LeVar Burton, Mae Jemison and 5 more geeks launch Black Tribbles Hall of Fame


    With February’s distinction as Black History Month, the Black Tribbles have created the Tribbles Hall of Fame, a virtual shrine to those luminaries of science, history and special achievement who have proudly worn their geek as a badge of honor.

    With February’s distinction as Black History Month, the five-headed hairy hoard that is Black Tribbles — famously too cool to be geeks, too cute to be nerds — has created the Tribbles Hall of Fame, a virtual shrine to those luminaries of science, history and special achievement who have proudly worn their geek as a badge of honor.

    It is not uncommon to see a celebrity stride down today’s red carpet styled in “Lord of the Rings” Pro-Keds, or a physicist hailed on Twitter with 10,000 retweets for her planet-bending discoveries, but such occurrences, for the black geek, were verboten in times gone by.

    The black geek has been shunned, scoffed and ridiculed. The few whose accomplishments won acclaim were celebrated for a time, usually for as long as it took someone of the connection complexion to repeat the victory and take with it the glory. The winners write history, and so there are many names, careers and legends of the disenfranchised whose stories could stand a retelling, whose song deserves a choir accompaniment, and whose quill we’ll dip in permanent ink.

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    Today and every February hereafter, the Black Tribbles will induct a class of seven distinguished gentlemen and women into our simulated museum of Tribbledom, seeking to resurrect past glories to those whom time has forgotten while reaffirming the role geeks of African descent have played in shaping the world we live in today.

    We will also induct three persons each year, regardless of race, as “Legacy Tribbles,” persons of note whose absence from these hallowed halls would be conspicuous, possibly criminal.

    The Black Tribbles Hall of Fame

    The criteria were simple. The crew was tasked to each compile a list of seven geeks deserving of inclusion in the first class of the Tribbles Hall of Fame. From that master list, the stories and success of each individual served as a barometer for who made the cut and who did not. The unspoken common denominator was that all of our perspective inductees were to be of African heritage in one form or another.

    The choices were hard, the arguments fierce, but the decision final and satisfying. So, without further delay, the inaugural class of the Black Tribbles Hall of Fame is:

    Guy BlufordYou know it’s only right that the first African American in space, floating all care-free among the stars, would take off from the birthplace of freedom. Philly, Philly — Philly is where this guy be from!
    LeVar BurtonFor one generation, he’s the face of slavery from his role as Kunta Kinte in “Roots.” For another generation, he’s “us” in space as Geordi LeForge on “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” And he touched all generations as the host of PBS’ “Reading Rainbow.”
    Morgan FreemanAn Academy Award-winning actor who made reading as cool as sports (“Easy Reader,” “The Electric Company”) and who gave God his soul back (“Bruce Almighty”).
    Dr. Mae JemisonThe first African-American woman to travel in space, and the distinguished holder of nine honorary doctorates in science, engineering and the humanities
    Dwayne McDuffieA revered comic book writer and creator (“Static Shock”) and television producer (“Justice League Unlimited”) adored for the stature of his character as well as his being.
    Jackie OrmesThe first African-American female cartoonist, whose renowned comic strip “Torchy Brown” showcased an image of a black woman who, in contrast to the contemporary stereotypical media portrayals, was confident, intelligent, and brave. Her legacy lives in the listing of black female artists called The Ormes Society.
    Arturo SchomburgA black Haitian-Puerto Rican who was told at the age of 5 that black people have made no contributions to history, setting him on the path to chronicling the achievements of Afro-Latin Americans and Afro-Americans for the rest of his life. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, named in his honor, at the New York Public Library branch in Harlem is a must-see.

    And now for a little about the nominees.

    Jason’s nominees

    Jason had the unfortunate embarrassment of having his entire list rejected because he did not include one person of African descent. His nominees are illustrious giants in their fields and will undoubtedly grace our Legacy Hall in the future, but not in 2015.

