Bessie Coleman 100th Anniversary Celebration

Hometown Celebration for a Global Icon Promotes Aviation Careers for People of Color

For more information contact: Tammera Holmes, Founder & CEO of AeroStar Avion Institute,,  (312) 883-6383

Chicago, IL – June 3, 2021: On June 15, luminaries from aviation, entertainment and sports as well as the French Consulate and Chicago officials will gather at the DuSable Museum, the oldest African American Museum in the United States, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Bessie Coleman earning her pilots license and defying the barriers raised to keep her out of the sky. The event, organized by AeroStar Avion Institute and hosted by DuSable Museum, is designed to raise funding for educational programming for youth from underserved communities to pursue aviation careers.

About Bessie Coleman

One hundred years ago, Bessie Coleman, born in Texas and raised on the South Side of Chicago, was smitten with flight but could not pursue her dream to become a pilot in the U.S. because of her race. No barrier was too great, however, and on June 15, 1921 she achieved her goal by earning a pilots license from the French Fédération Aéronautique Internationale as the first African American and Native American pilot in the world to gain such certification. Read about Bessie Coleman

African Americans Still Lack Access to Careers in Aviation

“Bessie Coleman is relevant today,” said Tammera Holmes, founder and CEO of AeroStar Avion Institute. “A century ago, Bessie was shut out of aviation because she was Black, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. Still, today, most African Americans are not aware of the many opportunities for aviation careers and do not have access to pursue those opportunities. As of 2019, only 3% of commercial pilots are African Americans and less for Latinos. Bessie can still inspire the next generation to pursue their dream especially since the industry is now demanding more diversity as evidenced by United’s recent announcement working with Historically Black Colleges and Universities.”

Aviation Industry Facing Workforce Shortages

The event comes as the aviation and aerospace industries face acute workforce shortages with Chicago-based Boeing reporting a global industry need of 763,000 pilots and 739,000 aviation maintenance technicians by 2039. Without broadening recruitment beyond traditional white, male pipelines, these industries will not be able to meet its workforce needs. That is why AeroStar Avion Institute developed K-12 aviation education not only to expose youngsters in underserved communities to popular aviation careers like pilots and mechanics, but prepare them for the many STEM career opportunities in the industry including architects, aerospace engineers, computer scientists, graphic artists, entrepreneurs, interior designers, artists, gamers, tradesmen and even utility workers.

The Power of STEM

“If a child has an interest in STEM, there is no better time to pursue those interests than now,” Holmes continued. “The entire aviation and aerospace industry is actively working on diversity, equity and inclusion as they search for the talent they need. But we still must prepare our children to meet the workforce needs of the future and that is what this celebration is all about – to raise money to provide funding to children from underserved communities to access aviation education and take their first step on a pathway to high quality, high pay aviation careers. Our goal is to educate 10,000 black and brown youth over the next 10 years, and we are using Bessie’s anniversary to inspire the next 100 years of diversity and inclusion in aviation.”

The event kicks off with a Youth AeroSTEM Expo introducing the 50 to 100 youngsters to Chicago-area aviation companies. DuSable will have an exhibit featuring items from its aviation archives, including Bessie’s original pilots license. It then launches into a reception, a video of Bessie Coleman and comments by the 21st Century Bessie Coleman Kellee Edwards, Travel Channel Host of “Mysterious Islands,” a licensed pilot, a certified scuba diver and named one of the most interesting in the world by Outside Magazine. Joining her will be 11-year-old acting sensation Master Chase W. Dillon, who stars in Amazon Prime’s hit series “Underground Railroad.” Capping the festivities will be distributing 100 Bessie Coleman Awards to African Americans who have demonstrated an impact and aptitude for aviation, social justice and education.

DuSable Museum and Others to Partner on Event

“Partnering with Aerostar Avion Institute is a perfect role for the DuSable Museum because our missions align and serve as a connection between underserved communities and the historical impact the African diaspora has on American industry and culture,” said DuSable Museum CEO Perri Irmer. “For us, it is important to increase the diversity, equity and inclusion in this vital industry so our young people can not only learn to fly but can take our entire community with them on their journey.”

The celebration is coordinating events at museums around the country throughout the year, providing local communities with awareness and access to local aviation and STEM education programs. Also invited to celebrate Bessie’s Centennial are the National Air and Space Museum, Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Dayton’s National Museum of the US Air Force and the Adler Planetarium in Chicago.

About AeroStar Avion Institute

Founded in 2016, AeroStar Avion Institute is the only organization in the US designed to enhance, promote and support and aeronautical career path opportunities from kindergarten to career, especially female, African American, Latino, underserved and at-risk youth. Its mission is to increase public understanding of the importance of aviation and aerospace education, maximize academic achievement among young men and women from underserved communities and to provide a support system for any student interested in careers in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, particularly aerospace.

AeroStar Avion Institute

About DuSable Museum

Established in 1962, the DuSable Museum of African American History is a Chicago community institution and the first non-profit Museum dedicated to the collection, documentation, preservation, study and the dissemination of the history and culture of Africans and African Americans. As an educational institution, DuSable attracts school groups from Chicago and surrounding areas. More than 100,000 visitors attend or use the facility yearly. Through exhibits, educational programs, the archives, and special activities, the Museum continuously explores the African American experience and accomplishments of the past and present to further advance the education of the future. The DuSable Museum

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