THREE REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD GO SEE HIDDEN FIGURES ON CHRISTMAS DAY
Growing up in Jamaica, the importance of storytelling was embedded in me from an early age. I often heard stories, of especially women in my family, who sacrificed time and time again for the sake of family. They did back breaking work others wouldn’t do just to feed their families. They migrated to distant lands--to Canada, the U.S and England--so their kin could be afforded a better life. They overcame obstacles and hurdles, persevered and pushed through, no matter what the odds against them were. Similarly, the beautifully told, true to life story, of Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), and Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) tells the tale of strong and brilliant mathematicians who broke barriers as NASA employees in the paving the way for all future brown girls nerds and dreamers of the impossible. Our OTR team was lucky enough to catch an early screening of the film. Here are three very good reasons why you should go see it on Christmas day.
BECAUSE KNOWING YOUR HISTORY IS SO VERY IMPORTANT
I discovered Maya Angelou in the seventh grade when a family friend gifted me I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. Unfortunately, Angelou was never taught to me at the affluent and predominantly white schools I attended. My cousins introduced me to Langston Hughes and James Baldwin. An ex-girlfriend told me about and read to me the play Fences by August Wilson in college. And to be quite frank, our lesson plans in school only touched lightly on African American heroes such as Frederick Douglass, Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman and other folks like them in elementary, middle and high school. I learned very little about the Trail of Tears in school. Why didn’t we learn about our Native’s full and rich history? We touched lightly on the topic of Japanese internment camps during WWII. Why wasn’t I given an assignment or two about the subject matter? See the pattern here? It’s egregious that minorities aren’t often taught our rich history in schools. Most of my in-depth discovery occurred in college and thereafter. Not okay. The film accurately depicts the triumphs and obstacles the main characters had to endure while employed at NASA. It’s such a powerful and rich story in American history, one that I wish was told to myself and many others a long time ago, especially as a young adolescent in school.
BECAUSE BLACK GIRL MAGIC PERMEATES THROUGHOUT THE FILM
Yes, we all know and love the actresses who play the main characters in the film. There’s actress and musician Janelle Monáe, who plays the part of Mary Jackson, a confident and witty scientist whose main goal is to become an engineer at NASA. Then there’s Taraji P. Henson, who plays Katherine Johnson, a child prodigy and math genius whose calculations were crucial in the launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit. And let’s not forget Octavia Spencer, who plays a headstrong and strategic character, Dorothy Vaughan. All three characters are relatable in such a way, you find yourself silently, and at times out loud, cheering and rooting for them. The characters are well played and fleshed out. Their humanity on display throughout the film--their struggles, their courage--you see it all. The film permeates black girl magic, actually, it’s black girl magic epitomized. Trust us, you’ll see for yourself.
BECAUSE YOU'LL WALK AWAY FEELING LIKE YOU CAN TAKE OVER THE WORLD AND READY TO EMBRACE YOUR INNER BAD ASS
The stories of these three women who weren’t even given the respect as human beings, evident by the various differentiation such as ‘colored computers’ is a call to all of us women to embrace our badassery, for us to keep paving forward, and stop making excuses. There’s a scene where Mary Jo played brilliantly by Janelle Monae, challenges the laws set to keep her from becoming an engineer. The way she defied the judge with intellectual honesty, class, sass and genuine passion made my heart beat rapidly. Here was a black woman, mother, wife, assertively and fearlessly demanding a seat at the table; and rightfully so. She didn’t let any of the aforementioned obstacles stand in her way, bring her to a halt, keep her down. She instead rose above them all. She didn’t take no for an answer. As a woman of color, a mother, an immigrant, a wife in the past, I have felt some of the resistance that these women must’ve felt. There have been times where I felt like throwing in the towel, times where I have felt like some things seemed so impossible and out of reach. Leaving the film, I felt represented, I felt inspired, I felt a sense of, “If they can do it, so can we!”
By: Andrea Dwyer and Samantha Ramirez