We're going to Mars for the same reason Marco Polo rocketed to China,
for the same reason Columbus trimmed his sails on a dream of spices,
for the very same reason Shackelford was enchanted with penguins,
for the reason we fall in love; it's the only adventure.

We're going to Mars because Peary couldn't go to the North Pole without Matthew Henson,
because Chicago couldn't be a city without Jean Baptiste DuSable,
because George Washington Carver and his peanut was the right partner for Booker T.

It's a life-seeking thing.

We're going to Mars because whatever is wrong with us will not get right with us,
so we journey forth carrying the same baggage, but every now and then leaving one little bitty thing behind:
maybe drop torturing hunchbacks here,
maybe drop lynching Billy Budd there,
maybe not whipping Uncle Tom to death,
maybe resisting global war.

One day looking for prejudice to slip...
One day looking for hatred to tumble by the wayside...
One day maybe the whole community will no longer be vested in who sleeps with whom...
Maybe one day the Jewish community will be at rest,
the Christian community will be content,
the Muslim community will be at peace,
and all the rest of us will get meals at holy days and learn new songs and sing in harmony.

We're going to Mars because it gives us a reason to change.

If Mars came here it would be ugly: nations would band together to hunt down and kill Martians,
and being the stupid, undeserving life forms that we are,
we would also hunt down and kill what would be termed Martian Sympathizers,
As if the Fugitive Slave Law wasn't bad enough then,
As if the so-called War on Terrorism isn't pitiful now,
WHEN do we learn and WHAT does it take to teach us that things cannot always be:
WHAT we want,
WHEN we want,
AS we want?

Other people have ideas and inputs.
And why won't they leave Rap Brown alone?

The future is ours to take.

We're going to Mars because we have the hardware to do it.
We have rockets and fuel and money and stuff and the only reason NASA is holding back is because they don't know if what they send out will be what they get back,
So let me slow this down:

Mars is one year of travel to get there...
Plus one year of living on Mars,
Plus one year to return to Earth...
equals three years of Earthlings being in a tight space going to an unknown place with an unsure welcome awaiting them,
tired muscles,
unknown and unusual foods,
harsh conditions,
and no known landmarks to keep them human...

Only a hope and a prayer that they will be shadowed beneath a benign hand and there is no historical precedence for that except for this:

The trip to Mars can only be understood through Black Americans.
I say, the trip to Mars can only be understood through Black Americans.
The people who were captured and enslaved immediately recognized the men who chained and whipped them and herded them into ships so tightly packed there was no room to turn...
No privacy to respect...
No tears to fall without landing on another...
They were not kind and gentle and concerned for the state of their souls...
The men with whips and with chains were understood to be killers,
Feared to be cannibals,
Known to be sexual predators.

The captured knew they were in trouble,
In an unknown place,
Without communicable abilities with a violent and capricious species,
But they could look out and still see signs of home.

They could smell the sweetness in the air,
They could see the clouds floating above the land they loved,
But there reached a point where the captured could not only not look back,

They had no idea which way "back" might be.

There was nothing in the middle of the deep blue water to indicate which way home might be and it was that moment
When the decision had to be made:
Do they continue forward with a resolve to see this thing through or do they embrace the waters find another world?

In the belly of the ship a moan was heard,
And someone picked up the moan,
And a song was raised,
And that song would offer comfort,
and hope,
and tell the story.

When we go to Mars...
It's the same thing. It's Middle Passage.
When the rocket red glares the astronauts will be able to see themselves pull away from Earth,
and as the ship goes deeper they will see a sparkle of blue,
and then one day not only will they not see Earth,

They won't know which way to look.

And that is why NASA needs to call Black America.
They need to ask: How did you calm your fears?
How were you able to decide you were human even when everything said you were not?
How did you find comfort in the face of the improbable to make the world you came to your world?
How was your soul able to look back and

And they will tell them what to do:
To successfully go to Mars and back
You will need a song.
Take some Billie Holliday for the sad days and some Charlie Parker for the happy ones,
but always keep at least one good spiritual for comfort.

You will need a slice or two of meatloaf, and if you can manage it,
Some fried chicken in a shoe box,
with a nice moist lemon pound cake,
A bottle of beer because no one should go that far without a beer,
and maybe a six-pack, so that if there is life on Mars, you can share.
Popcorn for the celebration when you land while you wait for your land legs to kick in,
and as you climb down down the ladder from your spaceship to the Martian surface,
Look to your left,
And there you'll see a smiling community quilting a black-eyed pea,

Watching you descend.