Log in

Katherine Johnson Speaks at Hampton University's Commencement Program

Katherine Johnson delivers a powerful message to the Hampton University Class of 2017

Katherine Johnson, an African-American physicist, and mathematician, better known as the human computer and subject of the movie, Hidden Figures, delivered a message to the Hampton University Class of 2017 during their commencement program.

Johnson, a graduate of West Virginia State College (now West Virginia State University), a historically black college, made significant contributions to the United States' aeronautics and space programs with the early application of digital electronic computers at NASA.

Known for accuracy in computerized celestial navigation, Johnson conducted technical work at NASA that spanned decades. During this time, she calculated the trajectories, launch windows, and emergency backup return paths for many flights from Project Mercury, including the early NASA missions of John Glenn and Alan Shepard, and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the Moon, through the Space Shuttle program.

If you haven't seen the movie, Hidden Figures, you can probably stream it from Netflix, or watch it via your cable/satellite TV provider. It's a story you will never forget and undoubtedly will share with your family and friends.

Hidden Figures stars Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, Janelle Monae, and Kevin Costner.

Hidden Figures Brings #BlackGirlMagic to the Big Screen!

Count on seeing Hidden Figures and definitely take your daughters to see these black women excelling in math, engineering, and computer operations

It’s the early sixties. Three black women traveling in a blue and white 1957 Chevrolet head to work. Few people would guess that Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe) work at the National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA). One is a mathematician, one an engineer and the other a computer expert. Hidden Figures tells the fascinating story of these three amazing women and the vital roles they play in getting America’s space program off the ground.

The story behind Hidden Figures is incredible on multiple levels. According to a People magazine article, numbers fascinated Katherine Johnson from her earliest days. She counts everything including the number of steps it takes to walk to school. She enters high school at 10 and then graduates from college at 18. Her highly supportive father moves their family as necessary to ensure that she takes full advantage of the educational opportunities offered to her. Dorothy Vaughan graduates from Wilberforce University in Ohio at an even younger age, 16.

Johnson, Vaughan, and Jackson benefit from a NASA program which hired black women during War World II. The agency is so impressed by the mathematic talents of these women (who were called “computers”), it continues the program after the war ends opening the door for later arrivals.

Hidden Figures doesn’t just tell the stories of these three geniuses but provides a portrait of the racial dynamics of that time period. Including the segregated facilities and the closed minds attempting to undermine these women’s efforts and talents. Jim Parsons (of the Big Bang Theory) plays Paul Stafford who works along with Johnson at the Langley Research Center and who undercuts her by not supplying the necessary information to complete her projects. And he deeply resents her checking and sometimes finding errors in his calculations - which is her job.

Kevin Costner plays Johnson’s and Stafford’s boss and often has to referee their disputes and more times than not, sides with Johnson. He is a firm but fair supervisor who is forced to examine the prevailing segregationist policies and their effect on people like Johnson and her ability to do her job. And how she walks a half mile across the NASA campus to go to the segregated, colored women’s bathroom. Or how someone in his own department brings in a separate coffee pot for her rather than have her continue to use the one the rest of the group uses.

Recently deceased astronaut John Glenn reflects an uncommon acceptance and support of the women. When the NASA employees stand outside in a greeting line to meet the astronauts, the white employees are first. After shaking hands with them, a handler directs the astronauts back inside before reaching the black women. Glenn ignores the directive and walks over to speak and shake hands with the ladies. And before his first voyage, he makes clear that he won’t take off until Johnson reviews the computations of the NASA’s new IBM computer.

Overall the film is well done. One interesting scene is when Johnson who is a widow, rips into a man she meets at church (who later becomes her husband) because he’s surprised to find out that she’s a senior mathematician for NASA. The whole world would be surprised at her occupation! Why shouldn’t he? He later apologizes for his close-mindedness.

As to cast diversity Hidden Figures, gets an “A”. It represents the situation as it existed racially at that time.

See Hidden Figures because it has that rare combination of being both educational and entertaining. Also see it because if it’s a box office hit, Hollywood will make more films like it. And we need more films like it. Definitely take your daughters to see these women excelling in math, science, engineering, and computer operations (technology). One final point, in addition to being a member of the composing team to score the music for Hidden Figures, music producer, Pharrell Williams, is also one of the producers of the movie.

Hidden Figures is just over 2 hours at 126 minutes. Rated PG for thematic elements and some language. It gets our highest rating: See It!

Freedom Williams of C+C Music Factory Talks Music Industry Changes

Freedom Williams gives advice to would be music and recording artists: remember you are the brand

In this interview with What's The 411TV's Courtney Rashon, hip hop artist and dancer, Freedom Williams, gives us some insight into his life today, thoughts on the state of the music industry, how he got his record deal, and how some artists today are replicas of the past.

Freedom Williams, born Frederick Brandon Williams, started as a hip-hop head and evolved into a dancer. Today, Freedom has his hands in everything. He built a recording studio for artists to use; tours several months out of the year, manages a couple of groups, directs videos; mentors artists including the Williamsburg Bullies; builds houses through his construction company; and he has two children, a son who recently graduated from Columbia University and a 15-year-old daughter. 

Regarding the state of hip-hop today, Freedom believes hip-hop has lost some of its punch. The music industry as it was when he started is no more; people are making music in their basements, everybody's sharing and record sales have plummeted.

As far as ghostwriting goes in the rap industry, Freedom thinks today it's a silly argument. However, back in the day, rap artists would have gotten beat up for ghostwriting, but today is a different day. The industry has changed and the culture has changed.

What's on Freedom's playlist? You can find Janelle Monae, Stevie Wonder, classical music, Haitian music, and even Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speeches on Freedom's playlist. As an artist, Freedom listens to everything. Who are Freedom Williams' favorite artists? Stevie Wonder, as a producer-musician, is Freedom William's favorite artist of all time. In 2015, Freedom likes Janelle Monae; Anthony Hamilton; Drake; Immortal Technique; and Latin music. 

For those looking for a record deal, what's Freedom's advice? Remember you are the brand, work on you. The real money is in performance, so make people want to give you their money.

"Be the best that you can be, Freedom said. "Work on your songs, work on your craft, so when you are presented...the real game starts in practice, you bring that to the field."

Also, take care of your health. Freedom Williams believes in being physically fit; he says that when he's performing, he can see the audience getting tired before he does.

How does Freedom feel about social media?

Although social media is a valuable tool to market and promote artists today, Freedom advises artists to have thick skin and don't get caught up in the negativity.

Thank God there was no social media back in the day; today there are so many finger gangsters.

Would Freedom Williams go on Dancing With the Stars?

Perhaps.

Although Alfonso Ribeiro set the bar really high, if the producers of Dancing With The Stars called Freedom Williams, he would answer the phone.

Subscribe to this RSS feed