'Nobody Owns the Sky'

March 21, 2001|By Reeve Lindbergh

Editor's note: This is the true story of 'Brave Bessie' Coleman, the first licensed black aviator in the world.

There was a young woman who wanted to fly,

But the people said, "Kiss that wish good-bye!

The sky's too big and the sky's too high,

And you never will fly, so you'd better not try."

But this woman laughed, and she just said, "Why?

Nobody owns the sky!"

Up above flew the dove, and the raven too,

With the redbirds red and the bluebirds blue

And the brown hawks circling, far and few,

And the call of the swallows that follow the dew

When the high wild geese come traveling through

With the wind on their wings, flying free, flying true.

She called to them all, and she said, "Hey, you!

I'm coming up there, too!"

Bessie Coleman grew up a century ago

In a cabin built near where the creek waters flow.

She worked picking cotton, as white as the snow,

And watched cottony clouds up above come and go.

Bessie wished she could rise up and fly, high and low,

Over Texas, a long time ago.

Bessie's mother had not learned to read or to write,

But her children were raised to be eager and bright.

Bessie worked hard at school, and she dreamed about flight.

People said she was crazy; it wouldn't be right.

"You're a girl, not a man and you're not even white!" But did she stop dreaming? Not quite!

She went off to college and wanted to stay, But it cost so much money that she couldn't pay. She moved to Chicago and worked every day At the White Sox Barbershop, earning her way. "White men can fly. Why can't I?" she would say, But the flying schools turned her away.

Bessie manicured nails while the barber cut hair,

And she dreamed about flying, but didn't know where.

Then one day someone said, "Fly in France! They won't care

That you're black, and a woman." So Bessie went there.

She was young, tough and smart, she had courage to spare,

And she took like a hawk to the air.

Bessie came home a pilot, so happy and proud

She could ride on the wind, glide and spin in a cloud,

Parachute, loop-the-loop Bessie drew a huge crowd.

When she flew over airports or fields barely plowed,

Her courage and daring had everyone wowed. "Brave Bessie!" they shouted out loud.

Bessie's life was not long, but she flew far and wide.

In Chicago she showed off a Richthofen Glide,

Her air shows in Boston left crowds starry-eyed;

But in Jacksonville, Florida, everyone cried,

Because Bessie's plane failed, and she fell, and she died.

"Farewell to Brave Bessie!" they sighed.

Other young men and women soon wanted to fly

And the people said, "Why don't you give it a try?

The sky's still big, and the sky's still high,

But you're bound to get there, by and by.

Just remember her words 'til the day you die --'Nobody owns the sky!' "

NOBODY OWNS THE SKY. Text copyright c 1996 Reeve Lindbergh; illustrations c 1996 Pamela Paparone. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, Candlewick Press Inc., Cambridge, Mass.

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