“Hidden Figures” blew expectations beyond the stratosphere with wall-to-wall, movie-goers everywhere.
Audiences across the nation were enthusiastic to finally witness the story of three African American women—Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughn (Octavia Spencer), and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe)—working as the driving force behind a historic event in American history.
It was these three women who played a significant role in the successful orbit of N.A.S.A. astronaut John Glenn around Earth. And, it was the film adaptation of this New York Times Bestseller that gave “Star Wars: Rogue One” a run for the top spot in just one weekend while grossing $22.8 Million.
Throughout the film, there were several laughs and boisterous commentary from the audience on everything from the intelligence capacity of a woman to racism and gender equality in the work place. Some audience members even had the book in hand while leaving the theater.
“‘Hidden Figures’ made me so proud to be a Black woman,” Kimberly Mayberry of Houston, Texas says. “It also put into perspective how long we’ve been fighting the equality battle and why we should be thankful for those who came before us.”
Although we are able to celebrate the success of “Hidden Figures,” the battle to be considered equal continues today, even with progress made. So, here are four key takeaways from this amazing depiction of lessons we can all learn from this blockbuster film.
“We all get there together or we don’t get there at all.”
The story of “Hidden Figures” takes place during the Civil Rights Era during a time when the race to space against Russia also made international headlines.
In order to make history, NASA recruited mathematician Katherine Johnson, played by Academy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson, to help calculate the launch and landing for the upcoming mission. Although she demonstrated her capabilities to her superior Al Harrison, played by Kevin Costner, Katherine’s work ethic and abilities were hindered by the blatant racism shown by her all-white, male counterparts. This was particularly challenging when she was forced to sprint a half-mile to the “colored” bathroom across campus.
After learning of the situation, Al demands that all members of NASA unify for the progress needed in order to truly make history in the world of aeronautics.
Although African Americans have been forced to take a stand, it is also imperative that we as one human race empathize with the struggle of our counterparts which will ultimately help us move forward together for the greater good.
I am my sister’s keeper.
Although Dorothy Vaughan, played by Academy Award Winner Octavia Spencer, is charged with supervising an entire department made up of all African American female aids and calculators (mathematicians), she is informed that she will not receive the official title and benefits of being a supervisor, because she is “unfit,” according to her direct report, played by Kirsten Dunst.
After a series of events, Dorothy learns that her department may eventually become obsolete which inspires her to find a way to show that both she and her team play a significant role in NASA operations.
In fact, the team’s performance was so effective that NASA calls on Dorothy for training her white counterparts in the future. Of course, Dorthy had the ability to just move herself forward. But instead, she paved the way for every woman in NASA because they were all worth it.
It is so important that we, as women, regardless of our race, spread knowledge amongst ourselves if we are going to succeed together as the sisters we claim to be.
Beauty and brains is not a threat to the mature man.
Mary Jackson, played by singer and songwriter Janelle Monáe, is an aspiring engineer, wife and mother. Initially her husband is a bit disgruntled by her absence in the home while she follows her dreams. However, when she is forced to take extraordinary measures in order to pursue a career in engineering he matches her effort by supporting and encouraging her to keep going.
Katherine, a widow and mother of three girls, receives similar support when she is introduced to Colonel Jim Johnson who is enamored with her beauty and intelligence. Although they get off to a bumpy start, the colonel’s admiration and support grows for Katherine throughout the film.
Both of these examples were important to see on film, as some are lead to believe that accomplished women are too smart or independent for love. Instead of seeing it as a hindrance to their overall beauty, the men of “Hidden Figures” see the brilliance of the women in their lives as an asset. That is why it is so important to emphasize to our girls and adolescents that intelligence and accomplishment are a critical asset to overall beauty, and the right man will love you for it.
Perhaps we’re already there.
“Think we can make it to the moon?”- Al
“We’re already there.”- Katherine.
The above exchange takes place between Katherine and Al after NASA’s successful orbit around the earth. Although the characters are speaking about the progress of NASA, the overall conversation is really about vision.
