Shooting for the Stars – 10 Inspiring Women of NASA

NASA

Christmas 2016 gave us a very special cinematic gift: the film Hidden Figures, based on the real-life story of three black women who worked at NASA during a time when women – especially black women – were rarely hired for even menial positions. The achievements of Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan, along with many of their colleagues, shattered racial and gender barriers and revolutionized career opportunities for women.

 

Katherine Johnson

 

During her time at NASA, Johnson conducted trajectory analysis for the first human spaceflight in U.S. history in 1961. The following year, shortly before famed astronaut John Glenn was set to board the Friendship 7 – the first orbital mission in which a human would be on board – the astronaut himself told engineers to “get the girl” to do the calculations for the mission by hand.

Engineers weren’t confident in machine calculations. Thanks to her efforts, Glenn’s mission turned out to be a success. Johnson received the Presidential Medal of Honor at age 97 for her 33 years of service at Langley.

 

Mary Jackson

 

NASA speculates that Mary Jackson may have been the only black female engineer in aeronautics during the 1950s. While at NASA, she worked on dozens of scientific literature projects, specifically regarding aerodynamics. She pursued management positions well into the 1970s before deciding to leave engineering altogether.

In fact, she was demoted in 1979 and took on the role of Langley’s Federal Women’s Program Manager. During her six years as the Women’s Program Manager, she worked tirelessly to ensure women secured careers as mathematicians, scientists, and engineers at NASA.

 

Dorothy Vaughan

 

Though she was the head of NASA’s West Area Computing Unit for nearly ten years, her department consisting entirely of black women was segregated from the other computing units at NASA’s Langley laboratory. Vaughan became the first black female supervisor ever employed at NASA, and she was often personally consulted by engineers to handle particularly difficult projects. In 1958, when segregation officially ended, Vaughan joined her caucasian coworkers and became an expert programmer.

 

Kathryn Peddrew

 

Peddrew worked as part of Vaughan’s team, where she was hired after graduating from Storer College’s Chemistry program in 1943. She spent almost half a century working at NASA, first for the West Area Computing Unit, and then as a researcher on balance, aeronautics, and aerospace.

 

Sue Wilder

 

Wilder worked as a data analyst during her 35 years at NASA. She was one of NASA’s “human computers.” When she died in 2009, her family encouraged mourners to make donations to her church, where she served her community, or to the American Cancer Society instead of sending flowers.

 

Huy Tran

 

Tran is currently an employee at NASA as an engineer and tester of space shuttle heat shields, but she grew up in Vietnam during the war and was later a refugee in Indonesia. As a child, before she fled the country to come to Indonesia and eventually the U.S., Tran was able to watch TV for a few hours during the weekends at a neighbor’s house. It was during one of these viewings that Tran first watched the moon landing, which inspired her to pursue a career at NASA. You can read more about her incredible story on her official NASA page.

 

Sally Ride

 

Almost everyone knows Sally Ride was America’s first woman to be sent into space. The astronaut boarded the space shuttle not just once, but twice before deciding to teach at the University of California, San Diego.

She was also the first female to serve on investigation committees following two shuttle crashes. Ride went on to establish Sally Ride Science, an organization dedicated to motivating girls to pursue career opportunities in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology.

 

Jennifer Heldmann

 

When Heldmann was in third grade, she visited a science museum. Little did she know this field trip would change the course of her life forever and inspire her to earn her doctorate in Planetary Science. She works at NASA’s Ames Research Center, where she spends her time researching water on Mars, as well as analyzing spacecraft data and fieldwork.

Her research has played a big role in new space missions. Through public outreach programs, she hopes to get the next generation as excited as she was about space in the third grade.

 

Sharmila Bhattacharya

 

Bhattacharya grew up close to her father, a dedicated pilot. At a young age, Bhattacharya voiced concern that mostly men were pilots, and asked her father if she would be allowed to become a pilot since she was a girl. Her father responded by telling her she could become anything she wanted to be – so she became a life scientist at NASA Ames.

