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Spotlighting NASA’s Women of Color, ‘Hidden Figures’ Inspires, Uplifts

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Hidden Figures,” directed by Theodore Melfi and featuring three of my faves, Taraji P. Henson, Janelle Monae and Octavia Spencer, is one of many films coming out this year centered around black history. The movie showcases a story somehow neglected by our history books about three black women (and an entire NASA department comprised of black women): Katherine Johnson (Hensen), Dorothy Vaughn (Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Monae) who worked at NASA in the 1960s while America was competing with Russia to put the first man on the moon.

I was pretty excited to see “Hidden Figures.” I love any movie about the history of my people, but this story is so different from all the other movies that are coming out lately. Though the films “The Birth of a Nation,” the upcoming “Fences” and the recently released “Loving,” all tell important stories that need to be told about black people, it was so refreshing to see a lighter black history movie, one with an all-female leading cast, that brings to light to one of the many amazing achievements of our people.

Before seeing this movie, I was a little doubtful on how much a movie about scientists could captivate my attention (science and math are my least favorite subjects in school). But the personalities of the women, the humor and great plot development made it anything but boring.

Director Theodore Melfi does a great job of making an interesting plot line, including Katherine’s budding romance with the Naval Officer and the growing tension at the NASA base. My emotions flared at the blatant racism shown to the women, such as in the beginning of the movie when the ladies have a run in with a typical racist police officer, or when Dorothy has a conflict in a library after she dares to read book outside of the “colored” section.

Though the movie doesn’t sugarcoat the sixties-era racism the women experience, the film’s humor makes watching “Hidden Figures” an uplifting experience. Each of the women have a sort of sassiness to them that had the audience and me down laughing at times.

unknown-8The characters were so relatable, almost like I could see different sides of myself in all of them. Dorothy is the mother figure of the three, the oldest, and her sense of humor is sort of like a mother’s — playful and taunting, but scolding at times. Mary, my favorite, is the bold and sassiest one, and Katherine is the sensitive one. What I love the most about the women is that though their lives are difficult, they have fun and uplift each other. They listen to each other’s problems, dance, make fun of each other, laugh and make the best of their situations. Though they get angry, and they definitely had some good reasons to be angry (this is an understatement), they never let themselves quit.

My complaint about the film is that I wish they would’ve shown John Glenn’s landing off of the rocket ship. It was the climax in the movie when all the audience members were on the edges of our seats a little bit, like, “Please let him make it to Earth safely without being engulfed in the flames of the rocket ship.” It would have been beautiful to see to see him safely walk off of that space ship.

Another note about the movie: Pharrell Williams produced the soundtrack and added some great music. The whole soundtrack is already on iTunes. My favorite is the typical upbeat and jazzy Pharrell song “Runnin’.” It plays when Katherine makes her epic runs from her desk to the colored bathrooms, and I couldn’t help but dance in my seat a little when it started playing in the theater.

After seeing this movie, I felt so proud to be a black woman, and these three powerful women made me feel inspired to succeed to my fullest ability in life. Math and science are fields that are historically and currently dominated by men. I had no idea that black women played such an important role in sending a man to the moon. “Hidden Figures” is not only a great cinematic movie, but a story that will hopefully lead to more movies being made about our history that shows the world the amazing contributions African-Americans have made.

“Hidden Figures” will open in Atlanta on Dec. 25 and nationwide on Jan. 6, 2017.

Miranda is a senior at Duluth High School who loves journalism and photography.

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