Based on recent events in my life and in our society, I want to bring back a post I wrote in 2015. This post was part of a series that highlighted accomplished women. Unfortunately, it fell a bit flat, but today I feel a renewed sense of energy. Women like Kamala Harris and Stacy Abrams as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg are inspiring me. These women are influencing our current society in the area of politics, but I want to highlight a woman from the past. So today’s entry focuses on Bessie Coleman. You may be asking, “Who is Bessie Coleman.” Well, dear reader, sit back. I have a story to tell.
Born in 1893 in Atlanta,Texas, Bessie Coleman was intrigued by the stories she read about Air Force pilots during World War I. These stories filled her imagination and she was inspired to earn her pilot’s licence. The US was still steeped in racism and segregation, so all of the US schools denied her entry because of her race as well as her gender. This unfortunate fact did not deter her. Instead, Bessie taught herself French and moved to France to earn her pilot’s licence from the Caudron Brother’s School of Aviation in only seven months! She received her international pilot’s license on June 15, 1921 from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
To merely say I am impressed by this woman’s brute strength and courage downplays the sadness I feel that this needed to be done. No person should ever be denied an opportunity to follow her passion based on race or gender. Yes, Bessie Coleman’s tenacity is admirable, but the level of understanding that our society must accept and understand about systemic racism in this country is imperative. How many little girls and how many countless women did not have this level of strength and their dream was cut off while it was still fresh on the vine? How many talented women were left in the cold with only desperation because white people in this country felt it was more important to uphold the false and inhuman belief that human rights are dictated by skin color?
This story does not only give us an opportunity to applaud Bessie Coleman, as so many did after she became the first black woman to earn her pilot’s license, it forces us to wake up and see what issues still exist for people of color in our society today.
We, as a country, hold our Constitution up as a requiem for others, a symbol of hope and opportunity, but time and time again, we are met with stories like Bessie Coleman. Stories that have happy endings DESPITE the racism and hatred that exist in a country that promises equality and freedom. It is time for us to hear these stories, know the aspirations of the Constitution are not fully realized, and work harder as a Nation to get it right.
Bessie Coleman died at the age of 33 in a tragic plane crash. She once said that her dream was to inspire other young women of color to do anything they could to reach their dreams. I hope by my sharing her story again it can help inspire young women everywhere to do their part to ensure that all women have the support they need to do so.
Love and Light, Dreamers!