Hidden Figures: Godspeed Sisters, Godspeed!

When we think of the Space race, NASA and Aerospace engineering, unfortunately, the last person we think of is the black woman. Through all the grainy black and white film all we see are the faces of white men sprinkled with the occasional white woman as we celebrate man’s crowning technological achievement,  as we conquer space travel. In fact, for my middle name “Glenn” I have Friendship 7 Astronaut John Glenn to thank for that honor and my mother who gave me that name died without ever knowing the real hero was a young black woman who was roughly the same age as her.  Then alone comes Margot Lee Shetterly’s gem, Hidden Figures: The Story of the Africa-American Woman who Helped win the Space Race. This wonderful book, and now movie chronicle the lives of three extraordinary women, Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson and Mary Jackson, as they not only help but were integral to the success of our space program.

Dorothy Johnson Vaughan was born in Kansas City Missouri in September of 1910, the daughter of Annie and Leonard Johnson. Her family moved to Morgantown, West Virginia,  where she graduated from Beechurst High School in 1925. Receiving a full-tuition scholarship, she graduated at the age of 19 with a B.A. in mathematics in 1929 from Wilberforce University, a historically black college located in Wilberforce, Ohio. Although encouraged by professors to do graduate study at Howard University, Johnson soon started working as a teacher. She wanted to assist her family during the Great Depression. Dorothy married Howard S. Vaughan Jr. in 1932, and the couple had four children. In 1943 Vaughan began what developed as a 28-year-career as a mathematician and programmer at Langley Research Center part of the Human-Computer project. Vaughan, portrayed in the movie by Oscar winner Octavia Spencer,  specialized in calculations for flight path, the Scout Project, and FORTRAN computer programming. Dorothy not only taught herself FORTRAN but taught workers under her supervision as well.

Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson was born in 1918, to Joshua and Joylette Coleman in White Sulphur Springs, Greenbrier County, West Virginia. She was the youngest of four children. Her father was a lumberman, farmer, and handyman and worked at the Greenbrier Hotel. Her mother was a former teacher.  Her parents emphasized the importance of education. Coleman showed a talent for math from an early age. Because Greenbrier County did not offer public schooling for African-American students past the eighth grade, the Coleman parents arranged for their children to attend high school in Institute, West Virginia. The family split their time between Institute during the school year and White Sulphur Springs in the summer. Coleman graduated from high school at age 14.  At age 15, she began attending West Virginia State College, a historically black college. As a student, Coleman took every math course the college offered. Multiple professors took Coleman under their wings, including chemist and mathematician Angie Turner King, who had mentored her throughout high school, and W.W. Schiefflin Claytor, the third African-American to receive a Ph.D. in math. Claytor added new math courses just for Coleman. Coleman graduated summa cum laude in 1937, with degrees in math and French, at age 18. After graduation, she moved to Marion, Virginia, to teach math, French, and music at Carnegie High School, a school for African-American students. In 1938, Coleman became the first African-American woman to desegregate the graduate school at West Virginia University in Morgantown, West Virginia. She was one of three African-American students, and the only female, selected to integrate the graduate school after the United States Supreme Court ruling Missouri ex rel. Gaines v. Canada (1938). The court ruled that states that provided public higher education to white students also had to provide it to black students, to be satisfied either by establishing black colleges and universities or by admitting black students to previously white-only universities. At NACA, (the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which would become NASA) Johnson calculated the trajectories, launch windows and emergency backup return path for many flights from project Mercury. In the movie, we see Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson guides our heroine Katherine to heroic heights as she singlehandedly rescues  John Glenn’s Friendship 7 historic orbit of the Earth. In 2015 President Obama awarded Katherine the United State’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential medal of freedom.

Mary Jackson, portrayed by newcomer Janelle Monae.  was born on April 9, 1921, to Ella (Nee Scott) and Frank Winston. She grew up in Hampton, Virginia, where she graduated from the all-black George P. Phenix Training School with highest honors. Mary Jackson earned a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and Physical Science from Hampton Institute in 1942. She was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha, the first Sorority founded by and for African-American women.Jackson served for more than thirty years as a Girl Scout leader. In 1958 Jackson became the first black female engineer at NASA. She was noted in the 1970s for helping black children in her community create a miniature wind tunnel for testing planes. Jackson was married with two children. She died on February 11, 2005, at age 83.

