I went to see Hidden Figures on Saturday afternoon by myself. I am not a regular movie goer but had heard an interview with the author, Margot Lee Shetterly. (More)
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I have been struggling with despair since the election. I could not march given my recent broken ankle, but I did knit pussyhats for those that could. I needed some sort of emotional connection to a larger vision. Listening to interviews with Shetterly, I decided to see this movie.
I went to the 4:00 showing and, as I was waiting in the ticket line, two 30ish African American women came up behind me in line. We started chatting. They were there to see Lion. I told them I was waiting to see Hidden Figures. Several of their friends had seen it, some more than once. I told them about listening to interviews with the author and my need to somehow make sense of where we were as a nation. I was hoping that this newly uncovered bit of history would remind us of what could be. I hoped that if black women in the sixties could be finally recognized as math geniuses, maybe all was not lost.
One woman said, “I know, I’m black and I’ve never heard about this stuff.”
I said, “Well it was too easy to just erase black accomplishments. No one knew but now we can all know.”
The other woman gave me a big hug and said, “We will still win you know. This is temporary.”
Who knew that the answer to my sense of loss and disconnection would be helped in the ticket line at the movie theater?
So, Hidden Figures is the story of the black women who served as “computers” at NASA in Langley, Virginia in the 1960s. The story was written largely based on old articles from black newspapers of the time. Apparently, white America wasn’t interested in the details. Racism and sexism are revealed in their cultural contexts and stereotypes are smashed, sometimes literally. Three women, Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughn are the heroines. They are geniuses and problem solvers. Katherine Johnson is fierce beyond belief.
I watched the Oscars last night kind of off and on. The three actresses from Hidden Figures were introducing something but first they introduced the real Katherine Johnson. She came out in a wheel chair to a standing ovation.
The very good news is that Hidden Figures is the first in a trilogy of books. The other very good news is that it is doing surprisingly well at the box office.
Just go see it. You will be better for seeing it.
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