Star Trek: Discovery And Black Womanhood in Speculative Fiction

Now, I’ve never been a fan of Star Trek, outside of Deep Space Nine. Really, my earliest memories of the franchise were through my parents. When I was still a kid, I remember my Mom and Dad clustering around the fuzzy television screen to catch the latest episode of Deep Space Nine, or The Next Generation.

Honestly, I couldn’t really tell the difference between the two (hey, I was three years old at the time, and anything that wasn’t a Disney movie was uninteresting to me).

But I always felt a kind of connection to Deep Space Nine, based solely on the fact that Captain Benjamin Sisko reminded me of my father.

A strong black man who cared for his son, and didn’t take shit.

It wasn’t until I reached my twenties that I revisited Deep Space Nine, and really started to understand the show for what it was. A beautiful show that questioned so many aspects of modern life, from religion to fatherhood to war and espionage. Deep Space Nine was a show that didn’t stray from hard questions. But even still, Sisko and his family still resonated with me. Sisko was a black man who grieved for his wife, found comfort in protecting his son, sought wisdom from his father. Sisko encompassed so many different aspects of black life, and in a science fiction show no less.

Now, the time has come for another Star Trek series. Star Trek: Discovery. Originally, I wasn’t interested. After all, I had Deep Space Nine, and none of the other Star Trek shows interested me in the slightest (which apparently, is blaspheme to Trekkies).

But upon hearing that Sonequa Martin-Green of The Walking Dead fame was cast as the lead, I stood up and took notice.

As difficult as it is for black men to exist within Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, it’s even harder for black women. From Abbie Mills’ death in Sleep Hollow to Gwendolyn’s erasure in Merlin, Black women have hard when it comes to fandom spaces.

Having a black woman at the center of a science fiction program is a bold thing. Many pro-black spaces love to exclude black women from the table entirely (and looking at the #NotYourMule tag created by Mikki Kendall, and the #OscarsSoWhite tag created by April Reign proves how much labor black women have done). And on the other side, many feminist movements erase the work black women have done. Listening to the podcasts of Black Girl Dangerous, and reading and watching the posts and blogs of other black women, like Sensei Aishitemasu, and Afro-Elf on tumblr, has opened my eyes to the many aspects of black womanhood that are swept under the rug by both society a like.

While Discovery is not the first Star Trek show to feature a black woman (that honor belongs to the original series with Uhura) it is the first Star Trek series to have a black woman as the lead. This is going to be one of the few sci-fi shows franchises that places black womanhood at its center. With Commander Rainsford (Martin-Green’s character) is an important step for black women in the science fiction genre. Just like Sisko brought important aspects of Black manhood, black fatherhood, and black leadership into the conversation, Rainsford will more than likely bring forth the same conversations in today surrounding black women today.

Rainsford, by simply existing, fulfills one of Star Trek’s greatest goals: To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before.

I can’t wait to see it.