Pharrell Williams Says Women Will Lead the Revolution in 2020 (Video)
In what is proving to be a monumental year for African-American visibility in Hollywood, films like The Birth of a Nation and Moonlight exist side-by-side with television shows like Luke Cage and Atlanta. On January 6, Hidden Figures will join those ranks as a significant piece of storytelling in Black America for the new year, as it shares the story of three African-American NASA employees (mathematicians and scientists), whose work was integral in securing astronaut John Glenn’s historic orbit of the Earth.
Starring Taraji P. Henson, Octavia Spencer, and Janelle Monáe in the film’s three lead roles, Hidden Figures also stars Luke Cage‘s (and, notably, also Moonlight‘s) Mahershala Ali, Kevin Costner, and Kirsten Dunst. But Heads may be more excited to hear that Pharrell Williams is deeply involved in the film, both as producer and a contributor to the film’s original score. Today (December 9), P stopped by Hot 97, where he discussed at length his involvement in the film, and why he feels the exceptional story from the 1960s needs to be shared with the country, particularly at this very time, and why women will be changing the world and altering the course of history, come 2020.
At the 10:29 mark, Pharrell begins to go into detail about the film, choosing to focus on why the three real women depicted in the film – Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan, and Mary Jackson – achieved something truly extraordinary.”Their math was integral. If it weren’t for their math, [it] wouldn’t have worked out,” he begins. “Those women were victims of that era — that circumstance. . . . In the 1960s, the male matrix is what everyone lived in, and if you were African-American, the gravity for you, you know the physics, was different. The gravity for you to walk around as a man was much heavier. The load was heavier. But as an African-American woman it was even harder,” he says before explaining that Johnson was forced to utilize a restroom on the other end of campus, a trek that took upwards of 30 minutes, roundtrip.
Dealing with both sexism and racism, these women certainly faced struggles which seem passé today, like needing to use segregated restrooms and being prohibited from riding bicycles around campus. However, as Pharrell says, other struggles continue today. “Still, to this day, women are paid less than men. That’s insane,” he says. “These men that make these decisions and these corporations that make these decisions, the thing they gotta understand is, when they’re making these crazy decisions, [they’re] forgetting the workload and the load that women carry every day. Including that nine months that they had to carry you and your bad decision-making ass. Like, they carry everything.”
Circling back to the film, Pharrell says “Katherine Johnson, Mary Jackson, Dorothy Vaughan – these are three women who, despite living in that matrix, where the physics were completely unbalanced for them, they still…their science, their engineering skills, their mathematics, somehow just superseded that matrix, and it’s just unbelievable, man.” But it isn’t just the female scientists of the world who are achieving something remarkable, P argues. It’s all women. “Women go through something every month that we, as men, will never understand. And they still do their jobs.” The subject expands shortly thereafter, as he puts forth the argument that “The female contribution to society has just been largely discounted and dismissed this entire time. It was women that found out how to measure the distance between the stars — that figured out they were mostly made of like hydrogen,” he uses as an example.
It’s then that the subject changes slightly to the 2020 presidential election, of which Pharrell says in an earlier segment “I think millennials and I think women are going to make the difference next time.” But near the 17:50 mark he takes that statement further, saying “with this election, I think that this is the time when women realize that [we] should’ve went even harder with the women’s lib thing in the ’70s and they’re gonna do it this time. I think women are gonna recognize that they really wanted to say, you know, ‘We don’t like the way our species is behaving on this planet, so that’s it — no more babies.’ I think now’s the time when women recognize that power.”
Elsewhere, Pharrell discusses the recent presidential election, the unique experience of growing up in Virginia, how the education system should be restructured, and more.
Bonus Beat: Pharrell performed alongside Kim Burrell on The Tonight Show yesterday (December 8), sharing their uproarious song “I See a Victory” from the Hidden Figures soundtrack.
Sadly, John Glenn passed away yesterday (December 8), but Hidden Figures will help amplify his legacy for a new generation.