Her work mostly focuses on changes in the human body, particularly the immune system, during spaceflight as well as the biological effects of radiation and zero gravity. She’s watched her own experiments fly into space, which she considers one of her life’s greatest accomplishments.

 

Tarrie Hood

 

Hood says her path to the stars was not easy. She lost her mother and closest friend at the age of 14 and became a single mother herself at the age of 16. She says, aside from her career as an information technology specialist at NASA, her greatest achievement was graduating high school while caring for her daughter.

When she was 19, Hood participated in NASA’s Cooperative Education program at the Marshall Space Flight Center as an administrative assistant. Two years later, she was hired after receiving an Associate’s degree in Business Administration. Her promotion influenced her to pursue her Bachelor’s.

 

Hidden Figures

 

Hidden Figures, based on a book with the same title by Margot Lee Shetterly, reveals the astounding and little-known legacy of some of these intelligent and groundbreaking women. Their perseverance and dedication paved the way for women like Huy Tran and Sharmila Bhattacharya, who are working hard within their own niches to reveal the secrets of our universe.

NASA is not just for astronauts. There are some truly incredible ladies working hard behind the scenes to ensure missions are successful. Whether they’re studying water on Mars, researching biological changes spaceflight brings, or just making sure astronauts get paid for their hard work, these ladies’ contributions are incredibly important for exploring our solar system and the universe.

This post originally appeared on Women 2.0.


Jennifer Grant is an American History Scholar. Studying our Country’s past makes her feel more connected to its rich history and bright future. Blogging for Americanflags.com allows Jen to create inspiring and inclusive content that she’s proud of. Jen is obsessed with coffee, aromatherapy candles, and reading historical fiction.

Women 2.0 is building a future where gender is no longer a factor. Founded in April 2006, it’s now the leading media brand for women in tech. The for-profit, for-good company takes an action-oriented approach that directly addresses the pipeline from all sides: hiring, founding, investing, and leading.

 

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Proves the Need for Diversity in Hollywood

Get OutGet Out (Image: Wikimedia)

 

Jordan Peele’s Get Out will make you cringe, scream, and feel incredibly uncomfortable—and apparently, people can’t get enough of it.

Since it’s release on February 24, the socially conscious horror flick has raked in over $117 million, as of March 15. This makes Peele the first African American writer and director to earn over $100 million at the box office with a debut feature film. To top it off, Peele reached this benchmark in just 16 days.

I had a chance to see Get Out earlier this week, and I must say, the film lives up to the hype. The movie puts a dark, satirical twist on racism and makes a number of historical references like, for an example, a 21st century slave auction. Get Out also adds a dose of humor and originality, all while operating on an impressively meager $4.5 million budget.

Peele’s high grossing breakout film is just one example of a movie with a leading black actor(s) that has been widely received and praised. Hidden Figures—a movie about three black female mathematicians working at NASA—earned a whopping $163.1 million. In comparison, La La Land racked up $148.6 million, while Jason Bourne brought in $162.4 million.

In an interview with NBC News, Stephane Dunn, associate professor and director of the Cinema of Television & Emerging Media Studies program at Morehouse College, said, “Hidden Figures is yet another movie that is exposing the lie that black oriented stories do not resonate. It is a movie that has added additional evidence to the contrary. It’s a strongly cemented ideal that black stories are not universal, but it is proving further how universal the black experience is.”

After Hidden Figures reached the No. 1 spot at the box office during its opening weekend, actress Taraji P. Henson made note of the phenomenon of black movies in an Instagram post, writing, “I have been told my entire career, ‘Black women can’t open films domestically or internationally.’ Well, anything is possible.” She added, “Most importantly this proves that PEOPLE LIKE GOOD MATERIAL. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER OR RACE.”

Meanwhile, Moonlight, another surprisingly successful film with a black cast, went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture, .

