Hidden Figures – You Saw the Movie, Now Read the Book

Perhaps you were one of the millions people who saw Hidden Figures this past weekend, making it the number one film at the North American box office for the weekend that ended January 8, 2017. Now go deeper into the story and read the book by Margot Lee Shetterly, Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race.

The daughter of a NASA research scientist and an English professor, Margot Lee Shetterly’s first career was in investment banking. Later she transitioned from investment banking to media and entertainment. She is the founder of The Human Computer Project, the goal of which is to identify and recognize the accomplishments of all the women who worked as mathematicians, scientists, engineers at NACA and NASA from the 1930s through the 1980s. Hidden Figures is Shetterly’s first book.

Hidden Figures tells the story of a group of pioneer African-American women who worked at the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) (the predecessor to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)) and helped propel astronauts John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and others into space. The film focuses on three particular women: Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson.

Katherine G. Johnson’s affinity for mathematics was apparent from an early age. Born in West Virginia in 1918, she began attending West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University) at age fifteen and graduated three years later with degrees in mathematics and French. Mrs. Johnson began working at NACA in 1953 as computer. (At the time “computer” referred to women who performed mathematical equations and calculations by hand.) She was quickly transferred from the African-American computing pool to Langley’s flight research division where among other achievements she helped calculate how to get humans into space and back. President Barack Obama honored Mrs. Johnson with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2015. Taraji P. Henson portrays Katherine G. Johnson in the film.

Dorothy Vaughan was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1910. She earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Wilberforce University in Ohio, then taught high school math for several years before beginning a nearly three-decade long career at NACA (now NASA) in 1943. Mrs. Vaughan’s NACA career began in the segregated West Area Computing group at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory. In 1949 she was selected to lead the group, making Mrs. Vaughan the first African-American woman to hold a supervisorial position at NACA. As NASA moved away from human computers to digital (that is, non-human) computers, Mrs. Vaughan moved too, becoming an expert in computer programming. Mrs. Vaughan retired from NASA in 1971 and passed away in 2008. In the film Hidden Figures Dorothy Vaughan is portrayed by Octavia Spencer.

Mary Winston Jackson was born in 1921 in Hampton, Virginia. After earning bachelor’s degrees in mathematics and physical science she began working as a mathematician at NACA in 1951. Like Katherine Johnson and Dorothy Vaughan, Mrs. Jackson began her NACA career in the segregated West Area Computing group. She was later offered a position working with aeronautical engineer Kazimierz Czarnecki. With Czarnecki’s encouragement, Mrs. Jackson entered training program so that she could be promoted from mathematician to engineer. The training program required trainees to take graduate level math and physics classes. The classes were administered by the University of Virginia and held at the then segregated Hampton High School. Mrs. Jackson petitioned for, and won, permission from the City of Hampton to attend the same classes as her white colleagues. After finishing her program, Mrs. Jackson won her promotion and became NASA’s first African-American female engineer. She died in 2005 at the age of 83. Mrs. Jackson is portrayed by Janelle Monáe in the film.

In addition to Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson, Margot Lee Shetterly’s book chronicles the career of Dr. Christine Darden. A mathematician, data analyst, and aeronautical engineer, Dr. Darden specialized in sonic boom research.

Items of Related Interest:

Learn more about author Margot Lee Shetterly

From Computers to Leaders: Women at NASA Langley

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Guest Post: Protecting Your Peace by Dr. Joy Harden Bradford

peace image
I don’t know about you, but lately, I’ve found myself either taking really deep breaths or holding my breath for no apparent reason.  Upon further introspection, I realize that I’m bracing myself for impact; the impact of the next Black woman to be violently and senselessly murdered.  First, there was Sandra Bland, and then there was Korryn Gaines, and most recently Joyce Quaweay.  It feels like a never-ending litany of sisters taken from this world for reasons that just don’t seem to add up.  It’s exhausting, infuriating, devastating, and at times just altogether too much.  I try to limit the amount of media I’m consuming and engage in some self­care, but I find that I continue surfing the net and following hashtags in an effort to try and make sense of something that just seems so nonsensical.  I imagine that many of you are feeling similarly sad, mad, and maybe a little hopeless about this world we live in.  If so, I’d invite you to consider a few things that may help you feel a little more balanced.

Find Your Joy.

Lately, I’ve been finding my joy in the wonder that is Simone Biles and all of the other Black girls who are showing out at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Seeing such incredible athletes competing at the top of their games has brought me so much pride and provided a nice reprieve from all the other headlines that have dominated the summer. If not the Olympics, then what is your thing? The newest release from your favorite author? Listening to Lemonade for the 700th time? Find what makes you smile and throw yourself into for a while.

Unplug.

Taking a break from the endless commentary provided to us by social media is probably the best thing you can do to protect your peace, but also the hardest!  The sense of community that is created as we all gather around our timelines and feeds to keep up with the news can be very powerful, but also very damaging because it can become consuming.  Particularly, when incredibly graphic and violent images and videos are everywhere you look.  Set limits for yourself regarding how much time you will spend engaging with social media everyday.  Even if you have to set a timer to get you in the habit.  You will be surprised at how much less tense and anxious you feel by giving yourself a break from the constant stimuli.