So often, people may have an idea, but they may be unsure how they are going to achieve it. However, it is important to remember that success starts with the mind. Although there are still many roadblocks ahead for women and people of color, no one can deny that we have progressed in unimaginable ways and will continue to do so. “Hidden Figures” teaches us to reach beyond our easily attainable goals by tapping into our well-equipped faith, talents. We are able to achieve greatness, because the truth is we’re already there.
Check out the trailer for Hidden Figures below, and see what all of the hype is about for yourself in theaters now.
The Fox series is wrapping up its first season, but perhaps you’ve heard this story before.
For the past several weeks, Fox’s new hit series “PITCH” has shown us that it is possible for a woman to continue smashing through the glass ceiling in a male-dominated world—bat, beauty, and brains in hand.
The series tells the story of Ginny (Kylie Bunbury), a woman with beauty, brains and athleticism, who is groomed by her now-deceased father to play Major League Baseball. During the first season, we have seen Ginny become not only the first female Major League Baseball player for the San Diego Padres, but the best, and this is all done in her father’s honor who’s mantra was, “We ain’t done nothing yet.”
For the past several weeks, “PITCH” has shed light on a variety of challenges that affect women everywhere, particularly women of color. These challenges include the ability to simultaneously balance being an athlete, a responsible feminist, and evolving brand. In fact, many would argue that women—namely Black women—are constantly forced to prove their worth and abilities in our society, and this ever-present theme is reflected in the first several episodes of “PITCH.”
Fortunately for the show’s main character, she has allies in the dugout who protect her honor by making her an exemplary player, regardless of the blatant undermining sexism. And, although “PITCH” presents an exciting concept in the world of fiction, Ginny’s rise to fame as a fictional character isn’t as far from reality as you may think. Let’s travel back and take a closer look at the untold story of Toni Stone.
Dirt in the Skirt
Toni Stone made history in 1953 when she became the first female player in Negro League baseball. Stone, who was born Marcenia Lyle Stone, also played for the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League—although segregated—and several Negro League teams.
And, although she negotiated her pay and established how she wanted to be treated as a professional athlete, Stone’s notoriety has dissipated into American history. This is drastically different from the stories of some of her white counterparts as portrayed in the 1990’s blockbuster A League of Their Own. However, her legacy lives on in both fiction and non-fiction black, professional, female athletes by inspiring us all to say, “I am next.”
Outside of its brilliant soundtrack and incredible writing, “PITCH” embraces the spirit of women empowerment and the unsung legacy of Stone with a main character who calls the shots. Even though Ginny receives guidance from her agent she also takes charge of her own life.
Instead of allowing people to tell her how to play the game, she decides how she wants to play the game and she plays to win. However, like Stone, Ginny is quite literally a team player and heeds the advice of her teammates to be the best against all odds.
No Crying in Baseball
As the story progresses Ginny becomes more and more like “one of the guys” and a true member of the team, with all of the baseball politics in tow. Ginny is very aware of how uncomfortable the atmosphere is with the novelty and jealousy, but she takes it in stride.
Like the real-life Toni Stone, Ginny is steadfast in her strength and keeps playing the game when adversity strikes her or the team. It was not easy to get her onto the mound, but all season long, she has been knocking it out of the park and captivating audiences everywhere. Most have never heard the story of Toni Stone, but thanks to both fictional and non-fiction female athletes like Ginny, her unsung legacy lives on. We ain’t done nothin’ yet!
The “PITCH” season finale airs Thursday, December 8, at 9/8c.
Finally, we have a story of rebellion that takes us beyond the slave narrative and shows the beginnings of the revolution of the African American. The Birth of A Nation is the story of Nat Turner played by actor and award-winning director Nate Parker, who is a literate slave preacher-turned-radical that endures the woes of slavery and reinterprets the Bible to be empowering, instead of a source of control.
Starting this weekend, audiences everywhere will have the opportunity to relive the slave tale from a different perspective. It is a story that sheds light on how Christian faith did not subdue slaves, but instead, it became a source of strength. We had the opportunity to view the pre-screening of this perfect retelling of the events leading up to this historic revolt and its haunting, gory imagery that depicts a reality of this undeniable time in history.