Yet, despite these examples, the amount of diversity in Hollywood remains scarce. According to a new report published by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, only 10% of films released in 2015 had non-white directors, and just about 5% had non-white writers. Needless to say, we still have a long way to go.

 

Jordan Peele’s ‘Get Out’ Proves the Need for Diversity in Hollywood

Get OutGet Out (Image: Wikimedia)

 

Jordan Peele’s Get Out will make you cringe, scream, and feel incredibly uncomfortable—and apparently, people can’t get enough of it.

Since it’s release on February 24, the socially conscious horror flick has raked in over $117 million, as of March 15. This makes Peele the first African American writer and director to earn over $100 million at the box office with a debut feature film. To top it off, Peele reached this benchmark in just 16 days.

I had a chance to see Get Out earlier this week, and I must say, the film lives up to the hype. The movie puts a dark, satirical twist on racism and makes a number of historical references like, for an example, a 21st century slave auction. Get Out also adds a dose of humor and originality, all while operating on an impressively meager $4.5 million budget.

Peele’s high grossing breakout film is just one example of a movie with a leading black actor(s) that has been widely received and praised. Hidden Figures—a movie about three black female mathematicians working at NASA—earned a whopping $163.1 million. In comparison, La La Land racked up $148.6 million, while Jason Bourne brought in $162.4 million.

In an interview with NBC News, Stephane Dunn, associate professor and director of the Cinema of Television & Emerging Media Studies program at Morehouse College, said, “Hidden Figures is yet another movie that is exposing the lie that black oriented stories do not resonate. It is a movie that has added additional evidence to the contrary. It’s a strongly cemented ideal that black stories are not universal, but it is proving further how universal the black experience is.”

After Hidden Figures reached the No. 1 spot at the box office during its opening weekend, actress Taraji P. Henson made note of the phenomenon of black movies in an Instagram post, writing, “I have been told my entire career, ‘Black women can’t open films domestically or internationally.’ Well, anything is possible.” She added, “Most importantly this proves that PEOPLE LIKE GOOD MATERIAL. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH GENDER OR RACE.”

Meanwhile, Moonlight, another surprisingly successful film with a black cast, went on to win an Oscar for Best Picture, .

Yet, despite these examples, the amount of diversity in Hollywood remains scarce. According to a new report published by the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA, only 10% of films released in 2015 had non-white directors, and just about 5% had non-white writers. Needless to say, we still have a long way to go.

 

‘Hidden Figures’–Don’t Just See the Movie, Read the Book!

Hidden Figures

Last week, when I opened the book Hidden Figures in a hair salon, one of the stylists rushed over to me.

“Is that the book?!” she exclaimed. “I didn’t realize there was a book, too.” I assured her that this was indeed the book on which the movie was based. I urged her to read it, and not just see the movie.

I saw the movie, and it’s great—but reading the book is a much richer experience. Since this is Women’s History Month, I couldn’t think of a greater topic to write on than the women whose stories are told in Hidden Figures.

 

Math Opens Doors

 

The book examines the lives of four extraordinary women, beginning with Dorothy Vaughan, portrayed in the movie by Octavia Spencer, who, I believe, got the film’s best lines.

A gifted math teacher, Vaughan and her husband struggled financially because of their low-wage work. She signed up for a temporary assignment at the precursor to NASA—and stayed until she retired. Her example of hard work, determination, and far-sightedness inspired me.

Katherine Johnson, the famed computer who impressed seemingly everyone who knew her, including astronaut John Glenn, is also an inspirational figure. I appreciated the anecdote about the white male colleague, who looked at her and then left, causing her to wonder if she’d offended him in some way. But instead of dwelling on it, she simply assumed the best and ate her lunch. Within two weeks, the two were fast friends, discovering that they both hailed from West Virginia.

And I loved how Mary Jackson, one of NASA’s first female engineers, helped her son compete in a soap box derby. I don’t want to give too much away, but Jackson’s energy, fearlessness, and brilliance could not be contained.