Get Back to Center.

Engaging in mindfulness exercises can be incredibly helpful in assisting you with managing any anxiety you may feel.  Mindfulness exercises help you to stay connected to the present moment, making it more difficult for you to get caught up in worry about the past or future.  Because we are often running from place to place and usually take very little time to gather our thoughts, mindfulness can be difficult to get into.  You may have to try a few different exercises until you find the ones that are right for you.  My favorite exercise is this one (Soothing gif).  You may also want to download the Breathe app to work on purposeful deep breathing.

Get Involved.

Often times it seems that marching in a protest is the only way to get involved after one of these heinous acts of violence, but there are also tons of other ways you can do your part.  For example, you can be a part of a letter­writing campaign to government officials.  You can donate money or items to the families of the victims, or you can educate friends and family about social injustices. Whatever you choose, trust that it is making an impact and try not to compare your level of involvement to someone else’s.  There is plenty of work to be done and each of us is uniquely suited for specific tasks.

Pay Attention to Your Health.

It can be very easy to let things like healthy eating and exercise fall to the side when it feels like there is so much going on around us, but we cannot endure if we are not taking care of our bodies.  Small things like sitting down to eat a home­cooked meal vs. grabbing something on the go can make a world of difference.  You may also find it helpful to amp up the intensity in your workouts.  If you are typically someone who does something like jogging to work out, try a kickboxing class.  This may help you to discharge more of the anger and anxiety you were feeling and will also likely result in better sleep.

Which of these suggestions do you plan to start trying this week? Are there other strategies you would suggest to help us protect our peace in these difficult times?  Share with us in the comments!

Screen Shot 2016-08-22 at 5.05.22 PMhead2Dr. Joy Harden Bradford is a licensed Psychologist in private practice in Atlanta, GA and runs the mental health blog, Therapy For Black Girls. Therapy for Black Girls is an online space dedicated to encouraging the mental wellness of Black women and girls. So often the stigma surrounding mental health issues and therapy prevent Black women from taking the step of seeing a therapist. Dr. Joy Harden Bradford developed the blog to present mental health topics in a way that feels more accessible and relevant.

You can follow her on Twitter @therapy4bgirls  and like her on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/therapyforblackgirls

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Nominations Are Open for November’s Book of the Month

books-and-moviesMocha Girls Read members it’s that time to pick a new book for the month of November.  The theme for November’s book nominations will be… Books to Movies (Books that have been made into feature films.  Upcoming releases as well.)   That’s right any book, any genre, anything goes as long as it has been on the BIG screen!

Nominations are from 10/7/13 – 10/13/13

For selecting our book of the month Mocha Girls Read uses a democratic system for monthly selections. What do I need to do? In the comments section below, tell us what you want to read next.  How many books can I nominate? Just pick 1 title off your TBR (to be read) list. Then what? We will put the list of nominations up for everyone to vote on.  Once the voting is over, the winner will be selected as the book for November. What if there is a tie? We will put the two books to a head to head competition. The two books will be re-posted and everyone will be able to vote again but only in a 48 hour window of time. When do the nominations start and end? The nominations start today and will close on October 13, 2013 at midnight.  Voting will start the next day.

Let us know what you want to read next in the comment section below. You can also email your nominations to us at mochagirl@email.com.

If you need some suggestions check out the titles below.  Click the book covers to read a synopsis and the reviews of the books.

  the_joy_luck_clubmidnightcover message-in-a-bottleW4E-book-coverCharlie-and-the-Chocolate-Factory-book-cover817zSlJXNZL._SL1500_

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Voting is Open for February’s Book of the Month

Historical Black Fiction

black woman votingIt’s that time ladies.  Time to Rock the Vote!  For the month of February we are going to read a Historical Black Fiction.

There are some great titles up for vote this time.  Here are the Rules for Voting.

1. You may vote for three (3) books.

2. All members get to vote only once.

3. Last Day to vote will be January 20, 2013. (Midnight Los Angeles time)

4. The book with the most votes wins.  But if there is a tie there will be a 48 hour death match. The two or three books will go into a head to head competition for only 48 hours. Whichever book is left standing (with the most votes) wins!

 

 

Below the poll you will find the title of the books linked to a brief description.  Now… may the best book win!!

