Saturday, November 2, 2013

Bessie Coleman Street in South Africa

Did you know that there is also a Bessie Coleman Street in the Tigane province of South Africa. Bessie Coleman street runs into Thabo Mbeki and Walter Sisulu streets. Mbeki is a ANC member and former president of South Africa. Sisulu was jailed 25 years with Mandela. It is also one street over from Malcolm X and Winnie Mandela streets. Wow, she is in good company. Tigane is situated in Klerksdorp, North West, South Africa. It is west of Johannesburg and Soweto.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues - A Short Film by Opio Sokoni

Bessie Coleman Flying the Blues
Short film by Opio Sokoni



Florida Times Union Reports on Possible Bessie Coleman Airport Memorial


Memorial to celebrity aviator Bessie Coleman could find home at Jacksonville's airport

Posted: October 27, 2013 Florida Times Union

By Matt Soergel

The famous and daring Bessie Coleman plunged to her death in Jacksonville in 1926, falling 2,000 feet from an airplane over the Westside. The death of the woman known as “Queen Bess” was headline news all across the country. Then America moved on, to other dramas, other tragedies, other heroes.

More than 87 years later, though, her life could soon be honored again at a most appropriate place — in the airport of the city where she died.

Jacksonville native Opio Sokoni has been pushing for a memorial somewhere in the city to Coleman, who was the first black woman to get a pilot’s license. He’s suggested a statue of her, or a street, park or school named after her.

He recently found a supporter in Steve Grossman, CEO of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority, who said he favors doing something at Jacksonville International Airport to recognize Coleman.

Grossman said he’s not sure what that would be yet, though he plans to get the project moving in the next few weeks. “I would like to figure out: What should we do, and where should we do it?” he said.
He’s familiar with Coleman’s story; when he was head of the airport in Oakland, Calif., he supported efforts there to name a street after her. “It was the right thing to do,” he said.

Coleman was a nationwide celebrity, famed for her perseverance, boldness and beauty. She died Aug. 30, 1926, the day before a big air show in Jacksonville, after she and pilot William Wills took off to scout where she would make a parachute jump the next day.

During the flight, the plane went into a sudden dive — reports said a wrench slid and jammed the controls — and Coleman, who had been peering over the side, was thrown to her death. Wills was killed as the plane exploded on impact.

In 2012, a bronze plaque with Coleman’s likeness was placed at the front doors of Paxon School for Advanced Studies. In the 1920s, that was the site of the airfield where the ill-fated flight began. But Sokoni thinks more should be done for her. And what better place, he said, than an airport?


Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Bessie Coleman Street Named

Pioneer Aviatrix Bessie Coleman was from the other Atlanta - a small town in Texas. Just like Chicago and Frankfurt Germany, a street at the airport is named in Brave Bessie's honor...

Atlanta Honors Bessie Coleman
City names street in aviator's honor

Journal Staff Report

The city of Atlanta honored one of its own Friday when it unveiled a street sign renaming the road leading to the city airport to Bessie Coleman Drive. The road was originally named Airport Drive.

Coleman was American's first female African-American pilot. She was born in Atlanta on Jan. 26, 1892, the sixth surviving child of Susan and George Coleman.

She made headlines in 1921when she became the first African-American woman to earn an international pilot's license. On Sept. 3, 1922 she made history as she became the first black woman to fly over American soil.

Coleman died April 30, 1926 in a flying accident near Jacksonville, Florida.
She was inducted into the Texas Aviation Hall of Fame on Nov. 10 of this year.

Mayor Kay Philips unveiled the sign and guests were treated to refreshments afterward in the terminal at the Atlanta Municipal Airport.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bessie Coleman Original Screenplay now Registered

A screenplay has been registered on the life of Bessie Coleman


A story about the life of the first African-American female to fly an airplane. Bessie Coleman fights through racism and gender bias in the 1920s to eventually triumph in the new aviation field as a barnstormer and stunt pilot.

STORY:       “Men of Honor” meets “Amelia”


The major newspapers in the 1920s had a fascination with aviation. The first black female to fly an airplane, however, was made a household name among African Americans by the black press. They both covered her. Bessie Coleman was called “a vivacious little cutie” in one major newspaper and a “nervy lady” by The Chicago Defender, a black weekly. Bessie’s antagonist is a storm of circumstances that includes her being female, black and economically poor in the exciting times of the roaring twenties. Blues songs and swing-Jazz dances created excitement everywhere. Bessie’s best friend and confidant, Ethel, becomes one of the most celebrated Blues, Gospel and Jazz singers of the day.

             We see a thoughtful and intelligent child grow up and leave the harsh realities of a small southern town. Bessie Coleman moves to the big city of Chicago where those that meet her observe signs of a woman destined for greatness. When Bessie decides that she wants to fly an airplane, she could not get flight lessons anywhere in the United States. No flight school would take a black student during that time. But, schools in France would. With the help of wealthy donors, Bessie Coleman takes up studying French and leaves the country to receive flight lessons. A fatal air accident happens while she is in flight school. She decides to stay and complete her training – earning her an international pilot’s license. Bessie Coleman becomes the first black person to receive a pilot’s license in the United States. The press eats it up. The fact that she is regal and stunningly beautiful is not lost on her throngs of admirers.

               Reporters flock behind the incredibly dressed Bessie at airshows. She repeatedly tells them her dream of building a flight school so that [everyone] could learn how to fly. She also angers some by refusing to perform at events that did not permit African Americans. Coleman gets her way because she is a star whose skills as a barnstormer are unmatched. She out dazzles even the best stunt pilots of her day. She walks on the wings of planes and makes her airplane do tricks that only a few would dare. Many barnstormers died at airshows during the early times in aviation. Queen Bess, as she is sometimes called, consistently compels thousands to come see her defy death.

                 Triumph turns to tragedy, however. One day before an airshow she was to headline, Brave Bessie falls 2000 feet from her airplane. She dies instantly. Her not so trusted assistant also dies a bizarre death immediately thereafter when the plane crashes to the ground. What about her dreams? The Red Tails, aka The Tuskegee Airmen, were trained at Bessie Coleman inspired flight schools that sprung up immediately after her death. This screenplay is based on a graduate study and short documentary film of the same name.

Bessie Coleman and the Jacksonville Free Press

Bessie Coleman resolution event is covered by The Jacksonville Free Press newspaper...

Photo: Bessie Coleman resolution event is covered by The Jacksonville Free Press newspaper...

Black Newspaper Report on Bessie in Jacksonville Florida

This was one of the Black newspapers in Jacksonville, Florida that ran a story several years after Bessie Coleman died...

Photo: This was one of the Black newspapers in Jacksonville, Florida that ran a story after Bessie Coleman died...