I am so very jealous. Not a good thing to be, admittedly, but still in that green state of envy (as in, green with envy?) Yesterday my brother unexpectedly met Dr. Christine Darden, one of the NASA scientists from Margot Lee Shetterly’s book, Hidden Figures. Dr. Darden, who made massive strides in sonic boom research, served as the first African American woman Senior Executive at NASA Langley.
Dwight not only met her, he also had the privileged opportunity to hear her speak at an event honoring Black History Month for Williamsburg/ James City County staff. With one of his colleagues out sick, Dwight was ‘drafted’ to attend.
Oooh, how I wish I could have been a draftee in that room!
As a space groupie, especially for all things NASA, the movie Hidden Figures made my ‘to see’ list well before it came to town. Zipping down to Hampton, Virginia, a few weeks before Christmas I was amazed to learn the events of the movie took place in Hampton when I bought the book from a local author display. After seeing the movie four times (a ‘must see’ for several groups of family & friends) and reading the book, I am so inspired by the stories of Dorothy Vaughan, Mary Jackson, Katherine Goble Johnson, Christine Darden and the pioneering women who served with them.
Women who reached for the stars with their amazing mathematical abilities, drive, tenacity, courage, and verve.
Hidden Figures is a movie for everyone. Each time I saw it the theater erupted in cheers – it’s that kind of movie, now given an Oscar nomination for best picture. If you haven’t seen it, do go and be inspired. It will make you laugh (Mary Jackson when checking out the NASA astronauts, “I have an equal right to see fine in any color!”) It will make you cry (with a romance hidden inside the story.) It will make you want to jump and shout (against incomprehensible segregation.) It will inspire you with the courage of these Hidden Figures who blaze a path of change using their God-given talents.
But Margot Lee Shetterly’s Hidden Figures book is even better. Delving into the book, I couldn’t put it down. Dense with historical accounts of the challenges these women faced during Jim Crow segregation, it is also rich with personal stories of their families, communities, and courageous achievements at NASA and beyond. Margot Shetterly also provides us with a history of NASA, especially Langley, and the Hampton Roads area from World War II through the Civil Rights era. I highly recommend this brilliant book!
To me, the message of Hidden Figures portends that there are different ways to change hearts and minds. Protests, signs, taking legal action – these are important. But these women worked extremely hard cultivating their God-given talents and mathematical skills, putting them to work in the NASA space program. With their faith, tenacious courage and perseverance, they blazed a trail that changed injustice around them by being the best they could be.
From the book: “As much as Katherine Johnson’s technical brilliance, it’s her personal story and character that shine on us like a beacon. What could be more American than the story of a gifted little girl who counted her way from White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, to the stars? …Her unencumbered embrace of equality, applying it to herself without insecurity and to others with the full expectation of reciprocity, is a reflection of the America we want to be.
“By recognizing the full complement of extraordinary ordinary women who have contributed to the success of NASA, we can change our understanding of their abilities from the exception to the rule. Their goal wasn’t to stand out because of their differences; it was to fit in because of their talent.”
There’s so much more, so, read the book!! See the movie!! And then, be the best YOU can be where you are… like these Hidden Figure who reached for the stars, and became stars shining bright with quiet light that influenced others around them.
grace, peace & superstars
Virginia : )