What on Earth was Mr. Sulu doing at the Byham? He was ‘Boldly going where no one has gone before…’ by bringing his experiences to Pittsburgh and contributing to first annual Pittsburgh Humanities Festival. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust closed their weekend of events with a powerful, intimate performance from famed Actor and Equal Rights Activist George Takei. A huge Pittsburgh fan, Mr. Takei was very proud to be the capstone of the Inaugural year, and the highlight of the festivities. He expressed how much he enjoys visiting and working in Pittsburgh, and made a point to thank many personally for coming to his appearance.
And then the line formed… In addition to his formal spoken presentation, Mr. Takei engaged a very small crowd at a meet and greet prior to performance time. I made the acquaintance of a few Trekkies whom like myself were star-struck and eager to shake his hand. I was a bit jealous of some of the extravagant memorabilia they had brought for autographing. But, I wanted to meet the advocate within the actor. I had brought my bumper sticker I received from the Inclusive Scouting Network. He happily autographed it, and thanked me for my efforts to make progress with the Boy Scouts of America to end its ban on homosexual members and leaders. He also congratulated me on my son’s recent Eagle Rank. (proud mama moment, I had to brag).
He kicked off his speech with his own tribute to Pittsburgh. He described his first time riding through the Fort Pitt Tunnels and greeted by the glittering city on the other side as a dramatic entrance. Several times he has spent time walking around Pittsburgh to absorb our culture, as he does in other large, diverse cities around the world. He referred to his feet as to having an “Urban Tongue”, and confessed that Pittsburgh tastes delicious. He praised Pittsburgh’s resilience by reusing quality buildings and real estate innovating modern style and function. He was surprised to know that what is now known as a stunning cultural district was once a slummy, red light district. He says Pittsburgh shows optimism. I would say that is a very big compliment coming from the #1 Influential Person on Facebook.
What did I learn from Mr. Takei this evening? George spoke of his family’s time confined within the Japanese American Internment Camps during World War II. Deeply moved by the works of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., he self-educated through volunteering in political offices in order to understand why he and his family were once considered “enemy non-aliens” rather than innocent Americans. He identified the parallels between other historical milestones such women’s suffrage, racism and the fall of segregation and how problems still exist today regarding marriage legalization, equal pay and unjust anti-gay policies and bans.
I realized that George Takei is not who he is today just for being the original helmsman on the Starship Enterprise but for being a bold, brave man who stood up for not just himself but millions of other Americans who share his dream of being treated equal no matter how we look or who we love.
My thanks go to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust for the invitation to the event, and to Mr. Takei for taking two minutes and thirty seconds to share a special moment with a Steel City Mom.
Learn more about the event: Click Here