You Were Probably Going To See Hidden Figures Anyway, But Go See Hidden Figures. » VSB

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You Were Probably Going To See Hidden Figures Anyway, But Go See Hidden Figures.

Fox 2000 Pictures screenshot

 

I feel like I’m in a pretty enviable position in life. Since I was 18-years-old, I’ve been surrounded by Black people who are actively involved in STEM fields. I have several friends with STEM PhDs, including one who writes for VSB on occasion. Two of my closest friends in life are PhDs in biomedical engineering/biology and psychometrics, I have several friends with math PhDs, a few with chemistry PhDs, I even know some physics PhDs. Not to mention the numbers of medical doctors I personally know. They’re all very brilliant, regular people and fixtures in my life.

To say that I live in a bubble of Black excellence would be an understatement, but it’s true. I wrote about this some time ago after Damon and I attended Yale’s Black Solidarity Conference in February and came across this young woman who had never seen a Black PhD before. She is in college majoring in some STEM major. It gave me the sads. I might still have those sads.

I recently wrote about my TI-83 graphing calculator and being in a pre-freshman summer program for STEM majors at Morehouse. We had a counterpart program at Spelman College (thy name we praise) called WISE, or Women In Science and Engineering, also (I believe) funded by NASA.

I just used 203 words to basically state that Black mathematicians and scientists aren’t anything new to me, regardless of gender. So when I see movies like Hidden Figures it serves to reinforce the things that I, personally, know and can attest to: Black folks been doing the damn thing like beavers for a while now.

But what I also have to do is take a step outside of my own bubble and realize that, apparently, for a vast many of people, Black, white, or other, the world that I call normal is actually pretty small and potentially anomalous, which is exactly why movies like Hidden Figures are important.

As you know by now, Hidden Figures is a movie that explores the roles several (and I do mean SEVERAL) Black women played in the early stages of America’s quest to get a man into outer space. It specifically tells an abbreviated story of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three Black women mathematicians who worked at NASA’s Langley facility in Virginia in separate roles that were vital to the early space missions. Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson) is especially vital in the movie as she’s the woman whose calculations SPECIFICALLY ensured America wouldn’t lose in the space race with Russia.

The movie is based on a true story, and sadly a story I had NO clue existed until the promotions for Hidden Figures began earlier this year. We are all aware that Black women’s contributions are often downplayed if not altogether erased when it comes to the struggle for civil rights in this country no matter the era, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t EXTREMELY frustrated by how much I learned about these pivotal women, and women like them, by watching this movie.

To know that there was an entire group of women period, but especially Black women, all of extraordinary intelligence and acumen, working at NASA ensuring the continuation of the early space program and having ZERO idea about their contributions is exactly why we need to support movies like this. It helps that it’s actually a good movie (though long, and that’s what she said) and that Janelle Monae (as Mary Jackson) and Octavia Spencer (as Dorothy Vaughan), as well as Taraji, are magnificent on screen.

Yes, there are definitely several moments that are specifically designed to make you clap or say “Amen” even though I’m pretty sure they didn’t happen exactly how presented. There are several speeches that seem a little bit too on the nose, though they are very important for moving along the greater point about discrimination Black women faced due to both their color and sex. But those a-little-bit-too-perfect moments don’t detract from the greater good and greater lessons to be learned from watching this movie: Black women are excelling everywhere, even in places where history tries to tell you they weren’t.

My daughter wants to be a scientist when she grows up. She’s not sure exactly what kind yet, and sometimes she wants to be a doctor and a scientist and a songwriter and a spy. Part of this desire is that many of the television shows for kids now feature kids, and girls specifically, who are conducting experiments and using their brains to change the world or whatever. I’m glad that my daughter can watch KC Undercover or Doc McStuffins and see girls of color being who she wants to be without any obstacle or roadblock. Because of those television shows, my daughter’s imagination is wide open.

But I definitely want my daughter to see Hidden Figures; that way, she can see why shows like KC Undercover or Doc McStuffins exist. She needs to know that these smart Black women took no prisoners and used the gifts they were blessed with to excel even if took 50 years for their stories to hit the mainstream. Our history is everything.

