Saturday, July 16, 2016

Melvin, Malik, and Tale of the Tigers

This photo gets posted a lot on my Facebook newsfeed.

It is NASA astronaut Leland Melvin and, like most others, I’m charmed by his love for his furry family and their love for him.

But, after reading Melvin’s biography, I’m struck by something else. He went to college on an athletic scholarship—football—but he did not take the easy route while there. His undergraduate degree is in chemistry.

Melvin was drafted in the NFL, but chronic injuries ended that career. But he had another avenue available to him, which resulted in his being a crew member of two missions of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

There are several reasons that Mr. Melvin’s story fascinates me, but I want to mention just one.

On the cover of my novel, Tale of the Tigers, you see three people: the main characters, Kevin and Felice, and a third person: Malik. Malik is probably my favorite creation, but I didn’t just conjure his personality and persona out of thin air or wishful thinking. I made him athletic, handsome, and brilliant because I have known many black men like him. Men who are gifted physically, but most importantly, intellectually. They are black, but they aren’t the sort of black men who are featured in the news. They aren’t “news” because they are good men who are content to use the gifts which God gave them to thrive in the greatest country available to people of all races, with the gifts being interior rather than exterior.

I’m always fascinated by black people who become well-known outside of something intrinsic to race.[i] I suppose that’s an irony, but it’s true.

[i] When I used to watch Fox News, I used to love seeing Neil Tyson deGrasse for this reason. Sadly, he has ruined that for me of late.

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