Mae Jemison on Choosing to be an Astronaut—or a Dancer


When NASA astronauts rocket into space, they are allowed to take a few souvenirs from Earth with them. Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American woman to go on such a mission, revealed details about her 1992 Space Shuttle Endeavor keepsakes to a riveted, mostly black audience gathered at SAP’s San Francisco headquarters Friday night.

She took a Bundu statue from the Women and Girls Society of West Africa, a pink and green AKA banner, the flag of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), and a picture of Alvin Ailey’s Judith Jamison performing a dance called, “Cry.” It turns out that Jemison, the astronaut, was at one time seriously considering following in the footsteps of Jamison, the dance legend.

How did she choose those items to carry into space with her? “I wanted to…

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