• April Lynn James

I was not the problem, Part 1

“Hidden Figures” is such an inspiring film. The everyday heroism of these women can no longer be overlooked, even while some of the issues they dealt with are still kicking in the 21st century. The film shows the world into which my father was born, and in which my mother was raised. That world of the American South was separate and definitely unequal. Thankfully, we had out-of-the-box leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr to help bring about necessary changes.

I wish the story of these women had been more celebrated during my youth, but really, Hollywood just wasn’t up to the task of making this good a film about this subject matter in the 70s, 80s, or 90s. The institutionalized racism and sexism so endemic to American society affected film and TV no less than it affected the educational and political system.

Here’s a memory this film awakened: I remember when I was in 11th grade in my small, private school in Queens. I had a math teacher, a Mrs. Levin. Now, I was always good at math—nothing genius level, just respectable Bs and B+s. Yet my grades suffered under this teacher’s “tutelage”. For the first time in my life, I was getting Cs. My parents were advised by parents of children a grade or two ahead of me that Mrs. Levin routinely flunked black students. They went to the Assistant Principal, but to no avail. Then, a miracle happened. . .

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