‘Hidden Figures’ film screening sparks discussion about injustice, progress

City College Black Film Friday events shine spotlight on Black history through cinema

Romelia Turner speaking with her hands clasped in front of her is speaking to attendees on Zoom

2019 City graduate, former City UMOJA president and founder of Black Film Friday events Romelia Turner leads attendees in a discussion about the film “Hidden Figures” at Black Film Friday on Feb. 17. Screenshot from Zoom

Kathryn Gray, Editor In Chief

In celebration of Black History Month, San Diego City College hosted a screening and discussion of the film “Hidden Figures” on Feb. 17 on Zoom for Black Film Friday.

“Hidden Figures” recounts the life story of Katherine Johnson, a Black female mathematician whose invaluable knowledge and perseverance in the face of sexism and racism contributed to John Glenn becoming the first American to orbit the Earth.

The screening, sponsored by UMOJA, was hosted by English Professor Ebony Tyree and Communications Professor and Chair Deanna Shelton. The discussion was moderated by 2019 City graduate, former City UMOJA president and founder of Black Film Friday events Romelia Turner.

Turner, who now holds a master’s degree, started Black Film Friday five years ago during her first year at City.

“When I first came to City College I thought, ‘what are we doing for Black History Month, what’s going on here,’ and it was a little on the dry side,” Turner said.

Describing herself as someone who loves movies so much she often watches them multiple times, Turner was passionate to start Black Film Friday as a place to celebrate Black stories on the screen while in community with others.

The discussion led by Turner focused on the injustices depicted in the film that still happen today.

Attendee Lizeth Ruvalcaba was struck by how the women in the film were given responsibilities in the workplace without receiving the title, recognition or compensation for their contributions and how this practice is still happening today.

“It has happened to me in the past where I am picking up the slack for other people because the position wasn’t filled,” Ruvalcaba said. “I think it is hard for women of color, especially in professional fields where you don’t have anyone to ask because you are the first one in that position.”

Turner, who has experienced this in her life, also thinks it goes back to knowing your worth.

“That is the greatest slap in the face,” Turner said. “We like the work, we enjoy doing the work, we make it look easy and they think we don’t know our worth. We know our worth.”

In addition to not being seen as worthy by other individuals, Tyree added, it is institutions and society that need to change.

“We know our worth and it is the systems and barriers that don’t allow us to obtain what we know we should have,” Tyree said.

Reflecting on the impact of sexism and racism on hindering progress, Shelton expressed her frustrations.

“Some people would rather us go backward than to give someone credit or to allow us all to lift each other up together,” Shelton said.

To be a part of future Black Film Friday discussions visit the Black History Month calendar here.