While viewing the film, some may spot some other similarities that Turner endures at the age of 31, so be prepared to cheer when he displays his God-given intellect and might. In the meantime, we would like to share some of the film’s most compelling themes with the uneducated, miseducated, and African American History enthusiasts that are prevalent both in the past and present below:
Using Scripture as a Source of Power
Historically, so much has been handed to black people for defeat and turned into a weapon of victory, including our faith.
In the film, the slave master’s wife discovers that Nat can read and takes it as a divine sign to mentor him in Scripture. As an adult, the owner uses Nat’s gift of preaching for profit while also using the sermons to subdue other slaves.
However, after taking a closer look and studying the Bible again, Turner realizes that the Scripture is being misused; so he chooses to use it as a source of power for the revolution.
The message we should all take from this is to read the Word and get to know God for yourself in order to prevent misinterpretation and enhance our sense of empowerment. The tale of false prophets is nothing new, so it is important that we are able to differentiate between a manipulated preacher and a vessel of God? The presentation of the Word will reveal the truth.
The Prayer Warrior, Not the Foot Soldier
What audiences will not see in this film is the majestic Black, female soldier that we have come to love in modern-day society. In fact, the women in this film are meek in comparison, however their strength comes in the form of prayer and support. This image may irritate some and make you wonder why the women are praying instead of picking up weapons and strategizing.
However, it is important to remember that the woman’s role during the days of American slavery was to sit back, observe and continue to be a constant support for the men in their lives.
As time went on, the revolutions to follow gave birth to many strong women who bore even stronger children and the victory continues amidst our battle on both the physical and spiritual battlefield.
“They’re killing people everywhere for no other reason at all but being black.”
This line in the film will make the audience shutter at the reality of the history and our present circumstances in the fight to show that Black lives do, in fact, matter. Although it is not meant to address the current movement, it is clear that the director, Parker, wanted to make the correlation.
The film shows what punishment looks like for the concept of freedom, and this same concept is something that Blacks pay for repeatedly despite their individual success and our community’s history of overcoming obstacles.
With films like Amistad, 12 Years A Slave and television series like “The Roots,” many of these stories are about surviving slavery and not the brutal fight to be free. Although the story is a carefully paced depiction of Nat Turner’s life, it pieces together the ancestral grit, new philosophy, and spiritual awakening that makes the oppressed ask, “When is enough is enough?”
We are living in a time where we are most certainly free and, somehow, still at war in an effort to show our worth. While it is not implied that we revolt in the form of violence against injustice, it is a reminder to stand up for our God-given right to be free and treated justly.
Father’s Day is this weekend and stores all over are reaping the benefits by selling ties, home improvement and meat products. Of course, we realize that Father’s Day isn’t a momentous occasion for everyone, particularly those who grew up without a father. But thank goodness for those TV dads that we all grew to love as a kid that taught us some of life’s greatest lessons. So, as a tribute to fathers everywhere Urban Faith would like to take a walk down Memory Lane with our top five black TV dads:
No talk of favorite black TV dads would be complete without James Evans from the hit 70’s television sitcom “Good Times.” James goes down in history as the hardest working dad on the small screen. He was always hustling making sure Florida and the kids had what they needed, and he held it down by any means necessary. Most importantly, he made sure to steer his kids in the right direction by avoiding drugs and gangs in the middle of the projects. Nobody was going to grow up and act a fool in James Evans’ house. He had the authority and the weight that every father should have.
Remember Carl Winslow from the 90’s favorite Family Matters? Carl would get into some crazy situations, but in the end, the 90’s dad genuinely cared about his family. He was always there for his three kids Eddie, Laura, and Judy, his wife, Harriet, and, of course, we can’t forget his love-hate relationship for the family’s next door neighbor Steve Urkel. Carl would try his hardest to be stubborn and refuse to give in to his family’s requests, but in reality he was a big, soft teddy bear.
