‘Salute’ displayed in airport museum

For local children, Black History Month meant more than the typical speeches and marches. It meant taping, cutting and spray-painting their way to celebrating black history.

Six Tallahassee community centers celebrated Black History Month by creating displays honoring blacks in aviation. Through a joint effort between the Tallahassee Regional Airport and the City of Tallahassee, the exhibit titled “A Salute to African Americans in Aviation” is on display in the Aviation Museum on the second floor of the airport.

The exhibit originated from a report on Ensign Jesse Leroy Brown, the first African American naval aviator, to a report on the Tuskegee Airmen.

“We tried to focus on the novelty (of aviation) with young people,” said John Govans Jr., City of Tallahassee recreation superintendent. Govans said he wanted to give the children an opportunity to celebrate black history through aviation while also giving them some insight into career opportunities in aviation.

“There were many blacks in aviation, and I wanted to go beyond the first black astronaut and the first black pilot and the first black to fly around the world,” Govans said. “I wanted (the children) to know that there is much more to blacks in aviation than what television shows.”

Govans said several community centers were asked to participate and they took it far beyond what was expected.

“We asked them to participate and they did,” Govans said.

Yolando Westberry, assistant supervisor for Jake Gaither Community Center said they were asked to be creative in their approach, so the children searched the Internet for blacks in aviation and found information on the Tuskegee Airmen.

“The kids were told to be different and unique, so they decided to focus on the Tuskegee Airmen,” Westberry said.

“In our project, we learned that the Tuskegee Airmen not only battled enemies during wartime, but also fought against racism and segregation while proving that they were highly skilled black airmen,” said Jasmine McClure,14, a seventh-grader at Nims Middle School.

Jasmine said the Tuskegee Airmen paved the way and opened doors for minorities in aviation.

In addition to the report on the Tuskegee Airmen, Jake Gaither Community Center also built a model airplane out of Styrofoam, checkers and paper clips. The airplane, which is suspended from the ceiling of the museum, is an example of the type of plane a Tuskegee Airman might have flown.

Palmer-Munroe Community Center also created a model exhibit. Their project included a rotating cube picture frame with photos of black aviators. Bessie Coleman, the first black female pilot, was one of the aviators displayed on their exhibit.

Lawrence-Gregory Community Center at Dade Street took a different slant. They decided on the hands-on approach.

Sylvester Davis, assistant supervisor for Lawrence-Gregory Community Center, said their experience started before Feb. 1,.

“Our kids didn’t know anything about aviation, so we took a trip to the flight line to learn more about aviation prior to completing the project,” Davis said.

The community center focused its project on “100 Years of Flight.”

Mikeal George, 14, an eighth-grader at Griffin Middle School, said the visit to the airport helped him gain knowledge about the airport and aviation.

“We were able to sit inside the cock pit and see the command center,” Mikeal said. “The visit helped me understand more about aviation.”

Other community centers that participated in the exhibit include Jack McClean, Lafayette and Fourth Avenue community centers.

Betty Rivers, business services manager at Tallahassee Regional Airport, said it is wonderful to partner with the City of Tallahassee community centers to bring this exhibit to the airport.

Rivers said it is nice to, “take a few moments to recognize individuals who have made significant accomplishments in aviation.”

Additional exhibits on aviation are also on display.

Contact Johnitta T. Richards at famuannews@hotmail.com