Pioneering Black aviator inspires a new ageBy Will Brown
Bessie Coleman received her aviator’s license before Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart. One of her relatives is committed to ensuring the story of the first Black aviator is shared with new generations.
Gigi Coleman created the Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars in order to expose disadvantaged children to careers in aviation. The aviator’s great-niece was at the KIPP Bessie Coleman Academy on the Westside on Thursday morning sharing the legacy of her high-flying relative with a new generation.
“If we don’t keep our history, and tell people the story of our relatives, who’s going to do it?” Gigi Coleman asked. “I feel Bessie is such an inspirational woman. That’s why the Barbie inspirational women (series) did a Bessie doll because she inspires us to think of ourselves and be better than what we think we can do.”
In September 1921, Coleman became the first Black person and the first native woman to receive an aviator’s license. She was forced to train in France because flight schools in the segregated U.S. would not accept a Black woman.
“She had hopes, and that brings hope into my heart to make me believe what I want to believe and I can do what I want to do,” said Bessie Coleman Academy student Nytia Blackshear.
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