How was the achievement and accomplishments of these women glossed over and hidden for so many years? Did race or gender play a role in relegating these pioneers of the space program to third, fourth or even fifth class citizens, when they were truly the vanguards of space exploration? The truthful answer to that question is NASA much like our Country was segregated and had little use for parading and celebrating the accomplishments of black people and women. Black workers in the Human Computer Project were stationed miles away from their white counterparts making due with less pay and shabbier accommodations. Black people were responsible for many great inventions that this Country has benefited from yet they still remain nameless. Countless patents and ideas have been stolen along with the identities of rightful recipients. Women have also not fared well while lady liberty sits outside the United States shores, women continue to get the short end of the stick. In 2017, like in 1962 women are still paid less than a man for the same work.  John Lennon and Yoko Ono put it best when they sang, “Women are the Niggers of the World”. Our nation just elected for President a male Buffoon over the most qualified person who happens to be a female. I’ll take it a step further the nation voted for a black man before a white female and President Obama and I thought she was more qualified than him. So with this post, I salute you, Dorothy Johnson Vaughan, I salute you Katherine Coleman Goble Johnson, I salute you Mary Jackson hidden no more Godspeed Sisters, Godspeed!

HFI Film Festival

 The 17th Annual Harlem Film Institute Festival

Congratulations to our winning films:

#6 “Mister Jason Andrew” Directed by Jody Lafountaine.

#7 “Black Barbershop Health” Directed by Dr. Bill Releford.

#1. “Hype 2phones” Directed by Rondell Harris.   

HFI would like to thank all of the filmmakers for making the 17th Annual Film Festival a success and we look forward to seeing you next year.

Thank you and God Bless!

Melvin.

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Films not  in competition

“The Making to Crazy like a Fox”

“The Making of Doctor Bello”

Films in Competition

#1.

“Hype 2phones” Directed by Rondell Harris 4:09 min

#2.

“Back to School” Directed byCaylin Pickney 1:24 min

#3.

“Blue RosezDirected by Darren Henry 5:40 min

#4.

“Hispanic Gala 2015” Directed by Lisa Zajur 11:47 min

#5.

“Hype Express Yourself” Directed by Ga’Daisyia Gupta 8:24 min

#6.

“Mister Jason Andrew” Directed by Jody Lafountaine 14:01 min

#7.

“Black Barbershop Health” Directed by Dr. Bill Releford 7:49 min

Call me Mr. President Obama


Obama flag

Is this the real life, or is it just fantasy.

When it comes to a black President the movies and television screens gave us our very first taste of this experience. From James Earl jones portrayal of President Douglass Dillman in “The Man” in 1972 to MoganFreeman in “Deep Impact” in 1998, we were well prepared for the real thing, then along came President Barack Hussein Obama. For this lover of the escapism that the movies and television provided, I was surely ready for the big come down after that cold January day, in 2009. Seven years later I’ve come to find that reality is so much better than fantasy. The mere fact that President Obama joined the list of 17 other Presidents to serve more than one term should put him in the annals of great Presidents. Although harshly criticized, President Obama’s accomplishments are equal to or even overshadows the feats of the other great Men to hold this office.

Send in thObama Printe Clowns.

Before he was sworn in, President Obama  faced a runaway economy that swallowed jobs, houses and pushed many people to the brink of financial ruin. The country was engulfed in a war in Iraq and Afganistan and at home, a BP rig explosion left the Gulf coast and its inhabitants covered in oil. On top of all of this a new group of  mostly angry white men, “The Tea party”, went around the country, spewing racist rhetoric, crying about how “they wanted their country back”. These mobs were fired up by disrespectful Politicians who pointed fingers in the Presidents face and Congressmen who called him a liar as he gave his first State of the Union address. Right-wing Political pundit Rush Limbaugh making the retarded statement “I hope Obama fail”.Through all the lunacy and hate, President Obama stuck to his guns signing his very first piece of legislation “the Lilly Ledbetter fair pay act”, that challenged equal pay in the workforce. An economic stimulus bill and the historic Affordable Care act is fondly known as “Obama Care” followed. This would’ve been enough to seal his legacy but he did not stop there. Nominating Two women to Supreme Court while capturing America’s number one enemy, “Osama Bin Laden” and capping it all off with winning the Nobel Peace Prize. One would be hard pressed to find a President with these accomplishments  in two terms, mind you these deeds were done in less than one term.

