After watching Hidden Figures I was left in awe and gratitude. Each of the amazing women involved on the screen and in these real-life events instantly filled me with appreciation and recognition that a lot of who I am I owe to the strides that they made in an America that did not view them as equals.
I penned a letter to Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan and Katherine Johnson, three great African American mathematicians who worked for a segregated NASA and the talented actresses who depicted them Janelle Monáe, Octavia Spencer, and Taraji P. Henson in the film Hidden Figures. Words also cannot express how grateful I am for Margot Lee Shetterly who researched and brought this story to the forefront through her book, Hidden Figures: The Story of the African-American Women Who Helped Win the Space Race. We are ever indebted to you.
Thank you for showing us that beauty + power in small packaging is far sexier than cleavage, far stronger than a loud mouth and far more impactful than a long-winded, meaningless voice.
Thank you for your badness; you are the true epitome of a bad (bad as in good) woman. You so effortlessly made Minny Jackson’s “chocolate pie” a victory. Johanna gave strength to the fruition of peace as the leader of Amity. You carried on your mother’s legacy and taught us to “see people as people” when you bought out the 8pm showing of Hidden Figures for less fortunate families at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw plaza MLK weekend. You are character. You are class. You are a bad black woman but more importantly you are an altruistic human being.
Thank you for being so unapologetically, authentically, and majestically you, DMV to the core. For embodying an individual whose selfless acts allowed you to become the hilariously funny, gracefully golden phenomenon you are and for bringing to life a character whose story demands to be told.
Mrs. Mary Jackson,
Thank you for not taking no for an answer; for self-educating, representing yourself and being the true definition of a winner. Your sassiness is admirable, your intelligence is unfathomable, and your execution is marketable. I want my daughter to see you, like truly see you when she looks in the mirror. I can be an engineer, a teacher, a drill sergeant or even an astronaut because of your voice. And I will spend the rest of my life using mine to leave a legacy like yours.
Mrs. Dorothy Vaughan,
Thank you for your selflessness; for proving that black women are not all in competition with each other but will demote ourselves for the promotion of another. “I won’t go if they can’t come with me”–you taught us what that means. That we are much stronger in numbers than we are alone, and what I have to offer is so valuable that you’ll take the whole bunch if that guarantees you’ll get me. I’m not afraid to risk it all because of the fight in you. Standing on your shoulders, I will put my sisters on my back. Rather than stepping on her neck, I place her on mine because there are more results from reaching higher heights than horizontal, personal gain.
Mrs. Katherine Johnson,
For over 50 years you have watched the stories of great women be told never once tooting your own horn, never once raising your hand for a spotlight you deserved. You opened my eyes to my own sense of entitlement; as if anything I’ve accomplished I’ve earned. Never have I fought for equality by showing up for a job where I had to run half a mile to find a bathroom that permitted my kind. Never have I been a widow, who in spite of her loss worked restless hours returning home only in time to kiss her three girls goodnight. Never have I been so skilled in a subject that required me to send a man to the moon, let someone else receive 100% of the credit and slam the door in my face yet still walk away with my head held high. Not only are you my role model, but you are my grandmother, my mother, my auntie and my teacher. You are the example of excellence that I vow to strive to be, never expecting a handout but commanding my hard work to do the demanding. You are strength, you are brilliance, you are class, you are beauty. But most of all, in the image of God, you are love.
Renée Nicole Gibson