Reading about these women, including Christine Darden—who met Johnson at church and ended up the first black woman at NASA’s Langley Research Center to be promoted to a senior executive service post—opened a window onto a community of financially stable, well-connected, and well-educated black people, at a time when most struggled under the strictures of Jim Crow.

Get the full story: don’t just see Hidden Figures—read the book!

Meet This IBM Watson Engineer

 

If the box office gross revenue for Hidden Figures is any indication, people are interested in learning more about real, accomplished women of color in the science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. Hailed as a box-office “anomaly” for being a hit film with an intellectual story line starring three black women,  Hidden Figures has been projected to gross over $100 million at the domestic box office. Plus, it was made with a $25 million budget—modest by Hollywood standards.

While the success of Hidden Figures and its talented cast and crew is laudable, there are black women making great strides in STEM. Some—such as Rashida Hodge, a director on IBM’s Watson team—are working on the most transformative and important science and technology projects in the world.

Who Is Rashida Hodge?

 

While growing up in St. Thomas, Hodge’s teachers discovered her gift for math. She initially wanted to become a computer scientist. “My parents did not have a lot of money—I was on scholarship. My mom said, ‘You better know exactly what you want to go to school for.’ I went to a program that was able to introduce me to all the different engineering disciplines,” remembers Hodge.

“When I found out what industrial engineering was, I fell in love with the fact it allowed me to use my math and science skills, but also take the human factor into consideration,” she continues.

Hodge began working with IBM in 2002, when she started as a summer intern. “I actually started out while I was getting my master’s and began transitioning to part-time while I finished my degree. Once I graduated, I joined full-time. I received my M.B.A. from Duke, through IBM’s executive MBA program,” she says.

Thinking as 1,000 Engineers

 

Hodge, who holds both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in industrial engineering, is currently the director of Worldwide Client Delivery at IBM Watson, which entails running a global team across the Americas and Asia Pacific. She and her team implement and train customers in how to use Watson solutions.

For the last two years, Hodge and her team have been working with an Australian oil-and-gas company. Watson helped solve a very critical problem this company was experiencing. “They call their experts— ‘engineers on wheels’—because, in that industry, a lot of knowledge happens over a large period of time,” she says.

“They were having a problem, and they said, ‘We know we’ve done this before, but we’ve spent over eight weeks already [looking for a previous solution]. Can we see if Watson can help us with this particular solution?’” she continues.

“The documents [they needed eventually came] up when they were able to go to a particular schematic. We [were able to take] over 30 years of that information—these large billion-dollar oil platforms and lessons learned— so now, when they are building out a new platform, they have access to all of that info. Their engineers can go into Watson, and get that information, ” Hodge explains.

“Before Watson, the engineers would spend 80% of the time looking for info, and 20% of the time making an engineering decision. With Watson, that’s flipped,”  she says. “Watson is [now] training them to think, not like one engineer, but 1,000 engineers.”

Why Watson Matters

 

Ray Kurzweil, a renowned computer scientist and futurist wrote, “Watson is a stunning example of the growing ability of computers to successfully invade this supposedly unique attribute of human intelligence.”

Watson is a marvel in artificial intelligence (AI). Actually, it’s a platform, comprised of several technologies besides AI: machine learning, data analytics, neural networking, speech recognition and more. It can sift through and analyze a vast amount of data—its able to read 800 million pages per second—and can even understand nuances of human language. These capabilities makes it easier for people to interact with Watson without having to learn a lot of commands or programming.

IBM is transforming many industries with Watson. In healthcare, Watson has proven better at detecting cancer than doctors.“According to Samuel Nessbaum of Wellpoint, Watson’s diagnostic accuracy rate for lung cancer is 90%. In comparison, the average diagnostic accuracy rate for lung cancer for human physicians is only 50%,” reports qmed.com.

“Watson’s portfolio goes across all industries. IBM is known for working with very large enterprises, such as in the financial sector. But, we are seeing industries use it across the board: small companies, startups, developers, and so on,” says Hodge.