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Will the real Men Stand up?

We all have our critics and no man is perfect on God’s green Earth but to deny Obama credit for helping to turn around an economy on the brink of depression in downright blasphemous. The way the First Family handled themselves in public with such dignity and grace, makes these attacks on them seem personal as if it had something to do with the color of their skin. You don’t have to be black to be proud of this family, they have made America  proud and “Great again”. President Obama gives you the feeling that the adults are finally  in charge of America and its policies. All you have to do is take a good look at the Republican candidates running, in the 2016 primary races. Barack and Michelle’s daughters Malia and Sasha have conducted themselves like pros.  as they navigate their teenage years under the glaring spotlight in the home of the leader of the free World. With the exception of Isis, i think the world is largely at peace. The Nobel committee prophesize it when they awarded President Obama. The violence and troubles in “Chiraq” (Chicago) bother me more than Iraq or Afganistan.

Obama’s Legacy building time.

Normalizing relations with Cuba is one of those policies by President Obama that will no doubt seal his legacy. This outdated foreign relations policy punished Fidel Castro and Cuba people while America did Buisness and had relations other dictators and human rights violators. Once again President Obama stepped in to end this fifty-year foreign policy childlike  squabble. Lifting sanctions on Iran is another foreign policy where President Obama caught some flack. Placing economic sanctions on Countries, that helps to cripple the infrastructure of a country is an easy way to create Terrorist. At press time,  President Obama’s biggest impediment has been a Republican lead do nothing Congress. This body of white angry men had promised to block any policy or plan President Obama put forth from the beginning at the expense of the American public. They are currently refusing to meet with Merrick Garland who President Obama nominated to fill the vacated seat on the Supreme Court.

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha pose for a family portrait with Bo and Sunny in the Rose Garden of the White House on Easter Sunday, April 5, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

As the curtain close on a presidency that was judged harshly by his critics and political pundits, I am glad i got to witness these last eight years that not a lot of black people thought they’d ever see. With a job well done you made us proud Mr. President. A black Man leading the highest office in the land and doing it with dignity and class. A Man,  first lady and children who lift up a standard and raised the bar on the Presidency. Thank you, Mr.President, Barack Hussein Obama.

Academy Awards or (# OscarsSoWhite)

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<> on October 19, 2009 in Santa Clarita, California.

Once again its that time of the year when we all anticipate the pictures and actors who will be nominated for the Academy Awards. Hopeful Actors, Directors, and Producers breathe a sigh of relief upon hearing their film has been nominated. Unfortunately, not everyone will have the pleasure of getting the call and usually, the ones left out are our black Actors, Directors, and Producers. Straight Outta Compton, a movie about rap group NWA, starring a bunch of talented up and coming black Actors and the only ones nominated were the film, white screenwriters. Creed tells the story of the son of Rocky’s perennial foe Apollo Creed and played skillfully by Michael B. Jordan but the Actor nominated was Sylvester Stallone. The # Oscars So White has replaced the hopes of a black Actor receiving an award this year. On February 28,  the Academy Awards turns 88, winning films from Wings,  1929 to Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), 2015, there has only been one film produced by a person of African decent, 12 Years a Slave, 2014,  to win best picture.

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Of the 305 films eligible this year, very few starred or were directed by black filmmakers. Not many films, black or white,  are able to past the Academy’s strict standards. Last year’s Oscar nominations received criticism and protest for their lack of diversity and this year is no different. Now I know not every black film or actor is deserving of the honor of being nominated but I must make a case for one man. Idris Elba’s masterful performance, as the commander of child soldiers, in Cary Fukunaga Beast of No Nation, was totally robbed. I’m not taking away anything from the 5 white actors nominated,  all fine thespians in their own right. Leonardo Dicaprio The Revenant and odds on favorite to win along with Matt Damon The Martian and Eddie Redmayne The Danish Girl, have all become regulars to the Academy’s  nomination process. The fact that Elba recently won the  Best Supporting  Actor at the SAG awards only helps to underscore #OscarsSoWhite.