So many contributions of people of color have been overlooked, and Hidden Figures puts that fact front and center. Specifically, the roles of Black women in every facet of the furthering of our community are often relegated to background roles or plot devices. It’s a nice change of pace to see a movie headed up by a group of Black women about a group of Black women who not only excelled, but excelled in a world most people think is only inhabited by (white) men.

I realize that many women have a complicated relationship with the term “Black girl magic” and for various understandable reasons. But it is the term I thought of while watching the movie. No they’re not unicorns, just Black women doing the work that Black women have been doing for eons and fighting a fight that many of us fail to acknowledge, including some Black men who sometimes present ourselves as an additional foe. The Black women in this movie are brilliant mathematicians who paved the way for those women that I know who never realized that being a math major wasn’t an option. And the world is a better place for it.

Hidden Figures? I’m glad we found them. I look forward to finding more.

Panama Jackson

Panama Jackson is pretty fly (and gorgeous) for a light guy. He used to ship his frito to Tito in the District, but shipping prices increased so he moved there to save money. He refuses to eat cocaine chicken. When he's not saving humanity with his words or making music with his mouth, you can find him at your mama's mama's house drinking her fine liquors. Most importantly, he believes the children are our future. You can hit him on his hitter at panamadjackson@gmail.com.

  • sounds like a great movie.

    i hope it does well.

    • GailyTheyRing,WhilePeopleSing

      You are not going to see it?

      • currently at 25-35% chance of me seeing it.

        i believe it is a new, interesting take on past history that may inspire young black girls into s.t.e.a.m. and i hope that it does well and wins golden globes and stuff.

        • GailyTheyRing,WhilePeopleSing

          May I ask why the probability of you seeing it is that low?

          • in short, not necessarily interested.
            90% of the movies i get hyped to go see are fiction/comic book based movies…i have the marvel movie timeline saved in my phone calendar.

            if someone asks me to go see it, i’ll probably go…but more likely i’ll probably buy the dvd when it comes out next year, along with birth of a nation (which i didn’t see either)

            that being said, i have no interest in badminding or badmouthing a movie i may not particularly want to see, but other people are hyped to see. i learned enough from the boan kerfluffle.

            • GailyTheyRing,WhilePeopleSing

              Fair enough. I do not even know what movies I like seeing. There are some fights I have no dog in so I just observe, this is one such. But if you are supporting another means it all works out. Plus taste is subjective.

  • PinkRose

    Changing usernames fifty, leven, million times to get a direct response is whack as hay-yale!

    Maybe try a computer with a different IP address…………..

    • kingpinenut

      I grew up with parents whom I assumed knew everything.

      Lying was not an option since I valued life.

      You might not like what I’m going to say…but it’s the truth from my limited view

      #oneusernameforlife

      • PinkRose

        Cool, I gots not beef with that.

      • PinkRose

        As for not liking what folk say, I mean, it just ain’t that deep for me ’cause REAL life. That is until $hit takes a stalkerish turn, then the block function works well.

        • kingpinenut

          I’m just assumin we all not real folks anyway

  • Mary Burrell

    Learned so much from Historically Black podcast from the Washington Post AMP. The segment Human Computers of NASA. Dorothy Vaughn’s granddaughter talked about how important their jobs were. One miscalculation could be fatal. From the lift off to the orbit to the splash down to time the astronaut is taken from the space capsule. These women were doing complex mathematical formulas. Logarithms, calculus etc. It was sad and funny how Mrs. Vaughn’s granddaughter talks about how they couldn’t use the same bathroom as the white women, and how they put the sign “Colored Girls.” Mrs. Vaughn would remove the sign until they finally put on sign on the bathroom that said “Colored Ladies.” I think Katherine Johnson is the only survivor of the three ladies and she’s in her 90’s. I hope this film inspires young black people to study in areas of STEM.

