Mae C. Jemison

Mae Jemison

African-American Dr. Mae C. Jemison speaks 3 languages (Russian, Swahili, Japanese) and is an American physician and NASA astronaut.

Mae Jemison
Mae Jemison

She became the first African American woman to travel in space when she went into orbit aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour on September 12, 1992.

She is a dancer, and holds nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering, letters, and the humanities. In addition to this she has also choreographed and produced several shows of modern jazz and African dance.

In 1993 Jemison founded her own company, the Jemison Group that researches, markets, and develops science and technology for daily life; and the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence, named in honor of her mother. One of the projects of Jemison’s foundation is The Earth We Share (TEWS), an international science camp where students, ages 12 to 16, work to solve current global problems.

In 1999, Jemison founded BioSentient Corp and has been working to develop a portable device that allows mobile monitoring of the involuntary nervous system. BioSentient has obtained the license to commercialize NASA’s space-age technology known as Autogenic Feedback Training Exercise (AFTE), a patented technique that uses biofeedback and autogenic therapy to allow patients to monitor and control their physiology as a possible treatment for anxiety and stress-related disorders. BioSentient is examining AFTE as a treatment for anxiety, nausea, migraine and tension headaches, chronic pain, hypertension and hypotension, and stress-related disorders.

In 2012, Jemison made the winning bid for the DARPA 100 Year Starship project through the Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence. The Dorothy Jemison Foundation for Excellence was awarded a $500,000 grant for further work. The new organization maintained the organizational name 100 Year Starship. Jemison is the current principal of the 100 Year Starship.

She was the first real astronaut ever to appear on Star Trek as Lieutenant Palmer in the episode “Second Chances

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Jani Toivola

Jani Toivola

In 2011, Jani Toivola was voted a Member of the Finnish Parliament making him the first black, gay member.

Jani Toivola
Jani Toivola

The son of a Finnish mother and Kenyan father, he studied in HB Acting Studio, New York in 1999–2002. He was also the first black actor of note.

He’s been the host of ‘Idol’, Finland’s version of American Idol, a contestant on Finland’s version of Dancing With the Stars, and he’s been a spokesman for the Finnish Tourist Board, explaining what’s cool about Finland. He starred in ‘Heart Of A Lion’, a story about a local skinhead honcho, Teppo (Peter Franzén), who falls fast and hard for the beautiful, blond Sari (Laura Birn). The problem — she has a biracial young son named Rahmu (Yusufa Sidibeh) and an ex (Jani Toivola) who stops by often to see his son.

You can learn more about him on his official website and learn more about his story in this interview with PRI.

Mary Oyaya

Mary Oyaya

Kenyan-Australian Mary Oyaya played the role of Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.

MaryOyaya2

A modern renaissance woman, she has two masters degrees (International Relations, and International Social Development); has worked with NGOs on behalf of refugees in Australia; and has modeled for Gucci, Chanel, Sergio Rossi, and Salvatore Serragamo among others.

She has also been an extra in the movies–Lost Souls, Down and Under, and Farscape.

Edi Gathegi

Edi Gathegi

Kenyan-American Edi Gathegi, a graduate of New York University’s acting program, is making a name for himself in movie circles. He has been featured in ‘House, M.D.’ and, from what we’ve seen, this brother is going to have a great career.

Edi Gathegi
Edi Gathegi

Gathegi is a film, stage and television actor. He appeared as recurring character Dr. Jeffrey Cole (aka “Big Love“) in the television series House, as Cheese in the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone and as Laurent in the films Twilight, its sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Darwin in X-Men: First Class. He portrays Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged (2011), based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name.

He had a recurring role as Cole in House and has been a guest star in Lincoln Heights as Boa. These are pretty heavyweight roles and he does a great job.  In addition to these, he has also been in CSI: Miami, Justified, Red Widow, Family Tools, Beauty and the Beast, Into The Badlands, Proof, and Red Widow.

More recently, he plays the part of Mr. Solomon, a twisted, diabolical clean-up man for the Cabal in ‘Blacklist‘.  He is described as an unassuming and soft-spoken man, on the surface, with a hidden (and terrifying) capacity for violence, Mr. Solomon is a monster in gentleman’s clothing.  Executive producer John Elisendrath told TV Guide that Mr. Solomon will put someone close to Red in a position that would compromise the safety of others. He is definitely a dangerous enemy of Red and Liz. Gathegi is a recurring character on the show.

He also stars opposite John Travolta in the recently released movie, ‘Criminal Activities‘.

Keep up with his busy schedule on Twitter.

Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita Nyong'o

Kenyan/Mexican Oscar winner, Lupita Nyong’o has, as of this posting, won 25 awards! Talk about a breakout artist. Nyong’o is the first Kenyan actress and the first Mexican actress to win an Academy Award.

Lupita Nyong'o
Lupita Nyong’o

Lupita has been a production assistant on ‘The Constant Gardener’, ‘The Namesake’, ‘Where God Left His Shoes’, ‘In My Genes’, and the music video, ‘The Little Things You Do’.  She was Maz Kanta in ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ and is, as of this writing, working on ‘The Queen of Katwe’, ‘The Jungle Book’, and ‘Star Wars Episode VIII’.

