Shuttle astronaut addresses Black History Month audience at Patch
February 17, 2005
STUTTGART, Germany — After returning from space, astronaut Dr. Bernard A. Harris received a phone call from the Rev. Jesse Jackson, who asked him to pray.
“Lord,” Jackson said, “we thank you for bringing us from the slave ship to the space ship.”
Not everyone earns a personal preaching from the reverend.
Not just anyone can fly into space, either, until they have the dream first, Harris told a full house Wednesday at the 6th Area Support Group’s Black History Month Luncheon at the Patch Community Club on Patch Barracks.
“To come from our heritage and to be in space, it’s a tremendous blessing for us and our country,” said Harris, who 10 years ago this month became the first black to walk in space.
Under slavery, Harris said, blacks had no rights or freedom of expression and could only practice religion under cover of night. But 225 miles away in space, while walking outside the Mir space station, Harris said, he might have seen the Earth as God sees it — as a big blue ball with no borders between countries, states or people.
“From up there, you can see the unlimitedness of the universe,” Harris said.
From space, while looking at the great blue ball, Harris said, he was also reminded of a quote by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: “Sooner or later, all the people of the world will have to figure out a way to live together.”
“Through my eyes, I saw the vision [King] had of this world,” said Harris, 48, of San Antonio.
The dining hall was symbolically decorated with balloons of red for blood, green for prosperity and black for skin, as well as exhibits touting the feats of blacks, such as the writer Toni Morrison, activist Marcus Garvey and entrepreneur Madam C.J. Walker.
Army Sgt. 1st Class Carey Williams, the equal opportunity adviser for the 6th ASG, organized the event, which also included live entertainment. Williams said he hoped it would educate and inspire ... and maybe it did.
“It’s really exciting to see all the African–Americans who have been really successful in their career fields,” said Kimberly Knowles, 17, who toured the exhibits with her 13-year-old brother, Elliot. “And to meet an astronaut — that’s awesome, that’s so cool.”