I, like the majority of the world, had no idea about the lives of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and the other “colored computers” of NASA. It is one of many American stories of diversity that have been lost along the way. The recently released film about the above mentioned women, “Hidden Figures”, couldn’t have come at a better time.
We as a nation are celebrating the life and legacy of Rev. Martin Luther King, saying goodbye to our first POTUS of color, and I as woman, person of color, and a mom NEEDED to see such a powerful display of womanhood.
“Hidden Figures” is a film that I learned of just under a year ago. Once I heard about it, I knew immediately it would be an experience that would want to share with my eldest daughter. It is so important for her to see women who look like her in all forms of media and in diverse career roles. We strive to expose her to many things so that she is aware that the entire world is open to her. There was no doubt that we would leave the theater inspired, but I was absolutely euphoric! My daughter was giving me that look as if to say, “It was good, but why are you being weird?!” Maybe I was being a little weird. If I’d had a superhero cape I would have worn it out to the car with my chest puffed up. I told her that it is one of those things that she’ll understand more as she ages.
The inspiration helps me to push past the frustration.
As I said above, I left the movie in a state of euphoria. I was ready to roll my sleeves up and work on all of my dreams. Then I came home. I was still riding in a high, but the momentum was lost. When I walked in the door, my toddler immediately clung to my leg and my infant was waiting with pleasant smiles for me to sit down and feed her. Like Dorothy, Mary, and Katherine, I am a Mom. And being a Mom sometimes means that it will take you a bit longer to get where you’re going, or that you have to become a little more inventive to get there.
I have recently discovered that I have never been good at being a Mom AND whatever else. I think at one point I believed I was doing it all well. The truth is I am usually doing really well at one thing and kind of hit and miss at others. If I am working really hard or trying to accomplish a goal, I tend to throw myself all into that.
At one point during the film, Katherine arrived home from work to a special dinner and was left confused. She panicked and kept trying to figure out if shed missed someone’s birthday or her own. Her family insisted that she hadn’t missed anything. It turns out that her beau planned the dinner to propose. While we can’t be sure if that’s how things played out in reality, this scene was one of the ones that touched me most. Katherine had it all. Even in the midst of her groundbreaking work at NASA, she had a family who loved her and was happy at her arrival home. It wasn’t either or; it was both and. In those moments when I lose my momentum and find myself frustrated on the journey to making my dreams a reality, I will think of Katherine and start back up again. While my children are the BEST thing I’ve ever done, they will not be the only thing.
Remembering to surround myself with people who support me.
One common thread throughout “Hidden Figures” was support. This group of women would not have made it to the heights that they did had they not supported one another and been supported by their community. I am currently rethinking what the support looks like in my life. Who are those people that see me FOR me, no matter what? Those people that will remind me of what they see and help me move to the next level.
At one point during the film, Mary Jackson’s husband gave her a set of mechanical pencils. She was going back to school to become an engineer. I am sure that having his wife work the hours that she did and adding night school into the mix was not an easy adjustment to make, but he chose the road of support complete with a helpful gift.
Because of them, we can.
In the nearly Sixty years since the untimely death of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., people of color and women are still striving to break barriers. We are still striving to be the first in many areas of society and still fighting for equity. Having access to these many stories of diversity give me strength to continue, even when the days are filled with baby spit-up and baskets of laundry. They are the beacon of light that tell me not matter the latest news headline, I can make it. Stories of diversity not only help my personal journey; they also push our society further toward a unified future.
May we continue to hold space for women and for people of color.