ABC News is reporting that Black space engineer, housing advocate Ken Kelly dies at 92. Ken’s place in the Peanuts world is that when Harriet Glickman was trying to convince Schulz to add an African-American character to Peanuts and Schulz was dubious about how that would be accepted, Ken was the person she convinced to give Schulz a Black perspective. Without him, it’s likely that we’d not have gotten Franklin.
But that’s neither the beginning nor the end of Ken’s activities to make America more welcoming to Black folk. Read that ABC piece, and you’ll see a guy who faced repeated discrimination from real estate agents, so turned around and became one himself, who got into jobs where others tried to keep him out on the basis of the color of his skin…. and achieved important advances in communications engineering.
And here’s where I’m feeling guilty, folks: I didn’t know (or at the very least, didn’t process) he was still alive and living in the area until I learned of his death. I could have and should have interviewed him at some point in the last decade. And now the chance is gone.