    Ralph Baer (1922 – 2014) — Video game pioneer and creator of “Pong,” considered the first arcade game and the birth of the gaming culture as we know it today.
    Walt Disney (1901 – 1966) — Iconic animation and movie producer, business magnate. From movies, television to anything entertainment, no one can say they haven’t been touched by Walt Disney.
    Mark Hamill (1951 – ) — One of the rare actors to hold iconic status in film (Luke Skywalker of the “Star Wars” saga) and animation (The Joker of DC’s animated universe).
    Shigeru Miyamoto (1952 – ) — Creator of the world-famous Nintendo Entertainment System brands Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., Zelda, Starfox, and much more
    Andrea Romano — Warner Bros. Animation casting director. Certified genius in building the voice casts for DC animated universe and countless Warner Bros. properties.
    Tara Strong (1973 – ) — The go-to voice actor for whimsical independent female roles in animation (“Rugrats,” “The Powerpuff Girls,” “Teen Titans GO!,” “My Little Pony”).
    Osamu Tezuka (1928 – 1989) — “The Godfather of Anime,” best known as the creator of Astro Boy, Kimba the White Lion, and Metropolis.

    The lists compiled by the four remaining Tribbles were stacked with notables from the worlds of space, children’s entertainment, sports, comics and engineering. Any of the following would have been a worthy representative of the THOF first class.

    Kennedy’s nominees

    Benjamin Banneker (1731 – 1806) — Inventor of the stoplight and peanut butter. Surveyor or Washington, D.C. This free, self-taught, African-American scientist, almanac author and farmer widely, considered to be the first black geek.
    Guy Bluford (1942 – )
    Charles Bolden (1946 – ) — The current administrator of NASA, who we appropriately hail as Sisko Tribble.
    W.E.B. DuBois (1868 – 1963) — American sociologist, historian and civil rights activist, whose book, “The Philadelphia Negro,” pulls back the curtain on life for the black American from the end of the Civil War into the Industrial Revolution, and is hauntingly still relevant today.
    Jarita Holbrook (1965 – ) — This woman (with the official moniker Astro Tribble — she took the oath and everything!) is a cultural anthropological astrophysicist. The title alone belongs in the Hall.
    Arturo Schomburg (1874 – 1938)
    Toni Stone (1921 – 1996) — The first woman to play in Negro League baseball, who wore the scars of the disrespect shown by her male teammates as badges of honor. A life-long tomboy, Toni is quoted saying, “I loved my trousers. I love cars. Most of all I loved to ride horses with no saddles. I wasn’t classified. People weren’t ready for me.” Member of the Woman’s Sports Hall of Fame.

    Randy’s nominees

    Morgan Freeman (1937 – )
    Dwayne McDuffie (1962 – 2011)
    Ghostface Killah (1970 – ) — An eclectic hip-hop artist who laces his music with comic book- and geek-flavored pop culture references, as historically displayed on his Speed Racer-themed “Daytona 500” music video.
    Richard Roundtree (1942 – ) — A powerful actor of film and television forever immortalized as John Shaft (“Shaft”). Hush your mouth. Can you dig it?
    Jerry Siegel (1914 – 1996) & Joe Shuster (1914 – 1992) — They won’t make Legacy status this year, but no way Randy, a.k.a. SuperTribble, wasn’t going to pick the creators of Superman — the original superhero — first time at plate.
    Billy Dee Williams (1937 – ) — A legendary film and television sex symbol so iconic that he made an average malt-liquor beverage as well as the sight of a brother in a cape (Lando Calrissian, “Star Wars”) cooler than they should have been.
    Xzibit (1974 – ) — Musician, actor and noted “supergeek” with a comic book collection the size of Africa.

