Beatrice Liqui’s Story: In Celebration of Bed-Stuy’s Very Own Hidden Figure’s 90th Birthday

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Ms. Beatrice Liqui

On March 17, 2018, Beatrice Liqui will turn 90 years young. Born on March 17, 1928, in Tiplersville, Mississippi, Beatrice Liqui is a highly accomplished woman of color who has decades of experience in entrepreneurial and academic endeavors alike. A self-described “mighty woman” and devout follower of the Christian faith, Beatrice Liqui is a treasure trove of rich stories of success and triumph, all of which she recalls in vivid detail. Ms. Liqui’s life is rife with examples of strong values and ideals which in turn have served to facilitate and sustain the enormous amount of success that she has had throughout her remarkable life.

At the age of 18, Beatrice Liqui purchased a Soul Food Restaurant in Memphis, Tennessee known as “Our Way” making her an exceedingly young entrepreneur by most standards.  “Our Way,” which was in existence for six years, was conveniently located across the street from a factory, so men who worked at the factory frequented the restaurant, according to Ms. Liqui. In her own words, “we gave them [the men who worked at the factory] credit and they paid us on Friday” when referring to her lenient policy towards her most loyal client base. Descriptively, Ms. Liqui recalls “I used to cook soul food, collard greens, potato salad, candied yams…” in reflecting on her experience as an entrepreneur. Interestingly enough, Ms. Liqui stated “I couldn’t get a license [for her restaurant] because I was only 18, so my cousin got the license for me.”

In 1951, what was supposed to be a two-week vacation to NY for Ms. Liqui, turned into a long term stay in the Big Apple. Initially, Ms. Liqui went to school, but “did not finish because” she “caught on too quickly.” Consequently, Ms. Liqui began working on 23rd street in Manhattan at a company “making parts for airplanes (controller) using fiberglass.” Shortly thereafter, Ms. Liqui began working at a company called Radio Electronics working with, as you might have correctly guessed, electronics. While at this company, Ms. Liqui created “a missile that tracked into space.” No that was not a typo, a missile.  Eventually, Ms. Liqui relocated to Hicksville, Long Island where she began working for German Aircraft Engineering as a technician. Additionally, Ms. Liqui also served as a Professor at New York University teaching dental technology. Ms. Liqui had a successful professional career at NYU despite naysayers who told her that it wasn’t possible.

A Hidden Figure Made Visible

In addition to being a woman of strong faith and academic inclination, Ms. Liqui can also add to her long list of accolades, being a woman who worked with NASA. From 1961 until 1969, Ms. Liqui was an employee at NASA. In that sense, Ms. Liqui joins the ranks of women who have worked in STEM related capacities at NASA such as Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson all of whom became household names through the well-received film, Hidden Figures.  In her own words, “I made the first vehicles that went to the moon (the Apollo program) and back…I was the technician that built everything.” in reflecting on her time with NASA. Rightfully so, Ms. Liqui’s contribution to the Apollo program got her two certificates of recognition acknowledging her effort.

Just the Beginning

In 1969, after completing her stint with NASA, Ms. Liqui embarked on yet another professional endeavor. She enrolled in courses to be a dental technician. It was also around this time that Ms. Liqui was encouraged to pursue a state certificate licensing her to teach. From approximately 1972 until 1982, Ms. Liqui held a teaching position at the New York School of Mechanical Dentistry.

A Woman Grounded in her Faith

In 1990, Ms. Liqui joined the Brooklyn Tabernacle. Since joining this congregation, Ms. Liqui has been involved with the visitation ministry, the choir as a singer, and the group Seniors in Action. Additionally, Ms. Liqui has served as a tutor “and mother to many spiritual daughters and sons that she has mentored.” Moreover, Ms. Liqui is “ordained to teach the gospel.”

A Word from the Wise

In closing, Ms. Liqui had some pearls of wisdom to share with the younger generation. Ms. Liqui feels that “young people need to be motivated” and stressed the need for “training.” Specifically, Ms. Liqui feels that “college is okay…I didn’t go to engineering school, but I could do more work than the engineers could…sat down and took the parts…resistors, transformers.” Ms. Liqui believes that “all people can learn, they just need the right direction.” Moreover, Ms. Liqui warns against having a superficial title with no money to accompany it. In so doing, specifically Ms. Liqui says, “my mother gave me a name when I was born, I don’t need a title (with no money) …I was the first dental technologist in America.”

Priscilla Mensah covers topics related to improving health, wellness, and overall community empowerment. She is also a former Health Reporting Fellow at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism and can be reached at pmensahbrooklyn@gmail.com.