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Actor Jamie Foxx arrives at the "Valentine's Day" Los Angeles Premiere at Grauman's Chinese Theatre on February 8, 2010 in Hollywood, California. "Valentine's Day" Los Angeles Premiere - Red Carpet Grauman's Chinese Theatre Hollywood, CA United States February 8, 2010 Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage.com To license this image (59526291), contact WireImage.com

The calls for diversity can sometimes be equated with the idea of just including performances that are not up to par just for the sake of inclusion. The Academy’s strict nomination process almost make that impossible. To become a voting member of the Academy an actor must have a minimum of three theatrical feature film credits, in all of which the roles played were scripted roles, one of which was released in the past five years, and all of which are of a caliber that reflects the high standards of the Academy, and/or have been nominated for an Academy Award in one of the acting categories. With these stringent requirements, It’s not hard to see why there are so few black members.
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Many people find the exclusion of black actors from the Oscars a problem, but what I find more troubling is the black actors who have won. Hattie McDaniel Gone With the Wind, 1939, was the first black Actor to  win for her portrayal Mammy, in a supporting role. Sidney Poitier’s Homer Smith in Lilies of the Field, 1963, garnered him the honor of being the first black Actor to win in a leading role. Of the 15 Oscars awarded to black Actors, few of the characters they portrayed had redeeming qualities. Two Slaves, Lupita Nyongo  in Twelve Years a Slave, 2013 and Denzel Washington  in Glory. Two Maids, Hattie McDaniel in Gone With the Wind, 1939 and Octavia Spencer in  The Help, 2011.  A Whore and a con Woman, Hallie Berry in Monster’s Ball, 2001 and Whoopi Goldberg in  Ghost, 1990. We round it off with a Crooked cop, a Monster and a Buffoonish African leader represented by Denzel Washington in Training Day, 2001, Monique in Precious, 2009 and Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland, 2006. Although nominated for Best Actor  in 1992, for his portrayal of black Nationalist leader Malcolm X  in  Malcolm X, Denzel Washington lost to Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, easily one of Pacino’s weakest performances of his illustrious career. So it is not hard to when it comes to Hollywood and the Academy Award sometimes even when we win,  we lose.HOLLYWOOD - MARCH 07: (EDITORS NOTE: NO ONLINE, NO INTERNET, EMBARGOED FROM INTERNET AND TELEVISION USAGE UNTIL THE CONCLUSION OF THE LIVE OSCARS TELECAST) Actress Mo'Nique, winner of Best Supporting Actress award for "Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire," poses in the press room at the 82nd Annual Academy Awards held at Kodak Theatre on March 7, 2010 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason Merritt/Getty Images)

 

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Spike Lee Vs. Tyler Perry

Spike LeeTyler Perry

Spike Lee and Tyler Perry are two of the most talented and successful black producer/directors, in Hollywood. Both men have accumulated a body of work that rivals many of their white counterparts. With all this talent and success, you’d think there would be peace in the valley. The argument over who will be the arbiter of the black image has once again reared its ugly head. Terms like Coonery, Buffoonery and elitism are tossed around, as the two artist fight to tell their stories. A battle that has raged in the a black community for years. Some have even compared it to the Harlem Renaissance, when Langton Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston were criticized, by Harlem Renaissance writers, for their advocacy of black folk.

NolaMadea

Spike Lee was recently awarded an Honorary Academy award, for his contribution to film and his body of work, that include over 40 films. Lee joins a list of directors that includes, D. W. Griffith, Orson Welles, and Cecil B. Demille.  With this honor,  he becomes the first black director to receive one. Although no one will admit it, Lee’s style of filmmaking has been copied by many of his contemporaries, with no mention of the homage. Although lacking the box office appeal, his films have earned critical acclaim, which help to solidify the moniker of a true student of film. Born to a Jazz musician father, and mother,  who was an educator, Lee’s middle-class upbringing has help to shape his black aesthetic to uplift the race. Lee’s battle with the studios is legendary, as he fought to get financing for his productions. Lee was often an outspoken critic of other entertainers when he felt the images of black folks were being demeaned or stereotyped.

 

Tyler Perrys rise through Hollywood took a different path. Raised by his abusive carpenter father and church going mom, Tyler’s upbringing was filled with sexual molestation and beatings. Tyler found success by way of the  “chitlin’ circuit”. His production of plays and musicals had made him a wealthy man  before he shot his first film. Perry’s films have been consistent box office hits. He is known for both creating and performing the Madea character, a tough elderly woman. Perry’s cast of characters, from Madea to the players on the television show “Meet the Browns”, have made him fodder for those critical of the images black people portray. Having conquered the stage and screen, he now sets his sight on television. With some new shows, “For Better or Worse” and “The Haves and the Have Nots”, Perry is looking to explore some new topic, which will no doubt expand an empire that is quickly approaching one Billion dollars.

