One-woman show on the life of Bessie Coleman to kick off ECC's Black History Month Feb. 7

  • Elgin Community College Black History Month 2020 "Looking Back … Progressing Forward."

    Elgin Community College Black History Month 2020 "Looking Back … Progressing Forward." Courtesy of Elgin Community College

  • Bessie Coleman

    Bessie Coleman

  • Thomas M. Armstrong III

    Thomas M. Armstrong III

Submitted by Elgin Community College
Updated 1/22/2020 7:00 PM

Elgin Community College's celebration of Black History Month kicks off on Friday, Feb. 7, with a performance by Gigi Coleman, the great-niece of Bessie Coleman, the first black female pilot in the U.S.

The breakfast event begins at 8:30 a.m. in the Building E Dining Room at the college, 1700 Spartan Drive, Elgin.


Bessie Coleman was not only the first black female to hold a pilot's license. She was also the first black person to earn an international pilot's license.

Bessie Coleman could not enroll in flight school in the United States at the time, so she learned French and moved to France to get her pilot's license. The year was 1921. Her dream was to open a flight school, but died at the age of 34 in a test flight crash.

Gigi Coleman tours her one-woman show and portrays the story of her great-aunt Bessie to challenge the minds of the young and old and to encourage individuals to achieve their dreams.

She also inspires youth to get interested in STEM through her aviation program, The Bessie Coleman Aviation All-stars.

"We are excited to share our Black History Month celebration with the community," said Erik Enders, student life coordinator. "This year, we are featuring lesser-known history-makers whose impact on society was just as important as some of the names with whom we are more familiar."

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He added, "Bessie Coleman is a great example of these hidden gems. I am excited to see how Gigi brings her great-aunt's story to life during the kickoff breakfast."

Seating is limited, and tickets for the breakfast can be purchased for $15 for students and $20 for community members at or through the ECC Arts Center box office at (847) 622-0300.

The Black History Month schedule includes:

• Voter Rights Panel Discussion from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 4, in Spartan Corner, Building B. The 1965 Voting Rights Act created a significant change in voting rights for African Americans. Join them in the Spartan Corner to explore voter rights over the decades and importance of your vote in today's political climate!

• Kickoff Breakfast from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Friday, Feb. 7, in the Dining Room of Building E. Come celebrate Black History Month in style! Enjoy black history brought to life as Gigi Coleman portrays her great-aunt, daredevil pilot Bessie Coleman. Tickets are $15 for students, $20 for community members, and can be purchased at


• "The Tunnel of Oppression" from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. and 2 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 12, in the Second Space Theatre, Building H. "The Tunnel of Oppression" is an interactive, guided event focused on contemporary social justice issues centered on the concepts of oppression, micro-aggressions, and the "isms" experiences by numerous communities today. This is an event that invites participation from all people.

• "Autobiography of a Freedom Rider," sponsored by the ECC Humanities Center, from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18, in Spartan Auditorium, Building G. Civil rights foot soldier Thomas Armstrong discusses his memoir detailing his early life working as a voting rights organizer with the state field secretary for Mississippi, Medgar Evers.

• Black History Month Read-In/Write-In from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, in Building C, Room C120. Readers and writers from ECC and the community are invited to read works by African American writers, artists, and musicians. Professor Chasity Gunn, Elgin's Poet Laureate, will lead this experience, with a chance to create works of your own.

• "The 1619 Project," sponsored by MAGIC, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 26, in Spartan Auditorium, Building G. "The 1619 Project" is an ongoing initiative from that began in August 2019, which marked the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to re-frame the county's history by placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of Black Americans at the very center of our national narrative. Come join the discussion.

• African Ball from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 28, in the Dining Room, Building E. Join them for the conclusion of Black History Month! Celebrate Africa through fashion, food, song, dance, presentations and more. Tickets are $15 per person, with kids under the age of 5 free, and can be purchased at

• "The 2-3-1 Project: Connecting Elgin's African American History" from 11 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, March 3, in Spartan Auditorium, Building G. Discover Elgin's local African American history through a first-hand account by ECC's Professor Emerita of Sociology Joyce Fountain, a participant in the "2-3-1" documentary project. In addition, the "2-3-1 Project" mobile art exhibit will be across from Spartan Corner in Building B.


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