Coming Soon: A Short Film About Bessie Coleman, the First African American Female Pilot

Jul 14, 2017

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The history of aviation is full of individual risk-takers, many of them — like the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, Charles Lindbergh and Howard Hughes — names you know. Lesser known but even more of a game-changer was Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to obtain her pilot’s license.

Repeatedly denied admission to American aviation schools because of her color, the Texas native had to move to France in order to achieve her dream of becoming a pilot. In the age of the Hollywood biopic, her story seems ripe for telling, yet Coleman has somehow managed to fly under the radar. Now, Sweet Blackberry, a nonprofit organization dedicated to teaching kids about little known stories in African American history, is hoping to change that.

The organization recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $50,000 to produce The Bessie Coleman Story, a 20-minute animated short that will be illustrated by R. Gregory Christie and narrated by Laurence Fishburne.

“I’ve wanted to tell her story for a long time, but was reluctant as there’s probably more on her than the other stories we’ve told so far,” Karyn Parsons, Sweet Blackberry’s founder and president — who you probably know as Hilary Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air — told Cool Hunting of the project. “Still, I couldn’t believe how many people hadn’t heard of her.”

The proposed film is Sweet Blackberry’s fourth short; its previous award-winning efforts — which have been narrated by Chris Rock, Alfre Woodard and Queen Latifah — have been distributed to schools and libraries all around the world and are currently streaming on Netflix. According to the project’s Kickstarter page, “Bessie Coleman’s story shows children that despite what odds may be stacked against them, they can be anything. Bessie broke a glass ceiling in the United States that limited individuals wanting to be a pilot to one race and gender. It is our duty at Sweet Blackberry to share her story with the world.”

Parsons has called on her old TV family to offer up some fun perks, including an afternoon with Hilary and Ashley Banks, lunch with Will Smith, a Fresh Prince of Bel-Air watch party with the cast and a personal voicemail message courtesy of Carlton (Alfonso Ribeiro). There’s still time for you to pledge and show your support for the project on Kickstarter — as of this writing, they’ve raised $53,431 of the $50,000 goal. Way to go! Check out the video below for a closer look.

H/T: Cool Hunting

Featured image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

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