On January 6, 2016, theatres were gifted with the honor of presenting the new movie, Hidden Figures, starring some familiar faces such as Kevin Costner, Jim Parsons Aldis Hodge, and many more. Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe play the roles of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson, three instrumental ladies to the space program and African-American female progress during the race to space in the 1960s. If you have YET to see this movie, it is a MUST! -especially, if you are interested in STEM. One of the greatest things about this film however, is that it is something EVERYONE should see for one reason or another. There is plenty to learn from it, plenty to internalize, and plenty to live by. Here are 10 important lessons this fantastic movie brings to our attention:
- Get EXCITED about your education! Now-a-days, it is easy to act as though we do not value our fortune by missing classes or sitting in the back of classrooms, often off-task while there. There was a time, not long ago, when some of us were not allowed to have an education. Even when we were allowed, it was not equal, and sometimes still is not today. One of the characters in the movie fights for her right to take classes at a white institution, recalling an old adage, “a mind is a terrible thing to waste.” Can you imagine a time when you would have been forced to waste yours? Cliché, I know, but it still rings true.
- The phrase, “That’s just the way it is,” is a trend throughout the movie. It is a statement used to excuse unethical behavior of the time. If you do not get anything else from this movie, understand that “That’s just the way it is,” is not the way it has to be. The main characters in this movie chose to rise up and convince the people standing in their way, that they were valuable assets to the advancement of their society and they deserved better conditions, more access, and more respect.
- Progress is a double-edged sword. This can be applied to social status as well as technology. It is widely acknowledged that progress in one area will send ripples throughout other areas. In this case, see how IBM plays a part in advancing NASA’s efforts while threatening the job security of NASA’s “colored computers”.
- No human is an object. Treat people with the respect they deserve, not the respect you think they should get. Never again should a “colored computer” exist.
- You have a job to do? Get it done…Get it done YOUR way or the way it HAS to get done. Learn something new if you must. Fight to learn it if you must. Appreciate the job you have. Protect it the best you can. Find a way to advance yourself if possible. Do not be scared. Even if you’re threatened with better technology or sometimes mistreated (there is an extent to this), see it through. Every difficulty accompanies an opportunity. You’ll be surprised how one of the characters still manages to get work done even in the oddest of places.
- Do not pick on the intellectuals. We need them. Math is important. Science is important. Engineering is important. Technology is important. Without these subjects, we could never touch the moon. Without these minds, we would never have thought it possible.
- “Discovery is never just for the sake of discovery.” Kevin Costner, who play Al Harrison in the movie, says this in an effort to keep the program going. He says discovery is for human survival and that it always involves risk.
- When you bring something new to the table, people do not always know how to react. In the film, Katherine G. Johnson is brought into an all white male setting and manages to demonstrate her gift and win the respect of astronaut Glen Powell. Eventually she would win respect from others as well. That “something new” to the table may be an innovation. It may be a person of a different gender or color with capabilities you could never have fathomed yourself. This does not mean you should not approach the table. Your contribution matters.
- If we work together, we can go further. There are heartwarming scenes in this movie, scenes that show the necessity of others in support of you to accomplish a goal. Whether it is a husband, a family, or a team of coworkers, one can go further with help.
Hidden Figures disproves “a woman’s place”. It shows mind over color matters. It is inspiring for many reasons and hopefully one of those reasons is because it is about African-American women in STEM. Look up the movie time; put it in your calendar now; Hidden Figures is a “must-see”. I can honestly love to go back and watch it again.
To find out more about Hidden Figures, its characters, its history, and the role IBM played, go to http://www.foxmovies.com/movies/hidden-figures.
This piece comes to us from one of our talented content contributors, Cynthia Sharpe. Her bio is below and if you would like to work with us you can email us here!
Cynthia M. Sharpe, is a May 2015 graduate of NC State University. Cynthia graduated with a B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and currently aspires to pursue an M.F.A. in Creative Writing. “As I let my own light shine, I unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” -Cynthia M. Sharpe, inspired by Marianne Williamson