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Auntie Maxine Explains Why Having More Black Representation In Aviation Is Necessary

By DeAnna Taylor

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This past weekend, over 1,500 Black women made their way to Atlanta for the annual Summit21 conference. Among them was our favorite auntie, California Rep. Maxine Waters.

When Rep. Waters boarded her plane to Atlanta, she was amazed to find out that not one but both of her pilots were Black. Her reaction to having Black pilots and a Black flight attendant, can be seen below.

During the summit, American Airlines hosted a special installation on the expo floor. It allowed attendees to get up close and personal with three of their Black women pilots.

Pilots Charlene Shortte, Diana Lugemwa, and Tammy Binns — who have each been flying for over 10 years — appeared during the 2-day conference to show other Black women that Black pilots do exist.

“Being here is an opportunity to show other women, especially Black women that we can do roles that we normally don’t see out in the world,” Diana Lugemwa told Travel Noire.

“A lot of people are visual learners so the fact that we are here in person shows we are real,” Tammy Binns said. “If you see someone in person and they’re tangible, it makes a difference.”

In addition to interacting with attendees, the women had the chance to meet Rep. Waters as well. She was even more amazed that these Black pilots were present.

We had a chance to speak with Auntie Maxine to get her thoughts on the need to see more Black representation in aviation.

Photo courtesy of American Airlines

“I was so thrilled when I first looked into that cockpit and I said wow,” Rep. Waters told Travel Noire. “I talked with them about making sure they get before young people, so that young people can aspire to become pilots as well.”

“I think that young people need to aspire to positions that we are not seen in historically. When they see these pilots in these uniforms and hats, it allows them to aspire to want to do it too. While we have some Black pilots, we need more!”

We recently wrote about an annual camp that is held for young girls interested in aviation. “Girls Rock Wings” was held this past April in Houston and it was a success.

Related:’Girls Rock Wings’ Aims To Expost Black Girls To Aviation

“Even for me, as a pilot, it was mind-blowing to see that many African American women pilots standing in one room during the camp,” Tammy Binns said. “It was an eye opener. What I was most shocked by, was that many of these girls had already been exposed to aviation and had seen Black pilots before. It was beautiful to see that their eyes were being opened to something that wasn’t available to me when I was younger.”

With programs like Girls Rock Wings and organizations like Sisters of the Skies, more Black men and women can began to see and network with pilots that look just like them.

“There are no limits to what we can do,” Charlene Shortte said. “Not a day goes by that someone says “You are the first Black woman pilot that I have ever seen in my entire life.” Someone even said that here at the conference. When these young women look in the mirror and they see themself they will know, that they can do this too.”

The women wanted to remind those who may aspire to get into aviation that it’s never too early and it’s never too late. Seek out others who look like you, reach out to them, and ask questions.

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DeAnna Taylor

DeAnna Taylor is a criminal defense Attorney turned travel blogger, author, and writer. While Charlotte, NC (her hometown) is her base, she's always somewhere on a plane. Catch her on IG: @brokeandabroadlife.

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