Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Hidden Figures Puts Spotlight on Black Mathematicians and STEM Education

The critically acclaimed movie Hidden Figures, staring my fellow Howard University alum and Empire star Taraji P. Henson.  Henson plays the lead role of Katherine Johnson who was among a group of Black mathematicians who helped NASA win the Space Race (and oh yes, they happened to be women).  The film also features the work of Dorothy Vaughan, played by Octavia Spencer; and Mary Jackson, performed by Janelle Monáe.

Opening nationwide Jan. 6, it’s the story of African American women who were math whizzes who worked at NASA’s Langley Field.  African American PhD’s, physicians, scientists and educators were commonplace for those of us who grew up in somewhat cloistered, Ozzie and Harriet like Black middle-class Hampton, VA.  Taraji’s character is molded in the tradition of countless young professionals who continue to persevere and prosper—despite the odds.   

Whatever your ethnicity, do yourself a favor and take friends and family to see Hidden Figures, to ensure the movie has a strong opening weekend.  The movie has something for everyone and features Kevin Costner as head of the space program and Jim Parsons, as head engineer Paul Stafford.  Full disclosure:  Parsons is among my all-time favorite actors who plays the role of Sheldon Cooper of Big Bang Theory fame.

BTW, the music is by Pharrell Williams, another hometown hero who hails from nearby Virginia Beach and continues to give back through his foundations I Am Other, which supports creativity and From One Hand to AnOther (FOHTA), to provide educational STEAMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics and Motivation) related tools needed for future success of children (Source:  fotha.org). 

An important lesson.  Always reach back so others may move forward.

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