Now this is how you kick off a celebration!
United Airlines Flight 1258 celebrated Juneteenth with an all-Black flight staff, Black Enterprise reports.
This year, President Biden signed a bill making Juneteenth, the day commemorating the official end of slavery, a federal holiday. There were celebrations across the nation including a robust Juneteenth Unityfest, hosted by the Robert Randolph Foundation, and a mini-museum opening in Oakland in honor of the Black Panther Party.
But one company decided to celebrate in a super unique way, United Airlines Flight 1258 choosing to commemorate the holiday by flying with an all-Black flight staff. Before take off, there was a speech from Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, a saxophone performance from one of the pilots, Sal Crocker and a water cannon blast on the tarmac. Everyone on Flight 1258 from the pilot to the flight attendants and even the gate agents were all Black.
“Now, we’re soaring amongst the stars. Let me tell you, for our ancestors, my parents, if they were still alive, they would just be amazed,” Mayor Turner told reporters.
Pilot Deon Byrne also acknowledged the historic nature of the moment, especially for herself as a Black female pilot, with only 2.47% of aircraft pilots in the nation being Black.
“Years ago, I was not able to fly in the capacity as a pilot. This is just amazing to represent a section of our culture…It is very difficult being a Black person, a Black woman, in the aviation industry. There’s not a lot of encouragement, and there’s absolutely mentorship for the future generation, but when I came in, it was very difficult to find the funding, the resources, and the connections to get started in the industry,” said Byrne.
Organizations like Sisters of the Skies (SOS) are working to increase diversity in the industry, specifically for Black women. But nearly three decades since her start, Byrne said representation is still very few and far in between, United Flight 1258 being the first time in 25 years that she’s ever flown with an all-Black staff.
“A lot of people say, ‘Oh, what’s the big deal, a bunch of Black people are just flying from here to there,’ but it is a big deal. In the aviation industry, people have always questioned if we were as safe or as competent, and we are careful. We’re very competent,” said Byrne.
Photo Courtesy of United Airlines