This is an excerpt from an article in the upcoming January/February 2017 print edition of Black Enterprise Magazine.

 

This Current Day Hidden Figure Turns Up STEAM

STEAMImage: My Girl Power, Vimeo (Image: My Girl Power, Vimeo)

 

Loretta Cheeks is a modern day “hidden figure.” The Hidden Figures movie educated the public about brilliant, yet not well-known, black women in STEM from the past. Cheeks is one of today’s African American STEM professionals who may not be household names in the black community but have achieved remarkable success in their careers; contributed greatly to the science, technology, and engineering fields; and routinely give back.

The Ph.D. candidate developed systems and headed up teams within the communications, radio, avionics, instrumentation and control, and chemical industries. A native of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Cheeks’ career spans two decades where she held key technical and engineering roles with several prestigious companies including Westinghouse and Honeywell Aerospace.

 

A Weekend of STEAM

 

In addition to her technical work, she founded Strong TIES to promote STEAM (science, technology, arts, mathematics) K-12 education.

Strong TIES will hold an upcoming event in Phoenix on the weekend of Feb. 17-19, called Turn Up for STEAM.

The event is free and will be held at Phoenix College. It will serve approximately 120 underrepresented and underserved (50% African American, 47% Hispanic, and 3% other) kids, ages 13-18 who fall behind in science and math achievement.

Event activities include “Hip-Hop and Music the Bridge to Understand Algebra” and a “mini Code Hackathon.” Hip-hop and music will be leveraged to introduce the students to coding using visual arts and music software platforms.

Students will have access to college financial aid and college readiness workshops. On Sunday, there will be a panel discussion, “Turn Up for STEAM Presentation and Demonstration: A Celebration of Hidden Figures in Honor of Black History Month.” The panel is open to all in the community.

 

On Often Being “An Only”

 

“As a research scholar and industry professional in computer science, unfortunately, I am often the ‘only one’ in the department (both corporate and academics),” says Cheeks in a statement via email.

“What I have found out over the 20-plus years while working in a STEM career, [is that] it isn’t intellect that is lacking for many who have an interest in STEM or tech, rather it is a lack of access to critical resources that enables an equal playing field. For instance, when I ask students (and adults) why are math and science important? Often the response is math (and science) is hard. However, if I were to show students through experiential learning or play how math is used as a tool for expressing relationships, they will totally get it.”

She explained that Strong TIES holds this event to not only give students insight into work being done by “amazing people in the community,” but to also give an introduction to computer science principles as well as coding using culturally relevant tools such as hip-hop music.

One student, Zayn, participated in the Turn Up for STEAM last year. “Turn Up for STEAM inspired me to work toward having a career in STEAM. One of the reasons I like STEAM is that it incorporates art, another career I am considering. Turn up for STEAM also led me to other technology programs during the summer,” said Zayn.

Strong TIES will launch “Urban STEAM Thrive Program,” a sustainable framework offered to middle high school students during Out of School Time on Saturdays starting April 2017.

“Our goal is to create an innovative and creative atmosphere for safe discovery for becoming our next generation tech entrepreneurs by giving them best in class skills and learning experiences,” says Cheeks.

 

 

 

 

National Society of Black Engineers Launches #BlackSTEMLikeMe

#BlackSTEMLikeMe

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) launched a new campaign, #BlackSTEMLikeMe, an initiative encouraging black students and professional in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) to share their “stories and passions.”

The campaign’s goals are to showcase the work of black STEM professionals; demonstrate to black children that these careers are interesting and achievable; and to demonstrate the value of membership to NSBE.

“NSBE is very excited about this campaign, which makes a conscious effort to highlight black men and women in STEM, and show young black boys and girls that this is a career path that it’s cool for them to pursue,” said NSBE National Secretary Racheida Lewis, in a press statement.

“Being a member of NSBE has enabled me and many other black students, to successfully complete engineering and other STEM-related degree programs. It has empowered me to pursue my passion of educating others about STEM, through initiatives such as #BlackSTEMLikeMe.”

