'Hidden Figures' No. 1 at Box Office, Surpasses Expectations

Much like a lesson of the film, never underestimate the value of African American talent.

"Hidden Figures" came in almost $2 million above expectations for its wide-release debut. The film has taken the top spot at the box office, slightly edging out "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story."


From left to right: Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson; Janelle Monáe as Mary Jackson; and Octavia Spencer as Dorothy Vaughan.

"Hidden Figures" sold $22.8 million in ticket sales at North American theaters this past weekend. The Walt Disney Company's (No. 38 on the DiversityInc 2016 Top 50 Companies for Diversity list) "Rogue One" earned $22.1 million in its fourth weekend, according to Friday-to-Sunday box office revenue tallies released on Monday.

The film is based on the true story of a team of African American women, Katherine Johnson (played by Taraji P. Henson), Dorothy Vaughan (Octavia Spencer) and Mary Jackson (Janelle Monáe), who provided NASA with important mathematical data at the start of the Cold War. The women computed trajectories needed to launch the program's first successful space missions, including John Glenn's famous 1962 voyage.

"Hidden Figures" had a limited release on Christmas Day but expanded by more than 2,400 locations on Friday. It received an A-plus grade from ticket buyers in CinemaScore exit polls. Forty-three percent of viewers were white, 37 percent were Black and 13 percent were Latino. Women made up 64 percent of the audience, while 56 percent of all ticket buyers were age 35 or older, according to The Hollywood Reporter. To date, the film has earned a total of $24.7 million against a $25 million budget.

Civil rights attorney Steve Phillips, keynote speaker at DiversityInc's conference in September and author of the New York Times bestselling book "Brown Is the New White," used the entertainment industry as an example of how highly talented people of color are often "hiding in plain sight" in the workplace.

He said the now widely famous Lee Daniels, co-creator of Fox's "Empire," and Taraji P. Henson, a star of the show, "were there all along, hiding in plain sight waiting to be believed in, invested in, promoted and empowered."

From a Book Proposal to the Big Screen

Margot Lee Shetterly

The No. 1 film was inspired by the nonfiction book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race," written by Margot Lee Shetterly. The Sloan Foundation awarded Shetterly a writing grant to complete the book.

FOX 2000 optioned the rights to the book based on her 55-page proposal. So, Shetterly was writing her book as screenwriters Theodore Melfi and Allison Schroeder wrote the screenplay at the same time. Melfi is also the director of the film. Pharrell Williams is a producer of "Hidden Figures" and a composer of its score.

During a discussion session in August at the joint convention of the National Association of Black Journalists and the National Association of Hispanic Journalists in Washington, D.C., Shetterly said it was essential to support the film during opening weekend.

Margot Lee Shetterly and Aldis Hodge (right) at the NABJ/NAHJ conference in August in Washington, D.C. / SHERYL ESTRADA

"Go to the movie theaters when it first comes out," Shetterly told journalists.

She said it would make a powerful statement if people were to support the film and it became successful.

Actor Aldis Hodge, who plays Levi Jackson in the film, said "Hidden Figures" is about American triumph.

"Why do people go to those superhero films?" Hodge said. "We see the hero being that stand out guy or that girl who's saving the world. This is nothing different.

"At the root of its core, this is about American triumph. The entire country benefited and still benefits from this accomplishment. So, this is a hero story for the country."

View the trailer for "Hidden Figures":

Racist Train Rider Charged with Hate Crime for Rant at Black Woman: Video

"I'll smack the [expletive] out of you, you loud mouth monkey [expletive]," Edward Ruggiero said to Soraya Orelien.

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Being a racist is ignorant and costly.

The Queens, N.Y., district attorney on Wednesday charged Edward Ruggiero, who was caught on video hurling racist insults at a Black woman on the Long Island Rail Road (LIRR), with a hate crime.

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The racist and hate-filled rant against a Black woman riding on the Long Island Rail Road in New York is now under investigation by Metropolitan Transportation Authority officials.

Passengers said a man ranted for about 10 minutes, spewing racist and sexist slurs directed at another rider, 25-year-old Soraya Orelien.

"He made me feel disgusting," Orelien said in an interview Friday with WABC-TV. "He made me feel less than what I am. And I'm not the only one who has experienced this."

The incident occurred around 10 p.m. on April 19, but the video went viral last week. Orelien was on her cellphone speaking with a friend during her commute that originated at Penn Station. Hearing her talk on the phone enraged the man and he confronted her.

A woman named Aneesa Janat Rafeek, according to her Facebook page, was a passenger on the train that night and posted a video on her page showing a portion of the racist rant, which she also said lasted 10 minutes.

She explained:

"*Let me be clear about what prompted these nasty remarks*

"An African American woman was behind him speaking on the phone (not loudly in my opinion as I was sitting only diagonally from him and could not hear her).

"He started off by mumbling under his breath and then escalated to yelling at her about being a loud mouth b**ch. When another young woman, also Black, stood up for her, he continued to yell and then call[ed] them monkeys.

"What this video does not show — him getting up to get in the young [woman's] face to scream at her more. It was honestly so disgusting to witness.

"Say what you want in regards to 'both' sides being ignorant and needing to be quiet. Have someone start yelling profanities at you for being 'loud' and see how you react."

Orelien told Eyewitness News, "He came to my face and was like, 'Ooh ooh ahh ahh, you monkey,' and I just sat there. I just sat there, and I didn't say anything. I just said, 'You need to leave. Leave me alone. Please just walk away.'"

The Baruch College senior said she is coming forward and speaking about the incident as a reality check for others.

"I want people to know that this still happens!" Orelien told PIX11 News.

"I'm proud to be a strong Black woman in this day and age, and no one can talk to me like that."

Sources identified the man as Edward Ruggiero, a Manhattan stagehand and member of Local 1 IATSE, who lives in Long Beach, L.I., according to the NY Daily News. But he denies that it's him in the video.

Eyewitness News cameras went to the suspected man's home and confronted him on his porch.

"Get the story straight. Do you want to talk to us? You call yourself a journalist — get your f****** story straight!" he said. The man rushed inside before reporters could speak with him further.

An LIRR spokesperson told PIX11 in a statement:

"This language is offensive, completely inappropriate, and has no place in our society, let alone on the Long Island Rail Road. The MTA Police are actively investigating this report … Anyone who sees a situation like this unfolding should notify a conductor immediately. This absolutely falls under the mantra of: if you see something, say something."

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