Philip Emeagwali - Nigerian Inventor
Charles, my childhood friend was in one of his dark moods when he visited me last week.
‘Why are we so backward as a people?’ He barked.
‘We are?’ I asked sarcastically, having faced similar conundrums from ‘Professor Charles’ in the past.
‘I think so. You know one of my white colleagues actually asked me about Black achievement outside sport and I found myself floundering as usual. I mean, what have we contributed to the world?’
Charles was clearly agitated. His small head swivelled from side to side conveying his frustrations.
‘It’s the same thing back home, no one of any meaningful substance. Even our people in the States are too busy peddling drugs and rapping.’
I dared to reply. ‘Rappers make a lot of money and the hip-hop industry, which is quite black, is doing well.’ My voice tapered into a cautious whisper.
Charles was having none of it.
‘Tell me something concrete! What have we brought to the table of races?’
‘The table of races?’ I asked.
‘Yes! You know it’s a metaphor for the world.’ He hissed.
‘Anyway Charles, are you on the Internet at home?
‘Of course, don’t tell me we invented that!’ He yelled.
I ignored his truculent wit and went on to make a suggestion.
‘When you get home, can you get on the net and call me straightaway.’
Thirty minutes later he was on the phone.
‘Ok. I’m connected. What next?’
‘Can you get onto Google?’
‘Done it,’ he replied impatiently.
‘Can you search for Black inventors and inventions?’ I requested.
Charles descended into raucous laughter.
‘Black inventions! Are you mad? Ok, done!’
His voice trailed away and then returned with a boom.
‘A black man invented the cellular phone! You need to see this list. What? Traffic lights, refrigerator, elevator, air conditioning unit, golf tee, golf tee? And those bastards wouldn’t let me join their stuck-up golf club! Gas mask, Lawnmower, Guitar, Typewriter and Peanut Butter? You are kidding me? What have blacks achieved indeed? Oh, they are all going to get it!’ He shouted excitedly.
‘Charles maybe you should be the one getting it, for not knowing all this. I mean, you are black.’
‘Fountain pen, Stethoscope, Fire escape ladder.’ His voice rose and fell.
It was obvious Charles was in full flow, so I decided to put him on hands-free.
Ten minutes later, he was still mumbling to himself.
For more Black inventors and their inventions, check out the following link;