 

Image: NSBE (Image: NSBE)

 

 

The NSBE has a 10-year plan to increase the number of African American engineering graduates to 10,000 by 2025; up from 3,501 graduates in 2014.

Tina Fletcher, the director of Pre-college Programs for NSBE and a Ph.D. candidate in engineering education at Purdue University, spoke on the importance of African American STEM role models and mentors.

“Without my STEM education and professional career opportunities, I would not be the leader and woman that I am today,” Fletcher said, in a released statement.

“As a member of NSBE and now full-time employee of the organization, I’ve been able to see the impact we have on people of color, ranging from K–12 students, to professionals on their way to retirement from their companies. I encourage all black parents and caregivers to take advantage of the opportunity to expose their children to STEM through #BlackSTEMLikeMe, as well as NSBE youth programs such as our Pre-college Initiative and the Summer Engineering Experience for Kids (SEEK).”

The #BlackSTEMLikeMe campaign was inspired by the critically acclaimed film, Hidden Figures—the biographical movie about three African American female mathematicians, who helped accelerate America’s space program.

The campaign will involve a series of social media activity including blog posts, videos, and images on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms.

NSBE will also hold a series of panels nationwide called “Hidden Figures Mixer and Power Panel Discussion.” The first session is scheduled for February 2, in Oakland, CA, and at Stanford University on February 3. The discussion will include Hidden Figures actor Karan Kendrick.

 

 

 

3 Screen Actors Guild Awards Speeches That Left Us All Hopeful

Screen Actors Guild

On Sunday night, actors far and wide came together to celebrate each other’s work, at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award ceremony. The mood quickly turned political, as actors took the stage to use their platform to spread messages of love, of hope, of tolerance, of understanding; even to remind Americans and the world that we will not stand for the immigration ban—an unconstitutional executive order the president recently signed.

Check out these three speeches from the SAG awards that left us feeling connected and empowered:

 

1. Mahershala Ali’s Speech for His Award-Winning Performance in  Moonlight

 

An emotional Mahershala Ali,  who won the award for “Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role” for his portrayal of Juan in Moonlight, touched us all, as he connected his experience working on the film to what’s happening today.

 



 

“What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people,” says Ali. As a Muslim, who converted to Islam 17 years ago, Ali also provides a personal example in highlighting that bridges to religion are possible and love can trump all—his mother is an ordained minister.

2. Taraji P. Henson’s Speech on Behalf of the Cast of Hidden Figures

 

Hidden Figures, the breakout box office smash, won the award for “Best Cast in a Motion Picture.”

“This film is about unity,” says Taraji P. Henson, who played the incredible Katherine Johnson. Henson, along with co-stars Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer, played three brilliant African American women, who worked at NASA in 1960s, serving as the human computers, engineers, and mathematicians behind one of the country’s most important missions in the space race.

 



 

In keeping up with the mood of the night, Henson adds, “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside.” Yes, indeed—Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are hidden figures no more.

 

3. Viola Davis’ Speech for Her Award-Winning Performance in Fences

 

The lovely, talented Viola Davis won “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role,” for the role of Rose Maxson in the drama Fences. Davis, who has been vocal about the absence of black stories in Hollywood, honors the late August Wilson, and sends another message of true inclusion and celebration of differences.

 



 

“He honored the average man, who happened to be a man of color. Sometimes we don’t have to shake the world to move the world,” states Davis. “The fact we breathed and live a life, and was a God to our children; just that means we have a story, and it deserves to be told.”

 

3 Screen Actors Guild Awards Speeches That Left Us All Hopeful

Screen Actors Guild

On Sunday night, actors far and wide came together to celebrate each other’s work, at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award ceremony. The mood quickly turned political, as actors took the stage to use their platform to spread messages of love, of hope, of tolerance, of understanding; even to remind Americans and the world that we will not stand for the immigration ban—an unconstitutional executive order the president recently signed.

