Hidden Figures Redefines the Image of the Black Woman

 In Art + Entertainment, Culture

A must see film for all women, especially women of color. 

Roots, Rosewood, Set it Off, Baby Boy, Birth of a Nation, and hell even the Players Club. Six movies we’ve watched repeatedly that are embedded into our minds with recurrent images of black women being silenced, exploited, and victimized. Slaves, sluts, dependent, indolent, violent and ghetto have come to define the black woman’s trajectory in Hollywood.  This toxic imagery has been rooted so deeply into our spirits, we subconsciously expect black women to star in these roles and subsequently attribute these characteristics to them beyond the big screen. Without intent we’ve stereotyped black women to the world and most crippling, to ourselves. Thanks to Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae and the men and women responsible for such a great film, Hidden Figures challenges the toxicity of the stereotypical black woman.

Strong, bold, smart, intelligent, independent, determined, fearless, unapologetic, and ambitious describe Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughn, and Mary Jackson. While working for Nasa, these three African American women played an integral role in the success of John Glenn’s orbit around Earth upon the Friendship 7 spacecraft, February 20, 1962. Faced with segregation, discrimination, racism, and sexism, these three ladies fought to overcome every obstacle laid before them. Their focus and strong will sparked several emotions in me as a black woman gazing at the screen. Like most in the theater that night, I clapped during moments of achievement, whimpered during setbacks, and hissed while angered. Their story was my truth, my history, and my future. It was not toxic, it was inspiring. It was redefining the image of black women.

To be clear, I appreciate the six toxic movies mentioned above. Though I cannot deny the poisonous and dangerous narrative these movies spew, I have pride in knowing my history and culture is being captured and told. Those movies have a necessary role in our society. It’s similar to hip hop music. These type of movies give a voice and visual to the unheard and unseen. The tragedies that are lived in the black community, the systems created and maintained to oppress, and the remnants of a broken society should be told to the world. Seeming our schools do less than a mediocre job of teaching black history, it is important movies also reinforce positive and empowering images. Everyone must know there’s more to the black woman and Hidden Figures enforces just that.

Note to the Queens:

As we are learning to accept our greatness and our magic, we must also learn it’s okay to redefine ourselves. It is never too late to dispel the negative characteristics you or someone else have associated to you. You can and you will defy all odds. Be sure to take note of the 5 life lessons I learned from Hidden Figures. Write them down, keep them close and live by them.

5 important life lesson to take from Hidden Figures.

  1. Have tunnel vision for your goals (professional & personal).
  2. Move in silence while strategizing your next move.
  3. Fight for what’s right.
  4. Don’t let fear stand in your way.
  5.  Create your own opportunity.


Artwork: Manu Horn

Guest Art Work

Manu Horn is a fashion designer + fashion illustrator based in Los Angles, California. Manu has been designing women’s evening wear for more than 10 years. For women of all walks of life, his design aesthetic is simple. He creates designs for confident, strong, beautiful women that want to make a big statement. For inquiries, please contact him.

Written by: Shenise N. Foote-Vann

Founder and Editor-in-Chief for YP Empire, Shenise N. Foote-Vann, has a sincere passion for the empowerment and enrichment of her community. Mrs. Foote-Vann earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication and Journalism graduating from the Honors College of Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan. There she researched, The Effects of Hip Hop Culture on Black Women and the Black Culture.” Since, she’s written a plethora of cultural articles, led numerous discussions and workshops on Black America, and worked with several urban based community organizations. Mrs. Foote-Vann founded The AfrocentricX in 2016 as a means to educate, entertain, and empower Black America, more specifically, black women.

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