I lead a generally risk-averse life, and so it’s not really surprising that I didn’t attend the local Women’s March in January 2017. I’m not a big fan of crowds, even pre-COVID, and I’m conflict-avoidant to a fault, so those were two strikes against it already. Also, it was January, so it was colder than I can handle, delicate Southern flower that I am.
I did have a few pangs, though, while watching the news coverage, a sort of vague sense that I was missing out on something historically important – and worse, that I was depriving my own daughters, then 10 and 4, of something significant to their identities or their memories or their futures.
What we decided to do instead was go see “Hidden Figures,” which seemed appropriately feminist but had the added bonus of being inside and having the amenities of ample parking, comfy seats, and nachos.
And while Ruby probably would’ve made great memories at the Women’s March, “Hidden Figures” had a big impact on her life all the same. For months afterward, she talked about how inspiring the women in the movie were and how she wanted to be a scientist when she grew up.
So she and I were both pretty excited when the building that houses Benjamin Franklin High School – my alma mater and her current school – was renamed to honor Katherine Johnson, one of the women depicted in Hidden Figures. Johnson, who graduated high school at age 14 and went on to be the first Black woman to attend graduate school at West Virginia University, was specifically requested by John Glenn to check, by hand, the equations that had been programmed into the computer to ensure a safe flight and splashdown on his orbital mission. In 2015, President Barack Obama awarded Johnson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian honor; she died in 2020 at the age of 101.
And I’m even more excited that my daughter, as a member of the school’s Student Activities Council, is working with the Black Culture Club on an event this Friday, March 11, that will begin with a panel of three Black BFHS alumnae who now work in STEM fields; followed by a presentation by Katherine Sanders, the granddaughter of Katherine Johnson; followed by a screening of “Hidden Figures.” I love seeing my daughter develop her leadership skills while helping to promote this event (even if right now, as a ninth grader, she is mostly relegated to hanging flyers and selling refreshments at intermission).
There are many things I wish had gone differently over the past five years, but for now, I’m putting aside my twinges of regret for not attending the Women’s March – and instead taking a moment to celebrate everything coming full circle.
The event, which is free and open to the public, is this Friday, March 11, from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at Benjamin Franklin High School at the Katherine Johnson campus, 2001 Leon C. Simon Drive. For more information, call (504) 503-0062.