Check out these three speeches from the SAG awards that left us feeling connected and empowered:

 

1. Mahershala Ali’s Speech for His Award-Winning Performance in  Moonlight

 

An emotional Mahershala Ali,  who won the award for “Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role” for his portrayal of Juan in Moonlight, touched us all, as he connected his experience working on the film to what’s happening today.

 



 

“What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people,” says Ali. As a Muslim, who converted to Islam 17 years ago, Ali also provides a personal example in highlighting that bridges to religion are possible and love can trump all—his mother is an ordained minister.

2. Taraji P. Henson’s Speech on Behalf of the Cast of Hidden Figures

 

Hidden Figures, the breakout box office smash, won the award for “Best Cast in a Motion Picture.”

“This film is about unity,” says Taraji P. Henson, who played the incredible Katherine Johnson. Henson, along with co-stars Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer, played three brilliant African American women, who worked at NASA in 1960s, serving as the human computers, engineers, and mathematicians behind one of the country’s most important missions in the space race.

 



 

In keeping up with the mood of the night, Henson adds, “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside.” Yes, indeed—Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are hidden figures no more.

 

3. Viola Davis’ Speech for Her Award-Winning Performance in Fences

 

The lovely, talented Viola Davis won “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role,” for the role of Rose Maxson in the drama Fences. Davis, who has been vocal about the absence of black stories in Hollywood, honors the late August Wilson, and sends another message of true inclusion and celebration of differences.

 



 

“He honored the average man, who happened to be a man of color. Sometimes we don’t have to shake the world to move the world,” states Davis. “The fact we breathed and live a life, and was a God to our children; just that means we have a story, and it deserves to be told.”

 

3 Screen Actors Guild Awards Speeches That Left Us All Hopeful

Screen Actors Guild

On Sunday night, actors far and wide came together to celebrate each other’s work, at the 23rd annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) award ceremony. The mood quickly turned political, as actors took the stage to use their platform to spread messages of love, of hope, of tolerance, of understanding; even to remind Americans and the world that we will not stand for the immigration ban—an unconstitutional executive order the president recently signed.

Check out these three speeches from the SAG awards that left us feeling connected and empowered:

 

1. Mahershala Ali’s Speech for His Award-Winning Performance in  Moonlight

 

An emotional Mahershala Ali,  who won the award for “Best Male Actor in a Supporting Role” for his portrayal of Juan in Moonlight, touched us all, as he connected his experience working on the film to what’s happening today.

 



 

“What I’ve learned from working on Moonlight is, we see what happens when you persecute people,” says Ali. As a Muslim, who converted to Islam 17 years ago, Ali also provides a personal example in highlighting that bridges to religion are possible and love can trump all—his mother is an ordained minister.

2. Taraji P. Henson’s Speech on Behalf of the Cast of Hidden Figures

 

Hidden Figures, the breakout box office smash, won the award for “Best Cast in a Motion Picture.”

“This film is about unity,” says Taraji P. Henson, who played the incredible Katherine Johnson. Henson, along with co-stars Janelle Monáe and Octavia Spencer, played three brilliant African American women, who worked at NASA in 1960s, serving as the human computers, engineers, and mathematicians behind one of the country’s most important missions in the space race.

 



 

In keeping up with the mood of the night, Henson adds, “This story is about what happens when we put our differences aside.” Yes, indeed—Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson are hidden figures no more.

 

3. Viola Davis’ Speech for Her Award-Winning Performance in Fences

 

The lovely, talented Viola Davis won “Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role,” for the role of Rose Maxson in the drama Fences. Davis, who has been vocal about the absence of black stories in Hollywood, honors the late August Wilson, and sends another message of true inclusion and celebration of differences.

 



 

“He honored the average man, who happened to be a man of color. Sometimes we don’t have to shake the world to move the world,” states Davis. “The fact we breathed and live a life, and was a God to our children; just that means we have a story, and it deserves to be told.”