property for displaced black futurists.

So, if Garvey wee alive today, who would he hire? Who you know knows how to design and fly a rocketship? Who among us has the wherewithal and inclination to actually build a machine like that.

Well, uh, these guys do.

First, I wanna highlight University of Michigan [insert pre-emptive Go Blue, here] professor Alec Gallimore. Gallimore got some attention, nationally, back in 2010. The principal of a local Ann Arbor school convened an all African-American group of students who met at lunch time, and attended special field trips, with a focus on bridging a significant achievement gap. Their last outing was to visit professor Gallimore at his U of M propulsion facility. When parents of children who were not invited found out, the Lunch Bunch program was suspended. The young black students who did visit the campus got a chance to meet Mr. Gallimore. He’s dedicated his life to enhancing the human capability to travel as far as our imaginations will carry us.

Second, I’d like to highlight Ugandan-American Kwatsi Alibaruho. Alibaruho worked for NASA, as the Lead Shuttle Flight Director for Atlantis, where he oversaw the very last space shuttle voyage. Not only does Alibaruho understand what it takes to get a space craft to its desired destination, but also what it takes to bring that ship back.

Lastly, cause my inner art-dweeb beats out my inner science-geek errytime, I’m adding a clip of Dollar Brand’s, (aka Abdullah Ibrahim) African Space Program 1974. Because every scientific discovery merits a culturally relevant soundtrack.

Thickwit Salutes the best of Garvey’s intentions, Gallimore and Alibaruho’s contribution to the field of space journey, Ibrahim’s flight path across measures, and Nick James’ design.

Want one of the shirts? Visit the Thickwit shop.


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