  • Janelle Doe

    Haha nice to see a movie endorsement that doesn’t result in thinkpieces or 3524564576243 comments…
    *ok maybe there are some thinkpieces on this one too…
    ION Eddie Murphy’s family photos for Christmas should really be on the notes that MacDaddy Clause takes for next year (ijs)… and Lawrence Fishburn’s daughter too (for different reasons)

  • Mary Burrell

    Will the black men and other black folks who were capping so hard for BOAN support this film? It would be interesting to see how that turns out.

  • Mary Burrell

    I hope they show this to all the school kids all over. The white folks need to learn about it too.

    • PinkRose

      Is it me, or is anyone else just shocked to h*des and back, that this story wasn’t main stream before now? I mean, I get White supremacy blocking our achievements and all, but THIS is monumental! And I LIVED in the Hampton Roads area for a few years and neva EVA heard it before!

      • PriceIsRightHorns

        Yeah. I feel like I’ve been robbed.

        • PinkRose

          And I’ll bet there are literally THOUSANDS of other stories JUST like this one!

          • PriceIsRightHorns

            You know it.

          • Mary Burrell

            I am thinking the same thing.

          • Duff Soviet Union

            Right! Hollywood has literally years of material if they want it (they won’t though. Racism isn’t rational).

      • Mary Burrell

        I don’t know why we never heard about this sooner but better late than never i guess.

      • fedup

        Wise Old Owl said (up above) that “…the vast majority of Black Men supported them back then, just as we support Black Women today.”

        I’m pretty shocked that, as close as you are to the events, you hadn’t heard about it either! I mean, I didn’t know, but seems like it was pretty common knowledge amongst the “beer-fridge-in-the garage” set, so…

        • PinkRose

          HF was “common knowledge”? Among whom?

          Now my lane is Medical Science, so if you wanna go there, I got you when it comes to us!

          • fedup

            Ionno. Black men? I mean, if all Black men were supporting them back then, as they do now (again, according to that comment), then musta been common knowledge, right?

            • PinkRose

              OK, gotcha! I’m the LAST person sarcasm should be lost on, LOL!!!

            • Reggie Rex

              It’s uncommon knowledge. I heard a bit of it from a documentary some years ago.

          • Janelle Doe

            Take us there Pink Rose… I have learning to do (and share) … And it can’t all be from Ava Duvernay an ’em :-)

            • PinkRose

              I’ll always be a lifelong learner, hence my strong interest in medical science. And I’ve made illnesses that disproportionately affect Black women my primary cause for reasons that should be obvious.

              We gotta all keep learning and equally important, sharing stories about US.

      • Blackberry02

        I guess your HBCU education wasn’t so great after all…

        …I kid, I kid…

        • PinkRose

          Assumptions much?? I didn’t graduate from an HBCU. But yes, I think STEM education at schools like A&T, Spelman, and Xavier IS great which is why so many of their graduates end up with Dr. in front of their names.

          But I DID spend a semester at FAMU as a visiting student. BEST. SEMESTER. EVER!!

          • Blackberry02

            Fooled me. They way that you cape so hard for HBCUs, PR, I thought that you graduated magna c u m laude from Spelman or Howard.

            How did your semester at FAMU compare to your overall experience at your PWI?

      • Duff Soviet Union

        I’m mildly surprised I hadn’t heard of them until now. I’m certainly not shocked.

      • Reggie Rex

        In all fairness, many moons ago I learned about a snippet of this watching a documentary. It was almost a footnote, mentioning that black women assisted in the space race. To be fair I spent the majority of my early years eating discovery channel, the history chanel and the science chanelbefore hey all became sinkholes of information. 26 year old black male out.

    • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

      You’re right. Katherine Graham and other black women who worked in NASA represent a very long history of black people being involved in STEM fields.

      • Blackberry02

        Katherine Gobel (Johnson)

        • truthseeker2436577@yahoo.com

          Thank you.

        • Yay Radley

          This made me smile so hard I nearly sprained a cheekbone.

          • Blackberry02

            Who was the person that you initially referenced?

    • Furious Styles

      Nah. Dwights will dismiss it as “liberal PC propaganda”. Agree about the kids tho.

