Strong Rooted: Volume 1 September 7, 2017
Dr. Mae Jemison October 17, 1956
When we speak of phenomenal women, we would be remiss not to talk about Mae Jemison. Jemison was the first African-American woman to go into space. Born in Georgia but raised in Chicago, Jemison’s strong will and dedication to science would pay off. As a child of an English teacher, Jemison was often challenged to explore and find the root cause. In elementary school, a teacher asked Jamison what she wanted to be when she grew up, and when she said a scientist, the teacher asked her if she meant a nurse. Typically Black students are discouraged from dreaming of being anything other than what others can see them as and usually; those things are not awe inspiring. Jemison did not let that bother her though. Jemison took the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King and looked at it from a different perspective. Jemison looked at Dr. King’s dream as one filled with audacity and hope, and she used it as a mechanism of refuting against limitations.
Jemison graduated from Morgan Park High School in 1973, and as a sixteen-year-old, she headed off to Stanford. Jemison faced racism and unfair treatment, but she persevered and graduated Stanford with dual degrees in Chemical Engineering and African-American Studies.
When I think of what it must have been like to be a 16-year-old student at Stanford during the 1970’s, I am even more fascinated by what Jemison has been able to accomplish. Jemison believes that dreams should be achieved and not just thought about. Before going to Stanford, Jemison wanted to be a dancer and contemplated going to study dance in New York, but decided that she could dance as a doctor and upon completing her Stanford studies, she went on to Cornell Medical school and received her M.D. in 1981.
Jemison did many other great things in her life before September 12, 1992, when she became the first Black woman to orbit into outer space, such as serving in the Peace Corp, dancing in West Side Story, and working with the Center for Disease Control.
Jemison would go on to work with NASA, teach at Dartmouth College and Cornell University and best of all she founded the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence in honor of her mother.
“If you don’t program your mind, it will be programmed for you.”-Dick Gregory