She has also been on the cover or featured in several magazines including Vogue, Dazed and Confused, New York Magazine, and InStyle Magazine, to name a few. In 2014, she was named “The Most Beautiful Woman” by People and “Woman of the Year” by Glamour.

In 2014, she was chosen as one of the faces for Miu Miu’s Spring 2014 campaign and has been a regular on Harper’s Bazaar’s Derek Blasberg’s Best Dressed List since Autumn 2013.  To keep up with her extensive interviews, modeling gigs and movies, become a fan on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and Instagram and keep up with her movies on IMDB.

James Earl Jones

James Earl Jones

American James Earl Jones was a stutterer who overcame his stutter to become the memorable voice in the ‘Star Wars‘ series.  In a career of more than 60 years became known as “one of America’s most distinguished and versatile” actors and “one of the greatest actors in American history.”

James Earl Jones
James Earl Jones

Since his Broadway debut in 1957, Jones has won many awards, including a Tony Award and Golden Globe Award for his role in ‘The Great White Hope’. Jones has won three Emmy Awards, including two in the same year in 1991, and he also earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Leading Role in the film version of ‘The Great White Hope’. He is also known for his voice roles as Darth Vader in the ‘Star Wars’ film series, and Mufasa in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ as well as many other film, stage, and television roles.

As a child Jones had a stutter. In his episode of ‘Biography’, he said he overcame the affliction through poetry, public speaking, and acting, although it lasted for several years. A pre-med major in college, he went on to serve in the United States Army during the Korean War, before pursuing a career in acting.

On November 12, 2011, he received an Honorary Academy Award.

Owiso Odera

Owiso Odera

Owiso Odera was born in Khartoum, Sudan to Kenyan parents.

Owiso Odera, Brian Slaten and Amielynn Abellera
Owiso Odera, Brian Slaten and Amielynn Abellera

He got his M.F.A. in acting from the University of California, San Diego and has been seen on the big screen (Acholiland (2009), Relative Obscurity (2007) and Orenthal: The Musical (2013)).  On the small screen (Blue Bloods, Three Rivers, Dirt) and in theater (Mercutio, Othello, Citizen Barlow, The Overwhelming, and Samuel J & K, to name a few).

He was recently in the play Two Trains Running. Set in 1969 Pittsburgh, the play tells the story of a local diner owner fighting to stay open as a municipal project encroaches on his establishment. His regulars must deal with racial inequality and the turbulent, changing times.  The reading was directed by Michele Shay and featured Anthony Chisholm, Ron Cephas Jones, Tracie Thoms, James A. Williams, Owiso Odera, Keith Randolph Smith and Harvy Blanks.

He has most recently been seen in “The Originals” as Papa Tunde. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and read more about him and his experience on his official website.

Hazel Scott

Hazel Scott

Trinidadian Hazel Scott was a jazz and classical pianist and singer; she also performed as herself in several films. She was prominent as a jazz singer throughout the 1930s and 1940s. In 1950, she became the first woman of color to have her own TV show, The Hazel Scott Show, featuring a variety of entertainment. To evade the political persecution of artists in the McCarthy era, Scott moved to Paris in the late 1950s and performed in France, not returning to the United States until 1967.

Hazel Scott age 3 or 4
Hazel Scott age 3 or 4

Scott was awarded scholarships to study classical piano at the Juilliard School from the age of eight. As a teenager, she performed piano and trumpet with her mother’s “Alma Long Scott” all-girl jazz band, which sometimes featured Lil Hardin Armstrong. By the age of 16, Hazel Scott regularly performed for radio programs for the Mutual Broadcasting System, gaining a reputation as the “hot classicist”. In the mid-1930s, she also performed at the Roseland Dance Hall with the Count Basie Orchestra. Her early musical theatre appearances in New York included the Cotton Club Revue of 1938, Sing Out the News and The Priorities of 1942.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, Scott performed jazz, blues, ballads, popular (Broadway songs and boogie-woogie) and classical music in various nightclubs. From 1939 to 1943 she was a leading attraction at both the downtown and uptown branches of Café Society. Her performances created national prestige for the practice of “swinging the classics”. By 1945, Scott was earning $75,000 ($985,813 today) a year.

In addition to Lena Horne, Scott was one of the first Afro-Caribbean women to garner respectable roles in major Hollywood pictures. She performed as herself in several features, notably ‘I Dood It’ (MGM 1943), ‘Broadway Rhythm‘ (MGM 1944), with Lena Horne and in the otherwise all-white cast ‘The Heat’s On‘ (Columbia 1943), ‘Something to Shout About’ (Columbia 1943), and ‘Rhapsody in Blue’ (Warner Bros 1945). In the 1940s, in addition to her film appearances, Scott was featured in Café Society’s ‘From Bach to Boogie-Woogie’ concerts in 1941 and 1943 at Carnegie Hall.

She was the first Afro-Caribbean to have her own television show, The Hazel Scott Show, which premiered on the DuMont Television Network on July 3, 1950. Variety reported that “Hazel Scott has a neat little show in this modest package”, its “most engaging element” being Scott herself.

Scott continued to play occasionally in nightclubs, while also appearing in daytime television until the year of her death. She made her television acting debut in 1973, on the ABC daytime soap opera ‘One Life to Live‘, performing a wedding song at the nuptials of her “onscreen cousin”, Carla Gray Hall, portrayed by Ellen Holly.