You have to love Julius from “Everybody Hates Chris.” He knew how to teach the value of money. I mean, if you know that $.17 cents worth of orange juice is left in the container, then you will not pour it down the drain in Julius’ house. That’s especially if you’re working two or three jobs to buy that orange juice. Julius taught us not only to make money but to keep money. End of story.
Yes he was rich and bourgeoisie, but Uncle Phil knew what was up. When it came time to throw on a dashiki and let folks know the way they did it back in the 60’s. the famous uncle from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was ready. Not only that, but Uncle Phil took in his nephew Will and raised him as his own.
Now before you get into the details of the recent controversy that has saturated the media, please remember that Bill Cosby is not Cliff Huxtable. Sure, he played the character on one of television’s most popular sitcoms in history, but Cliff Huxtable is, in fact, a character. And, what a character he was. Cliff could act silly with his kids, teach some valuable life lessons, and then go and do something truly ridiculous that made you realize he was just a man like everyone else. And, on top of that, he also devoted his time to being a great husband and practiced medicine in his community. Real-life controversy aside, Cliff Huxtable (the character), definitely deserves a spot on this list.
So, those are our top five black TV dads. They may not have been our real dads, but they made us appreciate fatherhood. In fact, those qualities they displayed on TV are very similar to “the Father from whom every family on earth derives its name” Ephesians 3:14-15.
Let us know who your favorite TV dad is in the comments.
For a while the most popular literature and television programming about black people captured no sense of African consciousness. We’ve been far removed from The Cosby Show which introduced many of my generation to Miriam Makeba or A Different World which introduced us to divesting from businesses that supported apartheid in South Africa. Those shows and others of the late 80s to early 90s taught my generation that we don’t only have a history in Africa but our actions affect our present and future connection with the continent. But since then we have slipped out of the realm of cultivating such an understanding of our connection to the continent. For the last decade or so, television programming about black people has been driven by self-interestedness over communal values. There has been nothing to remind us of our descendants and ancestors. On the literary front, we were also hard-pressed to get beyond the Zanes and the Steve Harveys of the world. But recently there has been an uprising of African narratives from African-born writers and creators that is breathing a breath of fresh air on literature and on-air/online programming.
We see its presence in the work of Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie author of the novel “Americanah” which tells the story Ifemelu, a young woman who journeys from Nigeria to America and back again. It is primarily a love story but it also acknowledges the cultural differences between American black people and non-American black people. Ifemelu captures and critiques these differences on her blog and Adichie uses Ifemelu’s blog posts to break up the narrative arc of the book. Though these blog posts are the work of a fictional character they resonate as fact among African and African American alike. Adichie also has Ifemelu return to Nigeria where she comes to grips with the ways that America has changed her and also the ways in which Nigeria in particular and Africa in general will always be a home to her despite the ways in which she has fallen out of love with it. African-American readers of “Americanah” are forced to take a look at the ways in which American culture influences their perceptions of African people and question the relational disconnect between American and non-American blacks. “Americanah” is at the top of many books lists and is rumored to be optioned for a screenplay starring Luptia Nyong’o as Ifemelu. Adichie’s earlier novel “Half of a Yellow Sun,” which tells the story of the effects of the Nigerian-Biafran War through the eyes of five different characters, is now a full-length feature film and is currently being screened in major cities. The film features an all-star cast including Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, and Anika Noni Rose.
Teju Cole is also a part of Africa’s uprising in American literature. Nigerian-American Cole was born in the US, raised in Nigeria until the age of 17 and came back to the states. A Distinguised Writer in Residence at Bard College and a regular writer for publications such as the New York Times and the New Yorker, he recently released his novel “Every Day is for the Thief” in the US–it was published in Nigeria in 2007. The novel tells the story of a young man revisiting Nigeria and facing some of the less beautiful aspects of life in Africa, such as watching the audacious Nigerian scammers in action—you know, the ones who e-mail many of us claiming we will inherit millions if we respond to their message. Cole’s is a less glamorous account of revisiting the continent, but he also holds that in tension with the fact the he believes Nigeria is “excessively exciting” to the point of being overwhelming. In an interview with NPR’s Audie Cornish Cole said, “But for me, personally, I have not actually really considered seriously living in Nigeria full time. This is my home here [New York and the United States], and this is the place that allows me to do the work that I do…I’m fortunate to be able to travel to many places, and to go to Nigeria often. And so I feel close enough to the things happening there without needing to live there.” This quote captures the beauty of Cole’s work which banks on both his lived experience in Nigeria and life as an Nigerian-American writer trying to maintain some semblance of a connection. His next book will be a non-fiction narrative on Lagos.
