Yesterday, my son and I went to see both Rogue Squadron and Hidden Figures. Two movies we both were waiting to see for months! Little did we know what was waiting for us on the silver screen.
After meeting my friend, Leilene Ondrade, for brunch at The One Eared Stag (I hadn’t seen her in a long time but we’ve maintained our friendship for 8 years) she treated us to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Afterwards, we had to wait a bit to see Hidden Figures since it was at an 8:00pm showing. I was still coming off the awe of Rogue One but began to feel nervous as it came time to go see the next movie.
Based on a true story (and on the book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly), Hidden Figures is the story of a group of black women mathematicians who worked at NASA who ended up becoming integral in helping make the launch of the late John Glenn into orbit a success and to bring him back down to Earth safely. Dorothy Vaughan, Katherine Goble-Johnson and Mary Jackson are the central figures in the movie played by Octavia Spencer, Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monae, respectively.
Before, during and after the movie, I felt a tightness form in my center. Though I laughed, cried and felt a range of emotions during the film, that tightness never wavered. It was because I could connect to the women in a way apart from sharing their race or nerdiness. It was the fact that they were basically hidden from the history books and kept separate from their mostly white male co-workers. It was that they were largely made to feel small and unwelcome because they were different and stood out in both looks and intelligence. I felt that to my core and I still feel it.
Being a person with Tourette Syndrome, I stood out from my classmates in High School in sometimes embarrassing ways and was treated with suspicion by some while getting very good grades in most of my classes. Being deaf, I was treated differently by some, if not with outright pity, while at work.
Just like Katherine was treated like she had the plague (for being black) and was incapable of the demanding mathematical work, I have been treated as if I was a leper or someone who couldn’t understand even the simplest of tasks because of my deafness or Tourette’s.
Just like Mary had to fight to become an engineer even after being credentialed at an HBCU, which NASA didn’t accept at the time, I’ve had to fight to be heard and accepted as the intelligent person that was and have always been.
Just like Dorothy was not getting the recognition she deserved for doing the work of the position she was more than qualified for, I have had to fight to be recognized as capable of my position.
Each of these powerful women meant something to me as I was watching and I could see myself in all of them. Just like they were for decades, I have felt hidden and that I was undeserving of what I was truly worthy of. But just like them, I know I’m powerful and more than worthy of all the good things life has to give!