[I am honored to host a guest post from Judy Douglass, co-leader (along with her husband Steve) of Campus Crusade for Christ International, who brings insight from her lifetime of work in bringing Jesus’ love to people across the globe. As she writes here about women and their work in a hostile world, you see it is based on firsthand knowledge of women she has worked with both here in the States and in developing countries around the world.]
My stomach knotted
Already? Would there be trouble even in the opening scene?
Three young black women on their way to work at NASA in the early 1960s stalled on the side of a country road. As the “mechanical one” worked to fix the problem, a police officer pulled up behind them. Cheerfulness turned to confrontation.
My whole body tensed as I remembered such encounters in books I had read, in movies I had seen, in stories my friends had related. Gratefully “working at NASA” rescued them and the officer escorted them to their jobs.
Seeing the Hidden Figures
I attended the showing of Hidden Figures with the global leaders of Cru. It’s become tradition at the annual Executive Team retreat to take a break and attend a current significant movie.
I asked why Hidden Figures was chosen, though there were other important films available in the same theater. Steve Sellers, vice president and U.S. director, explained:
“I wanted to see the movie to help broaden my understanding of racial issues in our country, to see places were we have made progress as a country, and to deal with the reality of how much further we have to go. It helps us in ministry whenever we can better understand the culture in which we operate in order to be more effective to do what God calls us to do. The more I understand about these issues, the more compassionate I am about other peoples’ journeys.”
The film is the story of three brilliant and remarkable young black women who made a significant impact on America’s early manned space efforts and later the successful endeavor to put a man on the moon.
These delightful, determined ladies faced double trouble at NASA. No one there believed women could do much more than secretarial work, much less high math and engineering. Promotion and credit for their work were rare.
But their skin color relegated them to another building, where a colored bathroom met their needs. A separate coffeepot marked “colored.” Remarks that the trash needed to be emptied.
I found myself deeply identifying with them. I have many friends of color and have wept at the discrimination they have experienced, at the bigotry that prevails, at the injustice that endures.
Progress, but still work in progress
Personally I have spent more than 30 years advocating for greater development and opportunity for women in our ministry. We have seen great progress, but more work awaits.
Every time Katherine Johnson (Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) or Mary Jackson (Janelle Monae) was put down, demeaned or devalued, my heart sank. Tears flowed.
Every time one was affirmed, approved or found success, tears of joy fell.
And every time Al Harrison (Kevin Costner) stood up for the women, tore down the “colored signs” and believed in them, I rejoiced, even as I have for the men who have stood with me as brothers on behalf of our staff women.
Ken Cochrum, Cru’s VP for Digital Strategies, added this reflection: “The movie was powerful, eye-opening and disturbing. How, if we seemed to make so much progress 50 years ago, can our nation continue to be stuck in so many racially denigrating attitudes and cultural behaviors?”
As we left the theater, Andrea Buczynski, our vice president for Leadership Development/HR, and I confessed we had cried through much of it. And several of the men admitted they had shed a few tears as well. Andrea posted on Facebook:
“If you’re looking for a great movie this weekend, go see Hidden Figures. I highly recommend it. In fact, don’t miss it. Seriously.”
I agree. Don’t miss it.
Judy Douglass is a writer, speaker, encourager, and I find every time we interact I come away feeling tremendous care and support. She partners with her husband, Steve, to lead Campus Crusade for Christ globally, and writes at www.judydouglass.com. You can also find her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter.