A double celebration, at Rappahannock Community College’s Warsaw Campus on February 20 and the Glenns Campus on February 22, served up satisfying soul food and inspirational speakers to honor Black History Month. On both occasions, the speakers’ theme was “Hidden Figures,” the title of a recent movie that tells the story of a team of African-American women mathematicians who served a vital role at NASA during the early years of the United States space program.
Monday’s first speaker was the Rev. Ralph Hodge of Richmond, who talked about the contributions of his father, Ralph C. Hodge, to the NASA program. In 1968 the Astrophysical Journal published a paper about Hodge’s work at NASA — at the time, a huge accomplishment for an African-American. Also, in the early nineties, he was named Federal Employee of the Year for his work on salmonella bacteria at the United States Department of Agriculture.
Poet and artist Dorothy Holmes spoke after Hodge on Monday. She has written five books, the first having been published in 1978. At age 72, she began doing artwork; now, at 85, she continues to be an active and creative member of the community. Mrs. Holmes recited one of her poems, “Hard Times,” which talks about the struggles of African-Americans during segregation.
Dr. Colita Nichols Fairfax, an associate professor at Norfolk State University, was featured on Wednesday. She described her book, “Hampton, Virginia,” which speaks of the strong churches, institutions, and businesses, as well as a major university from which political and economic leaders have emerged, that Hampton’s African-American community has fashioned since the Civil War. She then shared stories about the real women behind the dramatized characters depicted in “Hidden Figures.”
Each day’s presentation concluded with a “Soul Food” tasting. Both events were jointly sponsored by RCC’s Student Activities and Student Support Services (SSS) Offices, the Richmond County Public Library, and the college’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee. Special thanks are due to Student Activities coordinator Charlene Jones for her valuable help in organizing the events.
For the 2016-17 academic year, RCC was awarded $302,452 to offer assistance to its students through the SSS program. The United States Department of Education established this program to help remove social, cultural, and economic barriers to higher education; it provides RCC students who meet its guidelines with individualized academic and personal counseling, tutoring, and cultural and social enrichment opportunities. The Department of Education makes these services available through the TRIO series of federal grant programs.