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Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not just aiming High, FLYING HIGH!

You ever have those days?

One of those great to be alive days?

Where the world and all your friends just embrace you and let you know that you are loved and that you really do have worth?

Well I had that day today... My Spiritsisters joined me in celebrating art I believe in. (More post about that on a later day.)
Spiritsister Kathleen gave me the most moving photo ever... Thank you so much!

I was flying pretty high...

And then...

My new wonderful friend Georgette Mayo, who earlier in the day had already given me one of the coolest books ever, sent me an email...

An email that has sent me flying into the atmosphere...

The email is a forward about

the VERY FIRST ALL AFRICAN AMERICAN WOMEN Flight to ever take place.
The Captain, The First Officer, and the Flight Attendants all Black Women!

African-American women continue to demonstrate professionalism, intelligence and unlimited potential as they contribute to our over all quest for unlimited freedom, access and opportunity in America.

The sisters on Flights 5202 and 5106

(a jet owned by Atlantic Southeast Airlines)

have proven that African-American women can do anything if just given a fair opportunity.

They made history on Thursday, February 12, 2009 as the first all African American female crew.

The crew included Captain Rachelle Jones, 2nd on right, First Officer Stephanie Grant, 1st on left, Flight Attendant's Robin Rogers and Diana Galloway!

The reason this blog was born, was because i have been lamenting the absence of black women in aviation...

Now I could be skeptical and wonder if it is just a Black History month stunt by this airline, but I refuse to think about that.

These women are living my biggest dream... I am HAPPY!
I am re posting my original blog about this.

Tonight I am NOT aiming High, I am Flying Higher and Higher.

So many of us love the song "I'm Everywoman." by Chaka Kahn (or Whitney Houston)

I like it too, but a few years ago, I bent the phrase, to suit my purpose more, and I even put it on a tee shirt...
"I'm not Everywoman I am a Phenomenal Woman..."

These women are tonight for me Phenomenal...

G.M. Thank for the wonderful, and thank you more for this awesome email.

Flying High,


(Below is the original blog and why it is called "WE CAN FLY.")

Dear Sisters,
I thought it was time to write about why I believe we need to rediscover that we can fly. My name is Cookie Washington, I was an Air Force brat growing up. I grew up on and around Air Force Bases in the US and abroad. I have a an old black and white photo of me about age 3 standing on the wing of a C-5 with my father and older sister... I love that photo...

I love and have always loved airplanes and flying... I love the noise, I love the smell of jet fuel, I like the flight suits....

When I was 12 and we lived in Clovis, NM, home of Cannon AFB, I would sneak out to the fence that ran along side the flight line and lay in the grass as close to the fence as I dared because I could feel the rumble of the airplanes on the earth before they became airborne. It thrilled me! It was my secret, I wanted to be a pilot when I grew up, I wanted to fly the F-16 Flying Falcon for ten years, then I wanted to go into the space program and become an "astro-nett" (ok so I was not liberated enough to think "female astronaut...") I wanted a pretty pink flight suit and matching helmet...

But I wanted to fly, and FAST...

I loved, in the way that some women love a man,

I loved the F-16 Flying Falcon from the moment I saw it... The F-16 is a single engine, multi-mission, tactical aircraft. I loved that it was sleek, shiny, had great maneuverability and was fast...

It did not occur to me in the Vietnam era that the "F" in "F- 16" was for fighter, and somewhere outside of my romantic image, the USAF had plans for this plane I would later be protesting big time....

I wanted to fly, I have never been a follow the crowd kind of girl, this is probably because I was a sickly, loner, bookish girl who lived inside my head way too much, none of my gal pals seemed to want to fly, but they did not want to do a lot of the things I did.My beloved stepfather, now of blessed memory, took me to every airshow and anything that was going on where planes were involved.

He never told me, "You can't fly." He told me I would be a very pretty astro-nett and I better do better in math because I would need to know it to get thru pilot school.

My mother never said, "You can't fly."

There are things the adults in my life told me I could not do, but thank GOD/Goddess, nobody ever said to me,

"Cookie, you can't fly."

Or, "little black girls do not become pilots."

They encouraged me to go for it, even though they or I had never seen a black woman pilot. I never even noticed. I was so focused on becoming an Air Force pilot.

Well fast forward, to high school. I kept my dream alive and my Pops, had retired from the USAF at Kirkland AFB home of the F-16's! I was sure this was a sign.

