Saturday, February 16, 2013



I believe I can fly 
I believe I can touch the sky 
I think about it every night and day 
Spread my wings and fly away 

If I can see it, then I can do it 
If I just believe it, there's nothing to it 

I believe I can soar 
I see me running through that open door 
I believe I can fly 
I believe I can fly 
I believe I can fly.... 
(lyrics by R. Kelly)

For so many children & youth in this country, this is their song. They have great dreams of ‘flying’ out of circumstances that seem to keep them from accomplishing their dreams. Some have dreams of ‘flying’ above all the limitations and low expectations placed on them by others.. Some dream about ‘flying’ to accomplish anything! Their self-esteem is high because they believe in their own abilities, gifts, and talents. However, even with high self-esteem opportunities for these potential ‘high flyers’ are too often limited.

They are limited by school programs that only focus on rote memorization, regurgitation of facts, never allowing for creativity or thinking ‘above level/outside of the box’…they are also limited by adults in their surroundings who don’t believe in their potential to accomplish anything significant simply because they misunderstand and have disdain in their hearts for children of color, children from low-income environments. The thoughts and erroneous perceptions of teachers and others who are in a position to enable and help  young people to realize their dreams become barriers that are so often too hard to overcome.

Unfortunately, many of the dreams of these brilliant, creative and intelligent young people will go unrealized because of lack of resources, lack of access to opportunities, and the limitations placed on them by adults in their environment.

Dreams of literally ‘flying’ are not so far fetched. Over past few weeks, I’ve read three very unique stories of ‘flying’. If you have seen these stories, please share them with others. Historically, there are two African American women who dreamed of flying and AGAINST ALL ODDS, did just that. There is the more familiar name of Bessie Coleman who was the first female pilot of African American descent and the first person of African American descent to hold an international pilot license. The tenth of thirteen children born to sharecropping parents, Bessie began attending school in Waxahachie, TX. Coleman learned to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane and on June 15, 1921, she became not only the first African-American woman to earn an international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, but the first African American woman in the world to earn an aviation pilot's license.*

Another female aviator, perhaps  lesser known, but no less accomplished is Willa Brown, aviator and educator was born on January 22, 1906. As a young high school teacher in Gary, Indiana, and later as a social worker in Chicago, Willa Brown felt that her talents were not being used to their greatest use; she sought greater challenges and adventures in life, especially if they could be found outside the limited career fields normally open to African Americans. She decided to learn to fly, studying with Cornelius R. Coffey, a certified flight instructor and expert aviation mechanic at one of Chicago's racially segregated airports. She earned her private pilot's license in 1938. Together with Cornelius Coffey and Enoch P. Waters, Willa Brown helped form the National Airmen's Association of America in 1939, whose main goal was to get black aviation cadets into the United States military*.

And then, there’s a contemporary dreamer who set his plan into motion even when others believed he was foolish to seek a career in aviation instead of following a path to become a professional football player. Please make note and follow the ‘Flying Dreams’ of Barrington Irving, of Miami. At 27, Barrington was the youngest person to fly solo around the world. His historical trip was featured by National Geographic** and followed by over 300,000 of school children around the world. Click on the link below to  hear Barrington's amazing story of the person who encouraged him to 'fly' and all of the challenges he overcame.  As a result, with the support of technology, Barrington has created a Classroom in the Skies program to enable school children to follow his journeys and for classroom teachers to integrate his work via specially-designed lesson plans across disciplines (science, math, technology, history, etc).

These African American aviators are just three examples young people in communities across the nation and around the world who need three sources of support to enable them to ‘fly’ and realize their dreams, they need:

  1. Access to school based opportunities in advanced programming in science, technology, engineering, math and the arts &  humanities
  1. People to believe in them: Adults, including teachers, policymakers and families to believe in their potential, and
  1. Resources (financial & material) to participate in programming already being made available via technology, after school and summer enrichment programs.

As we consider the potential of children and youth from ALL different backgrounds, we understand that being able to ‘fly’ is not so far-fetched after all. If we all do our part to open a door, believe in the potential for children to excel regardless of the color of their skin or the neighborhood they originate from AND help to provide resources (donations, time and funding) to enable more children to experience advanced programming opportunities we’ll see more & more young people realize their dreams and ‘fly’!!!

What will you do to help a young person realize their dreams?

 Joy Lawson Davis. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 2/16/2013.



  1. It's always good to learn the stories of other pioneers who followed their dreams. They motivate us to realize how our own potential, follow our own path, and be an inspiration to others. Dr. Joy, thank you for sharing this blog with us.

    Marquin Parks

  2. If you are aspire to fly a plane then don't worry, Private Pilots License will allow operate a plane alone.To get Private Pilots License you should completed the age 16.