 

A Mercy by Toni Morrison
More than a Slave by Margaret A. Pagan
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The Land by Mildred D. Taylor
The Long Song by Andrea Levy
The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
To Be a Slave by Julius Lester
Sugar by Bernice McFadden

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Guest Post ~Woman: Black. Angry? ~

Today’s guest post is from Mocha Girl MJ.  A Chicago native, MJ Forbes began writing short stories at the age of five. She and a kindergarten friend would write stories and read them to one another over the telephone. MJ continued writing throughout her school days, and won several literary awards. Though it was once only a childhood hobby, MJ later realized the true power of the plume, and began to use writing to give a voice to words which might otherwise have been left unsaid. Her writing brings attention to common issues from a different perspective, allowing the reader to experience a variety of emotions vicariously through her characters. MJ believes that writing is a healing both to the writer and the reader.
“Reading your own feelings from off of a page feels like finally sharing a secret with someone other than yourself. A book won’t judge you if you cry when you shouldn’t or if you laugh when nothing is really funny. Reading provides freedom to acknowledge your emotions, whatever they may be. Writing forces you to do the same.” – MJ Forbes

Woman: Black. Angry?
I typically prefer not to address unfavorable stereotypes beyond an occasional private conversation with girlfriends. But I can’t stand to see an idea so muddled that everyone is talking about it, but few really know what they are actually talking about. Please allow to me provide a touch of clarity on the much debated topic of the misunderstood ‘angry black woman’, which I’ll try to do without belaboring it.
Let’s begin here.

Definition: angry – adjective, feeling or showing anger or strong resentment (usually followed by at, with, or about).

The phrase ‘angry black woman’ is something of a misnomer. It suggests that malcontent is an intrinsic part of the character of a woman who has brown skin and ancestors from Africa. In actuality, this unfortunate syndrome is not race related. It is not genetic. It’s a learned behavior. A reaction, actually. This anger is a defense tactic that has been passed down from mothers, aunts, and grandmothers along with secret family recipes and traditions. Black women are not naturally more aggressive than other human beings. That is why there are no angry black babies.
In fact, as babies, we are all the same. Humans are born with a sense of entitlement. No infant has ever considered whether or not they are entitled to more or less than others. We emerge from our mothers’ wombs with an expectation to have all of our needs met. And we cry furiously until our desires are fulfilled. No, anger is not a color thing. It is a human thing.
Anger not always a bad thing. The difference is in how we channel it. It is often the first step toward change. The problem is that many of us are not taking the second, third, and twentieth steps. But I’ll leave that topic for another discussion. Some women are known to express anger with yelling, finger swinging, and neck jerking. The unfortunate consequence of this is that others cannot see past your emotion to your meaning. Then these expressions are connected with irrationality and even monthly hormonal cycles. Therefore, they are treated as if unimportant or nonexistent. Some women quietly hold anger inside like a heavy stone weighing down their intestines. Poorly managed anger doesn’t do anything for us but encourage cortisol hormones to add inches around our mid-sections, and make wrinkles where we know good and well we should not be cracked. Finally, some women direct anger into calculated action.
An arguable idea: black women have just cause to be angry. Why? We live in a world where despite all of our advances as a species, we still categorize people by their appearance. For black
women, not only are we black, but we have the nerve to be female as well. Therefore, positioned in our spot at the bottom of society’s totem pole, we are often assumed less intelligent and capable. When we demonstrate that we are, in fact, brilliant, creative, and forward moving, the response we receive is often…wait for it… anger. This puts is in a virtually no win situation. That is, if the goal is to win the favor of people who are not black and not women. Perhaps we should make sure that is not our goal.
But we have made so many strides in race relations. That is true. And a great many people, male and female, black and other colors have fought and given their lives for our rights. We should be grateful that we have the freedoms and opportunities that we have, and we should take advantage of them. Through the efforts of these people, laws have changed. What is deemed socially acceptable has changed. People, however, are generally the same. Hatred has been with man since Cain murdered his brother and it is standing nowhere near the exit.
Angry Black womanBut that’s not all. Black women are angry because we are victimized by the media, each other, and ourselves. Some of us are mad that girlfriend bought a house, or started a business. We get indignant when we should be inspired. Far more unfortunate than that is the fact that some of us are mad at other black women for having a shade lighter complexion, or slightly fuller lips and hips than the next. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and we should all be holders of our own beauty and grace. Then we may see that the beauty and intelligence of other black women is no threat to ourselves. The world is large enough for many women of beauty, intelligence, talents, shades, backgrounds.
Circumstances have placed us in a box, but guess what ladies – there’s a crack in the side. It has been caused by the weight and pressure of many women before us and next to us pushing against the walls. What are you doing? Are you pushing hard or are you standing around complaining that the crack is too narrow and you will never get through?
I am a black woman and I am not angry. I’m too busy being fabulous and successful and chasing my dreams to be mad at anyone for being mad at me for doing the aforementioned things. I am, however, aware. And I suspect that many other black women are not ‘angry’. I think many of us may have misdirected passion and misunderstood ambition.
I would like to propose a motion, and I’m looking for someone to second it. Black women, let us not pass this idea of inferiority to our daughters. Let us be the last generation of women with any hint of an idea that we accomplish anything ‘in spite’ of ourselves. Let us be so preoccupied with activity that we have less time for anger. One day may this all be a faded scar on the face of society rather than an oozing wound.

Thank you Mocha Girl MJ for this guest post.  Feel free to comment below and if you would like to submit a guest post about Black Women, books or something along those lines, please email me at mochagirl@email.com.

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