Skit: MLK Jr. and Lieutenant Uhura Have Coffee and Cake, by Ruth Ellen Kocher
“In this speculative excerpt, Kocher conflates the foreboding assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. with the hope of a brighter, more expansive future, entrusted to Afronaut Lieutenant Nyota Uhura.” – Tracie Morris
Below is an excerpt from an interview with author at KXCI Community Radio Station in Tucson, 2018, conducted by Debi Chess. Transcription follows.
[reading excerpt from Skit: MLK and Lieutenant Uhura Have Coffee and Cake]
“He squeezes her hand as the sun angles her curves away/ Leans into his own breath/ Someone/ he says/ and I trust you”
The character for me, [to the interviewer] as… you mention that you love her. I think most Black women our age love this character. For me, I saw her on television. I didn’t have Black women in my life. And when she walked on screen it was like magic. Right? There’s a little background story: My mother, in order to try to help me figure out my odd existence, told me when I was very young that the reason why I was Black and no one else in my family was Black was because God was making the babies He saw me come along and said ‘Stop the presses! There’s a special baby here. We need to get this special skin, we need to get this special hair. Go angels get the special skin and special hair.’ Right? And so I was chosen by God. This was my mother’s explanation. I saw no other people that looked like me except people on television. Which just endorsed the fact that we are special. Right? So when I saw her on television I was like: ‘Oh. There’s one of the special people like me. Like: [makes ‘heavenly choir sound’: Aaaaah]. It was kind of mythic. Martin Luther King Jr. was one of those people. I only saw Black people on tv. So they were part of this mythos of who I was. I couldn’t reach out and touch them. But there was a greatness associated with them. And I had to figure out how I was going to live into that greatness. It seemed, uh, it seemed, inevitable that their paths would cross. And as you know in actual life their paths did cross. This narrative for me though, is about paving a path into the future. And Martin is asking her basically to be our racial Johnny Appleseed in a way: Go forward into the future. Go forward in space. Not as an exercise in diaspora but in an exercise of deliberate planting and accounting for a future harvest. An accounting for a future sustenance.”
Ruth Ellen Kocher is the author of seven books of poetry, including Third Voice (Tupleo Press, 2016); Ending in Planes (2014), winner of the Noemi Poetry Prize; Goodbye Lyric: The Gigans and Lovely Gun (The Sheep Meadow Press, 2014); and domina Un/blued (Tupelo Press, 2013). Her poems have been translated into Persian in the Iranian literary magazine, She’r, and have appeared in various anthologies including: Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Poets, Black Nature, From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate and Just Plain Sound Great, An Anthology for Creative Writers: The Garden of ForkingPath . She has earned an MFA and PhD from Arizona State University, and grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, Yaddo, and Cave Canem. She is a Professor of English and the Associate Dean for the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Colorado at Boulder where she teachings Poetry, Poetics, and Literature in the undergraduate and MFA writing programs.
Photo by Ruth Ellen Kocher.
FUTURE is part of KPI’s small experiments of radical intentseries: Postcards to the Future: Protest in Place that began during the BLM protests while on pandemic lock down in summer 2020. The series runs through August 2021 and focuses on the voices in Letters to the Future: Black Women / Radical Writing, with the intent to uplift and celebrate Black women’s voices.
The KPI Postcards to the Future: Protest in Place team
Tracie Morris, Lisa Bowden, Desiree Maultsby, Denise Uyehara, Dulce Botello, Casely Coan, Liz Burden, Tina Howard