If you are familiar with my blog, then you know I have been waiting to see Hidden Figures since it was announced in August last year and even blogged about the trailer. I live in West Africa and it took over 4 months to be distributed in cinemas here. It was a very very long wait, but definitely worth it.
I finally saw the film on the 24th of February and every frame was detailed and entertaining. It was an absolutely amazing, well told story coupled with great acting! I’ll give a review of what was going through my mind during the movie without giving much away (in case you haven’t seen it yet).
For the first time, I didn’t cry watching a ‘black history’ movie. I was empowered. Let me tell you why:
The film recounts the story of the African-American mathematician Katherine Johnson and her two colleagues, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson (engineer), who helped NASA catch up in the Space Race. Using their calculations, NASA was able produce the first American astronaut to make a complete orbit of the Earth. These women (black women) focused on solutions despite the issues and lack of opportunities for people of colour in (America at) that time. The subtle message of perseverance hit me really hard and even though I enjoyed the ‘NASA’ story I couldn’t stop thinking about the African American struggle and how they built a culture literally from nothing in a country that despised, and did everything to keep them down. They didn’t start from a new country with fresh resources, they did it all from nothing. It gave me a totally different perspective on the culture and a better understanding of what American history and education means to the African American people. There’s more to this culture than Hollywood’s bankable ‘slave movies’. These stories can and should be told from an empowering perspective.
I was mind blown by Dorothy’s pro activeness in understanding the computer wave that was approaching, stealing a programming book from a library (she couldn’t access because of her skin colour) and teaching herself and other black women how to program, positioning them to take advantage of the era. This initiative inspired white women at NASA to learn FORTRAN and she led the trainings. In the end, she was teaching women, not just black women to program. This is a powerful example of resiliency and unity. Imagine if FORTRAN was later taught to women outside of NASA, today, we’d have more female engineers working in several industries, and engineering would be the ‘rap’ of careers. We need more of these. We identify opportunities and impact our communities to rise up and create that change.
Movements and protesting are cool, but do they actually ever create change without front wo\men or involving the same people we are protesting? Katherine Johnson could have held a sign protesting de-segregation of bathrooms, but would that have led to the ripple effect her actions created? I’m so glad this movie focused on solutions. Sometimes, the best way to win a battle is to not fight the battle.
Hidden Figures, ti pagya (‘we are grateful’ in Dagbani)!!!!
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