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Getting Ahead in the Face of Adversity
The answer is always no if you don’t ask – President Cynthia Teniente-Matson, TAMU-San Antonio
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Today I am coming to you from the beautiful Turks and Caicos Islands. On the flight here, I watched Hidden Figures, a film about the role of black women in the 1961 space race. They were called “computers” and did a ton of calculations by hand and in record time.
The number of bold power moves that the main characters made were amazing. I mean how do you make power moves in the face of such great adversity? How do you stay true to yourself while attempting to survive racism, sexism and down right cruel environments?
These women did it. And they did it with grace; they did it with stern but intelligent and polite words; and they did in style – never a hair out of the place or a wrinkle on their clothes.
I’m going to take a moment away from essential skills to share my favorite power move from the movie. But there were many that I will share in future posts.
Mary Jackson, played by Janelle Monae was by far my favorite character. She was beautiful, honest to a fault (if there is such a thing), unafraid and no nonsense. She aspired to be an engineer and her sarcastic and witty comebacks were insane. The best power move of the film occurred ¾ of the way into the movie when she petitions the court to allow her to take night classes at the local, segregated high school. She needs to take a series of courses before being allowed into the university’s engineering program of which no woman, let alone black woman, had ever been matriculated into.
What was her strategy?
- She did her homework on the person hearing her case.
- She was impeccably dressed.
- She was self confident and commanded that room.
- And most importantly she had data, then communicated that data so well that she got the judge to side with her. She wanted to be the first engineer. So she appeal to the judge’s sensibilities about being FIRST.
She approaches the bench and explains to the judge how he, better than anyone, should know the importance of being first. “How so he asks”?
Well your honor, you were the first in your family to serve in the armed forces, the Navy. You were the first in your family to go to university. – Mary Jackson played by Janelle Monae in Hidden Figures
She has no choice but to be the first, which she can’t do without him. And then she asks him an important question.
Which case is going to make you the first? Considering her case will make him the first to allow a black woman to take classes in engineering at a segregated high school in a segregated state.
Why did her strategy work?
She gave him an opportunity to make history and be the first.
She did her research and put him up on a pedestal. I know many of you may not like the idea of kissing ass. But you know what? She got what she wanted and what she needed.
She spoke truth to power. And let’s face it! People like hearing about how special they are. Nothing she said to the judge was a falsehood. She merely gave him another way of looking at his own life experiences in a way that related to her, thus narrowing the gap between their experiences.
It really was an ingenious plan. If you haven’t watched the film yet, I highly suggest you do. See if you can’t identify all of the power moves. #powermovemonday #solutionsnotresolutions You got this.