Mayor's Office Press Release

Mayor Turner and First Daughter Celebrate Black History Month with Free “Hidden Figures” Screenings for 3,000 Students

March 3, 2017 -- Mayor Sylvester Turner and First Daughter Ashley Turner hosted free viewings of the award-winning movie “Hidden Figures” for nearly 3,000 students from area school districts over the last two weeks. The film’s plot focuses on female African-American mathematicians at NASA, specifically Katherine Johnson, who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and the 1969 Apollo 11 flight to the moon.

“We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate Black History Month than to expose students to the story of Katherine Johnson and her pivotal role in American history,” said Mayor Turner. “I hope the students learned that no matter their environment, if they stay focused and push forward, they can do something as amazing and transformative as sending a man or woman into space.  I want to thank our generous sponsors and my Director of Education Juliet Stipeche and Director of Community Relations Janice Weaver for making this project happen.”

“Our children are our future,” said Ashley Turner. “We don’t only want to talk about believing in them, but we also want to demonstrate that we care by investing in them and providing resources. This experience provided 3,000 students and teachers from 28 area schools the opportunity to have a learning experience outside the classroom that taught them valuable life lessons of perseverance, determination and collaboration.”

Before viewing the movie, the students watched a short welcome video in which the mayor and the First Daughter talked about the importance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).   It is estimated that by 2018, there could be 2.4 million unfulfilled (STEM) jobs.

“Thank you for making the adventure occur for our young Lions!  They were all talking about the impact the movie had on them and how it was one of the best kept secrets about science,” said Kenneth Davis, principal of Jack Yates High School.

“Excellent movie,” said Agnes Perry, principal of Michael DeBakey High School for Health Professions. “Our students enjoyed the presentation and mentioned that they were inspired, especially our young ladies. They felt empowered. I want to thank Mayor Turner for providing the opportunity for our students to see the movie and experience a hidden part of history.”

“As an educator, I have often seen how financial constraints prevent students from luxuries such as going to a movie theater and viewing a film,” said Charlotte Harris, assistant principal of Milby High School. “You not only made it possible for students to experience going to a movie theater, but through this experience, you also opened their eyes to a world of endless possibilities.  Thank you for providing our students with the opportunity to get a glimpse into history and see the profound impact education can have on one’s future.”

The mayor’s first young ambassador, Yash Semlani also attended a viewing and addressed the crowd. Students were treated not only to a free screening but also had popcorn, drinks and a snack, and they walked the red carpet. The tickets were graciously donated by African American business leaders who partnered with Fandango for special viewings across the country. In Houston, sponsors included the American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault, former Major League Baseball executive Jimmie Lee Solomon, New York investment bankers Bill Lewis and Charles Phillips, Horizon Group International Vice President Al Kashani, I’m Ready Productions CEO Je’Caryous Johnson and Martye Kendrick of Johnson Petrov.