  • Janelle Doe

    Speaking of overlooked history, my mom was telling me she went to visit the home of a Black Nobel prize winner (won for his poetry) that she had not ever heard of until she was taken to his home.
    I hope he is featured in the African American Museum.
    It is (also) nice to uncover new pieces of Black history to share with the kids during Black History/ African Heritage month.

    • Val

      What’s his name?

      • Janelle Doe

        hang on, let me ask … Paul Dunbar…

        • PriceIsRightHorns

          Oh wow. That’s amazing.

        • miss t-lee

          He’s a fave. Had no idea about him winning the Nobel though.
          Good ish.

          • PinkRose

            Me either, see how did THAT fact escape Black History month?

          • not to be the bearer of bad news, but i dont think he did win a nobel prize.

            • miss t-lee

              Thanks for clarifying.

        • PriceIsRightHorns

          He accomplished a lot in a short time. I believe he died in his 30s.

        • Jennifer

          Dunbar is in the Blacksonian.

        • fedup

          We Wear The Mask – Paul Laurence Dunbar? Yes. I remember learning much about him in school. We learned that poem as a class in 5th grade.

          Now that I think about, I got a really good education about the awesomeness of our people at Black private schools. They had their flaws (I went to I think 4 different ones), but I realize I know alot about our people. However I ALWAYS love finding out more. There can never be enough.

        • Cleojonz

          I know of Paul Dunbar. Had NO clue he is a Nobel Prize winner.

  • Jennifer

    Take your little boys and your little girls. We don’t have many (any?) films that show how our collective community helped in tbis oart of ou history.

    What was really interesting (read: infuriating) to me was how these women got it at work AND at home. If it wasn’t white folks at work underestimating them because of their race, it was the men in their families and communities underestimating them because of their gender.

    They obviously received support in the end and were able beat the odds, have strong personal lives, and make history. It was just hard, although inspiring, to watch their struggles from so many fronts.

    • PinkRose

      See I think the ladies had it better back then because they were forced to stick together.

      But being in STEM these days? Honestly, if it wasn’t for all the Caribbeans and Africans, I wouldn’t know what Black unity looks like. And sadly it’s mostly those non HBCU attending American negroes that are the MAIN Uncle Toms/Aunt Tomasinas! But those HBCU Black folks? I’ll work with them all day, err day!

      • Blackberry02

        “And sadly it’s mostly those non HBCU attending American negroes that are the MAIN Uncle Toms/Aunt Tomasinas!”

        Nope. The Uncle Tom/Tomasina training program reaches deep and stretches far and wide – from your nearest HBCU to the farthest PWI.

        • PinkRose

          Hasn’t been my experience in the slightest. But I certainly get your point.

      • Mary Burrell

        Insightful

  • LMNOP

    I’m kind of mad I can’t see this until January.

    • Jennifer

      It’s only a week and some change away, honey. :-)

      • LMNOP

        Lol, true. This seems like a great week for taking my kid to the movies, since school’s off. But a weekend in January will be nice too.

    • Blackberry02

      No where close to you, huh?

  • Jennifer

    Katherine Johnson was out in these streets doing Analytic Geometry and they were worried about sharing a coffee pot with her. Racism makes no sense!

    • PinkRose

      You gotta read the book, the bathroom shenanigans were ridiculous!

      • Jennifer

        I ordered it as a Christmas present to myself.

      • Mary Burrell

        I mentioned the removal of the sign.

    • Mary Burrell

      And a bathroom.

    • Duff Soviet Union

      It’s frequently said that racism isn’t rational, but it still probably isn’t said enough.

      It’s been shown frequently that movies with diverse casts do better than those with casts that aren’t and yet people defend whitewashing / exclusionary casting by saying “it’s not about racism, it’s about money. It’s just more profitable this way” (meanwhile Matt Damon just got cast in an Asian role in a movie which completely bombed. LOL.), even as numerous studies show the exact opposite. It just blows my mind that movie executives are willing to leave hundreds of millions of dollars on the table just to maintain the illusion of white superiority, but well…

    • siante

      racism makes no sense at first glance – but when we realize when it comes to Blacks & whites- racism is about white supremacy & attempts to dominate a race based out of fear- then we can see there’s a method to the madness

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