Bessie Coleman, wow...I wish I would've known about you.



Sometimes you take history for granted. I love the fact that there were women at the turn of last century becoming pilots. Recently reading the story of Queen Bess, as the headlines of the day called her, made me realize there's so much to black history I don't know because I didn't learn it in school. She was the first licensed black pilot in the U.S., although she had to go to France to learn how to fly. "She became famous; her fans called her Queen Bess or Brave Bessie. But she still endured countless obstacles -- from both whites and blacks. Many black men resented her doing what they could not. And many black women, despite activism for civil liberties and better schools, were often too socially conservative to accept Bessie's vibrant persona. Black newspapers gave her publicity, but they were smaller in circulation. White newspapers often either ignored her altogether, or belittled her." This quote was taken from the Bessie Coleman biography online.

She struggled hard to be accepted as a pilot so when she couldn't fly, she taught and motivated others to achieve their dreams and dare to fly. She died after her second crash with a faulty plane...money kept her from getting an actual safe set of wings to fly so she did the best with what she could afford. Sadly, it cost her her life. Amelia Fay could have been named Bess Coleman if I read of this woman a few years ago. It didn't even dawn on me to look or think of the first African American female pilot. Women's history is so important to me that I will do the ultimate, and name my children after the great ones. I've always like the name Ellington if I had a boy. And guess where I learned about Ms. Coleman from? That's So Raven. Seriously, people. Raven's show gave me a history lesson and put me on this mad search for more information. But Amelia is a strong name because the Amelia we all know about was a serious bad ass. She was a flyer and a fighter for women's rights. But she had opportunities Bess never could have because of her color. I am so proud of what Bessie Coleman was able to achieve with so many obstacles.
She was amazing. You can read more here.

I've been getting frustrated with local coverage of Black History Month because it's the same faces. We've been hearing MLK's story since his birthday in January. He is the one historical person of color every child knows before heading to high school. There are so many names and achievements to be proud of that I know I didn't grow up writing reports about. I think things are different now, in the schools, but I don't know yet. I guess I'll see soon enough. If not when I start teaching, but what my own child brings home for a report.

I wonder now that my eyes are LASIK fixed if I would be allowed to fly now? I think so. One day I'm going to try and take lessons. I need to practice on Flight Simulator. There are kids out there getting pilot's licenses because they learned how to fly using the Microsoft game. It's a whole new world, with laser eye surgery and simulation games. Ms. Coleman and Ms. Earhart paved the way for all those amazing women pilots in the military right now. Those women truly rock. And the Air Force commercials drive me crazy! Every time I see one, I tell my husband, they have the best toys, man. Seeing one of the stealth planes go down in a blaze last week hurt my heart. The B-2s, they're just beautiful.

And to the women pilots away from your families, we miss you and wish you safe travels back home soon. It has been a long journey from Amelia and Bessie to present day. For black women, sometimes it seems the struggles are still the same, achievements just being forgotten, ahem the forgetful academy and Ms. Goldberg, because people just forget to remember, notice, or care.
My goal is to keep the history alive and continue learning more.

Also, in my zapping off the tv, I learned from this beautiful big book I have on Mandela that during his imprisonment, one of his children died. They wouldn't allow him to attend the funeral and the letters he sent to his wife and remaining children didn't actually get to them until 2004, when they were returned to Mr. Mandela. He was released from jail in 1990 and these letters go back over the 27 years he was jailed.
Black history is not just black history for black people. It's not just American history for Americans. It is the world's history for everyone.

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