No artist wants to be criticized for their creations nor do they want to be told what to create. I am a big opponent of censorship and see merit in both man argument. Spike Lee referred to Perry’s work as Coonery and Buffoonery, it harkens to the days of Stepin Fetchit, the black actor, who appeared in over fifty films. Lincoln Theodore Monroe Andrew Perry, aka, Stepin Fetchit came to fame in the Golden Age of Hollywood. His character earned the title “The Laziest Man in the World”. This stereotypical, lazy, illiterate and simple-minded character earned Fetchit millions but left black people with imagery we’ve yet to shake 86 years later. Tyler and Fetchit also, interestingly enough shares the surname, Perry. Spike Lee has also had critics of his film content. Lee took some heat for the portrayal, of the lead character,  in his first film “She’s Gotta Have it”, Nola Darling. Nola’s sexually liberating character was hounded by calls of misogyny and demeaning to women. Perry’s treatment of his most famous female character, Madea, has been greatly criticized on two fronts. Not only is Madea a man mocking a woman, the foul mouth, pot smoking, tough elderly woman lacks redeeming qualities.

There is one thing Hollywood knows well, and that is the power of imagery. In 1915, director D.W. Griffith film, “The Birth of a Nation”, was hailed a masterpiece. Its depiction of black people was highly offensive and demeaning. The film portrays black men, after the Reconstruction period, as savage, shiftless animals that prey on white women. The movie painted the KKK as the heroes to save white people from the black savages. One can only imagine the number of lynchings this movie encouraged. In response toThe Birth of a Nation”, brothers George Perry Johnson and Noble Johnson (a Universal Pictures contract actor), founded the Lincoln Motion Picture Company in 1916, producing middle-class melodramas likeThe Realization of a Negro’s Ambition” (1916) and “theTroopers of Troop K” (1917) and their most well-known film, “The Birth of a Race” (1918). The Johnson brothers’ movies featured black soldiers, black families and black heroes, concepts foreign to most mainstream films at that time. In the 1930s, some black film critics criticized Oscar Micheaux’s work for its portrayal of blacks, which sometimes perpetuated the same stereotypes found in mainstream films.

One could say we were once the butt of the joke but now we are creating the images now the jokes on us. It is true that black filmmakers should be able to choose to tell any story they wish to tell, like their white counterparts. The big difference lies in the fact that mainstream Hollywood produces over 300 films a year, less than 10 were produced by black filmmakers. Although not a fan of Tyler’s imagery, Lee admires his business acumen and Tyler has always championed Lee’s films. The two have expressed a desire to work on a project together and I am sure we will all benefit greatly from the fruits of this collaboration.

 

 

 

HFI’s ShoeMoney Network review

 

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I have been following internet millionaire Jeremy Schoemaker for a couple years now. I am on his newsletter and saw an email that said he was frustrated that he had sold many “how to make money online” products and even though the content was good very few people every logged in and did anything.

So he claimed not only would this be free but he would pay you for accomplishing tasks. I signed up. More because I was curious to see what his angle was than anything else. The first task was drop dead simple and I instantly received a dollar and it was sent to my Paypal instantly. and yet I never paid him anything.

Then I continued and went on the course now setting up my website. Then installing a theme, then installing plugins, etc. By the end of the 2nd level, he sends me $3. The course continued and I was glued.

Jeremy not only walks you through setting up everything,  step by step (and paying you as you accomplish the tasks), but also makes it fun awarding you belts like a karate system. But while the money was fun and kept me going, at the end I had a great blog with all the key plugins. A decked out facebook page and newsletter.

Again I never paid him $1. I kept waiting to see the trick but there truly is none.

If you seem skeptical of giving it a try it and when you make your first dollar in five minutes you will be as hooked as me. I just want to thank you, Jeremy.

Harlem Films

 

Harlem has always been a beautiful  backdrop for the movies. This historical community, constantly changing, adds to the vibrancy and spirit that is vital to Hollywood.

Harlem, as a movie location, has suffered from the skyrocketed cost of shooting on location, in New York city.  It’s a pity to see such a wonderful background lost, due to financial restraints.

 

 

Just make more Black films