Hidden Figures and Hidden Truths

Now up for 20 awards (including an Academy Award for Best Picture), Hidden Figures has wowed audiences across the nation and across the world. This incredible movie shines light on the brave works of 3 black women in a time when women weren’t seen as equals and black people were openly looked down upon. Racism was like morning coffee in the south, a daily norm that most people take part in. However these women didn’t let their circumstances define their lives. Instead they rose to the occasion and changed history. Here are 3 things (one from each lady) I took away from this film:

  1. Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson)Stay strong no matter your circumstances. I say this because not only was she taken from a place of comfort but she was moved into a room where black people did not enter unless they were there to clean. She was told ” “They’ve never had a colored in here before, Katherine,” … “Don’t embarrass me.” It was as if Black people were somehow inherently less intelligent and didn’t know “how to act” around white people. She had to walk a mile round trip to use the restroom allotted for colored people and had to use a separate coffee pot because no one dare touch something that a colored person had touched. It was dehumanizing to say the least and yet she stayed the course, stood up for herself and pushed the boundaries until her name was published on her work. When it came down to it, Astronaut John Glenn didn’t ask for that colored girl to do the numbers, he asked for the smart girl. Her victories were taken in stride and paved a way for not only women to be taken seriously but for women on of color to be allowed in the same room as everyone else, showing they have just as much (if not more) to contribute.
  2. Dorothy Vaughn (played by Octavia Spencer)Create a platform for yourself and pay it forward. Dorothy asked for a raise and promotion but was shut down. She did everything she could to prove her worth and yet the colored department wasn’t a concern. She could’ve slacked off and given up but she pushed forward. She looked ahead into the future of her department, took the skill set her father gave her long ago, and educated herself on new technology. She didn’t ask for someone to hand her an opportunity, she created one. She placed herself in a position where her white counterparts had no choice to not only see her potential but need her. She found a way to make what seemed impossible possible. When she had the chance to advance, she made sure to bring her people with her. She refused to be the only colored woman on the floor. No more attitude of “well at least one of us made it”. No… if I make it, then we are all going to make it.
  3. Mary Jackson (played by Janelle Monáe): When one door closes, create another one and walk through it BOLDLY. Now Mary may have needed a nudge to look beyond her circumstances but when she made up her mind to be an Engineer, no one could stop her. Her boss told her no, her husband didn’t think it to be possible, but she pressed forward. Not only did she get a court date to fight her case but she came prepared. Actually that is a bonus take away: always be prepared! She did her research on the judge she was to see, on what she needed to do to get her education, and put it all on the table. It was her hard work and determination that got her a seat at the table. When she entered the classroom filled with only white men and no colored section, she took a front row seat. That itself was a powerful statement. In a time when black people still had to ride the back of the bus, eat at the back of a restaurant, and take a back entrance into a building, Mary Jackson sat at the front of a room to get an education most black people couldn’t access.

Each of these women went on to do make even bigger contributions to the NASA program, helped with the advancement of women, and helped with the advancement of their own people. I have never walked out of a movie theater more proud to not just be a woman but to be a black woman. It is beautiful to see a positive image of the Black women being portrayed on such a major platform. However one question still remains. With a story like this just now being told over 50 years later, what else am I missing? I should’ve learned about this in history class. This story should have been in books well before my childhood. So once again I pose the question of what else am I missing? Now more than ever the desire to dig deeper in the history of my people feels imperative. Not just because our country is split on racial and gender inequality but more so because tomorrow is not guaranteed. I want to know everything I can about my own history before I leave this earth. Not only for me but for future generations so they can know where they come from. We are more than just a stolen people brought over as slaves. We are inventors, doctors, lawyers, policemen, teachers, academic scholars, medical professional, chefs, etc. We are so much more than the limited history that we have been taught.

 

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A young 30 something trying to find my way to a healthier lifestyle and learning to embrace all that is me. Why don't you join me on my journey.

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