I took the Military Service entrance exam, I scored really high. I was redesigned that pink flight suit in my head daily.

Went to take the physical...Dr Simmons is the one who finally told me,

"Honey, you will never fly..."

I was too short to get into flight school, and really not quite tall enough to get into the Air Force.

I was fat, more that 50 pounds over my "ideal" weight. I had asthma. And I wore and still wear glasses.

I was never going to be an Air force F-16 Flying Falcon pilot,

I was never going to be a Thunderbird,

and I was never going to be an astronaut...

I was grounded...

How does one deal with a dream deferred? You cry. I cried a lot. And I cried a lot more. Then I got over it and lived the rest of my life.

And I learned to FLY!

Fly in other ways...

I went to college, I had 2 amazing children, I inherited another amazing child. I started my own business from scratch with almost no money. I am an artist, a mother, a good friend and everybody's cheerleader, a passionate political activist.

In 2002, I flew to Houston from Charleston, SC. I got on the plane, and I always look in the cockpit, I have this thing about not wanting to fly on a plane with a pilot that looks younger than me. There in the cockpit was a beautiful African American woman pilot.I asked her if she was the Captain? She said no she was the First Officer.

Tears sprang to my eyes.

I was holding up the line of passengers trying to board the plane.

I am usually very polite, but this was BIG, I needed to ask questions and those folks would have to wait...

She was kind and charming and I was so impressed.

I realized, with all the flying I have done in my life, I had never been on a flight with a Black woman pilot.

Have you?

Surely, she was not the only Sister flying?

The flight attendant forced me to my seat. I sat there sobbing, with joy and wonder and questions.

Why had I never seen a Black woman pilot before, and why had I not noticed?

In 2003 I discovered thru the Women in Aviation Organization, something that grounded me again.

I asked for statistics on the number of Black Women pilots, commercially.

The answer came back;


"OK," I said, "Now is that the number flying for American or Delta?"

I asked, thinking I was getting the information by airline.

"No." was my answer.

"There are only 14 (fourteen) Black women pilots."

"In America?" I asked?

"No. That is worldwide."

"Uhm, wait a minute, excuse me... does this include Fed Ex and UPS pilots too?"

"Yes, I am afraid it does."

Holy shit!

This did not make sense.

"Are you sure, you don't mean 114 pilots?"

She did not mean 114 pilots.

I put the phone down in shock.

"Shit" I said again...

I will never forget that phone call.

"Why are there only 14 black women pilots in the world?

"The answer came to me almost immediately...

"Because nobody told us we COULD fly."

I spent the next week being the most annoying woman in Charleston, and on the internet.

I must have asked over 200 people, on the phone, in the store, on line, and in church,

"Hey, do you know who Willa Brown is?"

"Do you know who Bessie Coleman is?"

Out of those 200 or so responses I got less than 5 yeses and Bessie Coleman had her own US Postal stamp!

So it is my personal mission to spread the news about these two brave trail blazing sisters from the dawn of aviation.

Here is the way I see this problem.

If you went to public schools in America and did not do any outside reading of African America history, you learned if you were lucky, about Phyllis Wheatley, first African American poetess and a slave sold into slavery in 1761.

If not then you learned about Harriet Tubman, "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, and escaped slave. 1860's.

Then you read about Sojourner Truth, abolitionist, women's rights activist and slave.

Her "Ain't I a Woman speech was given in 1851.

Then according to most popular textbooks in America when I was growing up, the next Black woman we learned about was Rosa Parks.


An African American woman who was not a slave!

However she was "speaking truth to power" while being oppressed by the white majority.

As proud as I am of these women, I feel there are huge holes in our leaning about our "sister-mothers.

I have included short bios on Bessie Coleman and Willa Brown.

Sisters I challenge you, to tell anyone who will listen about these great women.We, you and I are descendants, yes of slaves,

but also of these women who fought like Hell and won their own piece of Sky...

I am telling YOU, You can FLY!

I can Fly, and we can help other sisters, especially the young ones learn that they can FLY...

Someone has opened the heavens for us and we can find our wings. Up we go into the wild blue yonder....You do not have to be a pilot to fly, to SOAR, but know that we can...

Thank you for reading this too long rant.

Cookie Washington 3:15 AM May 26th, 2008

Still Aiming High....

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