Highland Park's Hidden Figures
The movie, Hidden Figures came to life for Highland Parks' Women's Ministry during Women’s History Month. It was a conversation with Mrs. Anne Love that generated the idea for the program. In the conversation, Mrs. Love told me about the early days of her employment and using the punch cards that Octavia Spencer’s character used in the movie. Then, she mentioned that when she traveled with her white coworkers, they had to find a restaurant where everyone could eat together, because she is African American. When I heard her talking about that, I thought, wow, I’ve been seeing this lady sing in the choir all these years and I would have never known. That conversation planted the idea that there must be other women at Highland Park with similar experiences around race, gender, work and integration.
I started asking around, and sure enough there were Hidden Figures to be found. As I was talking to women who would participate, I kept thinking it would be great if young women could hear these life stories. Sunday after Sunday, year after year, at Highland Park we looked at elegant and well dressed women in their hats and heels, with little to no awareness of their push through. After Rev. Sheila Dent, the spiritual advisor of The Plug Ministry, was asked to match members of The Plug to the Highland Park Hidden Figures, everyone was excited for the day to arrive. Side note, there were a few potential Hidden Figures who would have been fabulous participants because of their occupations in the federal government, alas non-disclosure agreements made this a nonstarter.
The evening of the event the pulpit area in the West Sanctuary was transformed into unique conversational scenes through the creative work of Rev. Sheila Dent. It was the ideal setting to hear the truths revealed from the amazing women. We listened to one Hidden Figure who was questioned for pursuing a college degree in accounting because of her gender and later denied employment because of her race. We heard from a Hidden Figure who was raised on a plantation where she picked cotton. Then, there was the Hidden Figure who was one of the first two teachers hired to integrate schools in Jefferson County, Alabama. The awareness of the living legacies in our midst was amazing to discover. This was heightened because we now know that there are more Hidden Figures in the congregation. I marvel at the strength and beauty of the women who shared their experience. They bore no marks of bitterness or woe. Only God. God redeems from difficult situations and our Hidden Figures are a witness to the power of God to restore and renew. The evening was inspiring and energizing, all together wonderful. Before the night finished, word was out that the Men’s Ministry was planning their own Highland Park Hidden Figures.