Finally the most recent example of Africa’s uprising in American literature and entertainment is the new web series “An African City.” Created by Ghanaian-American Nicole Amarteifio, the series follows five young African women who move to Ghana after educational and professional stints in America and Europe. The show is billed as Ghana’s answer to “Sex and the City” but it is actually smarter than SATC. The characters don’t just navigate the sexual politics that SATC was famous for, they launch into the deep of socio-economic politics on the continent. The show touches on the plight of the underdeveloped countries, the people who hold the power in such countries—mostly men, and the premium placed on the authentic African woman over the African woman who has been corrupted by Western ways. It branches out from self-interest to communal concern. The series also provides viewers with a look at the landscape of Accra, a region that is reaching toward urban metropolis status in the midst of strong rural roots. Shots of dirt roads lined with shacks where vendors sells their wares and old Toyotas putter down the streets offset the young women’s appetite for cosmopolitan fare and fashion. The show balances inherited American sensibilities with ingrained African pride with style and grace within each 11-15 minute webisode.
And lest I be remiss there is Kenyan Lupito Nyong’o. Born in Mexico City and raised primarily in Kenya, she stole our hearts in her first major acting role as Patsy in “12 Years a Slave.” She also steals our hearts every time she appears on a red carpet, gave an awards acceptance speech, or appeared on the cover of or in the pages of a magazine. Her beauty is being celebrated by many–and it isn’t limited to the fashion and beauty industries. Nyong’o is blazing the trails that supermodel Alek Wek set for African women and expanding dominant views of what is beautiful. But it is not just Nyong’o’s beauty that is captivating, it is her humble spirit and intelligence that is reminding the world that Africa is a force to be reckoned with.
Lupita Nyong’o, Nicole Amarteifio, Teju Cole, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and many more African-born actresses and actors, producers, writers and other creative types are broadening American understanding about Africa and its people. They are also expanding the African-American consciousness on Africa. We can only hope that this is truly the start of a beautiful relationship that goes from this generation beyond.
What up, y’all… can you believe it? Thirty years of Christian men and women rockin’ mics and reppin’ the name of Christ.
I keep having to say that to myself and to others, not only to remind myself that this particular segment of what we call the Christian music industry has come a long way, but also to inform other people that it didn’t start with Lecrae. Seriously, few of the mainstream music journalistic outlets that cover Lecrae and/or the Reach Records / 116 Clique movement ever take the time to dig into the scene. It may be new to certain people, or certain places, or it may have made new gains that haven’t been made before, but Christian rap is not a new thing. I know this because I’ve been listening to Christian rap since I was ten, and I’m about to turn 40.
So this is a collection of 30 rap songs by Christian artists that I consider to be significant or meaningful. They’re all good, in their own way… some of them I still bump on a regular basis. Some of them may sound a little dated now, but back when they came out, they were bangin’ (or, def, the bomb, or the hotness, whatever slang was big at the time).
Note that I’m not claiming that these are the best Christian rap songs from the last 30 years, because that’s an argument that can’t be proved. I’m just going with the songs that I feel are or were notable, special, or interesting. To hedge my bets a little, I’m also including a bunch of “honorable mention” titles, which are songs that are just as good and worthy of exposure, but which I just couldn’t write about since I’m only doing one song per year.
Also, I’ve included YouTube links for ease of playing, but when possible, I’ve also included links to purchase the music. If you really want to support Christian hip-hop, support the artists who’ve helped lay the groundwork for the plethora of great hip-hop we have to listen to today.
So without any further ado, take a ride with me into the wayback machine as we celebrate 30 years of Christians in hip-hop…