    Erik’s nominees

    Otis Boykin (1920 – 1982) — Inventor and engineer, created the electrical resistor that is still being used today in televisions, computer monitors, smart phones and more. He’s the “Ralph Baer” of the world of electronics without the glory.
    Levar Burton (1957 – )
    Samuel Jackson (1948 – ) — He’s in everything we love! He’s Mace Windu in “Star Wars.” He’s in “The Avengers.” He’s in “Pulp Fiction.” There’s nothing he can’t do or be in or make cool.
    Dr. Mae Jemison (1956 -)
    James Earl Jones (1931 – ) — One of the greatest actors in American history, winner of multiple Emmy, Tony, and Golden Globe awards, and an honorary Academy Award — and he makes the list because he is Darth Vader. He is Mufasa of “The Lion King.” And being King Jaffe Joffer (“Coming to America”) doesn’t hurt either.
    Neil DeGrasse Tyson (1958 – ) — Friend of the podcast (he’s Multiverse Tribble!) and, in his spare time, a visionary astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, science communicator and host of Fox’s “Cosmos.”
    Jaleel White (1976 – ) — He made being a nerd hot almost 10 years before everyone jumped on the bandwagon in the role of Steve Urkel (“Family Matters”). Big bang say what?

    Len’s nominees

    Benjamin Banneker 
    Denys Cowan (1960 – ) — An impressionistic comic book illustrator (“The Question”) and founding father of Milestone Media (with Dwayne McDuffie), whose influence shines from the pen and ink of today’s top black comic artists.
    Buster Jones (1943 – ) — The unsung voice behind prominent black or “black-ish” characters in ’80s cartoons such as “Ghost-Busters,” “Super-Friends,” “G.I. Joe,” and “Transformers.”
    Barack Obama (1961 – ) — The first African-American president of the United States. The Tribble-in-Chief. The H.T.I.C. (Head Tribble In Charge. Duh!)
    Jackie Ormes (1911 – 1985)
    Cree Summers (1969 – ) — Leaving the mop-top effervescence of Freddie (“A Different World”) behind, the stunning actress forged a powerful career in voice acting diverse characters in nearly 200 animated film, television and video game projects, including “Rugrats,” “Tiny Toon Adventures,” “X-Men” and “Batman Beyond.”
    Ron Wilson — Unsung ’70s Marvel Comics illustrator (“Marvel Two-In-One,” “Masters of the Universe”) who helped maintain the house style for many of the iconic characters gracing the big screen today.

    Legacy Tribbles

    The troupe of Kennedy Allen, Erik Darden, Jason Richardson and Randy Green allowed show creator and producer Len Webb to elect the maiden class of Legacy Tribbles into the Tribbles Hall of Fame. They are:

    David GerroldThe science-fiction screenwriter and novelist who gave life to our furry asexual counterparts in his script for “Star Trek” episode “The Trouble with Tribbles.” I doubt his directions called for there to be absolutely zero black tribbles amongst the multi-colored menagerie that befell Captain Kirk, but we’re happy to fill the void just the same.
    Gene RoddenberryThe sci-fi futurist best remembered for having created the original “Star Trek” television series and thus the “Star Trek” science-fiction franchise, his vision of racial harmony and equality as depicted by the crew of the USS Enterprise and the ethics by which they lived still serves as the hope of things to come.
    Nichelle NicholsAn accomplished singer who shared stages with greats such as Count Basie in her early years, she put aside her misgivings about science fiction to embrace the historic role of communications officer Lieutenant Uhura in the popular “Star Trek” television series (1966-1969), as well as the succeeding motion pictures. Her grace and beauty provided inspiration to us all reaching for the stars and finding a hand like ours guiding us through the cosmos.

    Each month, prolific Philadelphia podcasters, the Black Tribbles (winners of the 2014 Streaming Project of the Year award), visit Speak Easy with special reports on everything sci-fi, comic books, movies, video games, cartoons, and other stuff that every nerd needs to know.

    Hear this and more from the Black Tribbles on their podcast, “Tribble Nation,” available at iTunes and Pod-o-matic. “Tribble Nation” is a monthly podcast focusing on the geek in every color imaginable, from scientist to author, from comic book artist to comic book collector. Each episode features an interview with a special guest and a review of current topics within his or her field of geek interest.

    The Black Tribbles are: Jason Richardson, aka Spider-Tribble; Len Webb, aka BatTribble; Kennedy Allen, aka Storm Tribble; Erik Darden, aka Master Tribble; and Randy Green, aka Super Tribble.


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