Why We Should Still Celebrate Black History Month

“Are you going to help me plan something for Black History Month?”  My way too excited co-worker asked.  To be honest, I was less than enthused.  It hadn’t been celebrated by the office in a couple years and then it was met with resistance.

“I’ll think about it,” I promised.

Actually, I didn’t have any plans for this February.  There was a time when my February was packed with Black History activities, such as lectures, films, and parades.   I was sure to attend at least one that included the food from the south, such as savory collard greens, candied sweet potatoes and crispy fried chicken.    However, I seemed to have lost steam.  I would blame it on having three children, but I should be doing more because of the children.  

Then a friend told me about the movie Hidden Figures.   She promised that it was excellent, but I still wanted to wait until it came to Netflix

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“No,” she insisted over the phone, “Don’t wait.  Let me tell you what happened with my daughter.”   Her daughter is a nine-year-old African American.  She lowered her voice and sounded as if she was going to reveal some magic.  “The first time she took the MAP (school standardized tests),  she tested on grade level.”

“Fine.” I said.

“Okay, a few months later, we went to see Hidden Figures and she was mesmerized by it.   When we got home, she wanted to practice her math. She even said that she wanted to be a mathematician.”

“That’s nice.”   But I’m not swayed to spend 8 bucks a ticket.  

“So, she took the next round of MAP,” she continued, “And she tested 2 grade levels higher in math and 4 in reading.  I asked her what’s changed?  She said Hidden Figures.”

I spend a minute thinking about this.  As a clinician, I know that our thoughts are powerful.  As a Christian, I know that the Scripture says “as a man thinketh in his heart, he is.”  

“We’re going next week.”  I declared.

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My oldest daughter is 11 years old and she is the complete package whether she believes it or not, but she tends to be unmotivated. I’m afraid that she is going to be the girl in back of a college lecture hall, chanting “C’s make degrees.”  In the  3rd and 4th grade, she loved math and science.  After she entered the 5th grade, something shifted and now she says that it is too hard.  So, I am hoping that she gets a whiff of magic.  

It was a Sunday and we settled in to watch Hidden Figures which stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Butler, and Janelle Monae.  The movie is brilliant in every way.  There were times the whole theater broke into cheers and times that we were hushed with pain.   It is the story of three African American women who worked as computers for NASA during the first space orbit.  The story centers around Katherine Johnson, who assisted with calculations for first USA orbit and later with the moon landing.  While I was engrossed in the movie, it did not escape me that my daughter was enjoying eating and paying attention to the people in the theater.  

On the car ride home, we broke down the experience but not in the same way.  

I wanted to discuss how the times have changed.  “Did you see how African Americans couldn’t use the public library?”

She wanted to discuss the people in the theatre who kept yelling at the screen.

I wanted to discuss how Mary Johnson wasn’t just discriminated against because she was African-American, but also because she was a woman.

She wanted to discuss, the lady seated in front of us with the mac and cheese.

I wanted to discuss how the women held on to themselves.  Every day they worked with people who didn’t believe they were competent, but they encouraged each other and didn’t allow it to seep into their souls.

She wanted to discuss how good the nachos tasted.

 

Oh well, at least we had mother-daughter time.   There was a pause as we rode in silence and then the clouds parted.

“I think that I want to be an engineer.  Do you think that I can be one?”

“Yes, I know that you can.”

She had found her inspiration.

 

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The Real Hidden Figures

 

 

 

Nichole Gause is a lot of things, but most importantly she is a wife, mama, and a child of God.   Her blog is the More Abundant Life can be found at  www.moreabundantlifesite.com.

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