Hartsfield-Jackson celebrates Black History Month, Women’s History Month

Filed in Events, News, Sustainability by on March 18, 2016

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hosted a series of informative – and inspirational – events as part of ATL’s annual commemoration of Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March.

The events, from lunches and lectures to panel discussions and photo exhibits, drew hundreds of people and highlighted the Airport’s role in championing and serving the community. More important, these special programs recognized and applauded the accomplishments of both African-Americans and women who have enriched our community – and nation.

Black History Month  February   

During Black History Month, the Department of Aviation officially introduced Courage Under Fire, one of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute’s six traveling exhibitions.

The photo exhibit, which was on display in the Airport atrium, consisted of a series of images depicting the 1961 firebombing of a bus filled with Freedom Riders in Alabama. Hours after the firebombing, the photos appeared in newspapers across the nation, catapulting the story of the Freedom Riders into the national consciousness.

“Much of the art here at Hartsfield-Jackson is created to instill a sense of place, but art also has the ability to educate and inform and that is the purpose of this exhibit,” Michael Smith, Airport senior deputy general manager, told a small crowd assembled for the Feb. 22 event. “The history that this exhibit represents offers a look into a period of our history in society that bears remembering long beyond the confines of one single moment.”

Freedom Riders Hank Thomas and Charles Person participated in the ATL event. Both were aboard buses on that fateful day in 1961, with Thomas riding the bus that was firebombed.

“We were foot soldiers in this movement for civil rights,” Thomas said. “We are proud of what we did and the small part we played in changing this country.”

For his courage, Thomas was presented with the president’s key of service by Ceasar Mitchell, president of the Atlanta City Council.

Hartsfield-Jackson capped the month-long celebration with a Feb. 25 luncheon, dubbed “A Mirror Into Your History,” which featured food, African dance and a presentation of the inaugural Cal Carter Trailblazer Award. The award, which recognized an individual exemplifying excellence in leadership, went to its namesake, Cal Carter, who led ATL from 1983-1990 as the first African-American airport commissioner.

“To me, he epitomizes the term servant leadership,” Aviation General Manager Miguel Southwell said. Carter’s family accepted the award on behalf of the ailing leader.

Gina Paige, co-founder and president of the D.C.-based African Ancestry Inc., delivered the keynote address to more than 200 people gathered at the Georgia International Convention Center. As a pioneer of a new way of tracing African lineage using genetics, Paige has revealed the ancestral roots of notable world icons, including Oprah Winfrey and John Legend.

“I’m in the identity business,” Paige told the crowd. “My goal is for people of African descent to know who they are and feel good about who they are so they can celebrate who they are.”

Genealogy, the study of family lineage, is one way of delving into the past. And although genealogy is helpful to trace ancestry, genetic tests provide a fuller picture by filling in the historical blanks. All it takes is a swab from the inside of a person’s mouth to collect the DNA, and the lab at African Ancestry can isolate the “yellow” and “blue” dots. These dots, along with the company’s extensive database, help determine specific countries and — more often than not — specific ethnic groups of origin, Paige said.

In fact, her company did a DNA test on Public Affairs Director Myrna White and Southwell. Turns out, White has roots in Cameroon, and Southwell’s ancestry goes back to the island of Bioko, off the West African coast.

Women’s History Month  |  March

During Women’s History Month, Hartsfield-Jackson hosted an environmentally themed luncheon featuring an elite panel of local female executives. The March 3 event, dubbed “There is Beauty in Sustainability,” was designed to educate attendees on the importance of incorporating a “green” mindset into their everyday lives.

But the event also paid special tribute to women, who play an increasing role in business, politics, the arts and all parts of society. For the Airport’s general manager, who was practically raised by his eight sisters, women have had a profound impact on his life.

“From the time I was born until this day, all of my mentors and people who influenced me have been women,” Southwell told the audience of more than 100 people, mostly women. “But there’s still so much to do to recognize the hard work [of women] and the disparities that still exist today.”

Following lunch, ATL Senior Sustainability Planner Liza Milagro led a panel discussion featuring Jennifer Hankey, president and CEO of Healthy Green Schools; Lisa Wise, executive director of Initiative for Affordable Housing Inc. and founder of re:loom project; and Jillian Pritchard Cooke, owner/founder of DES-SYN and Wellness Within Your Walls.

The panelists tied sustainability to wellness, underscored companies’ triple bottom line (people, planet and profits), and focused on “planting seeds of education” for today’s youth.

“If you we don’t take care of our planet and sustain ourselves in a healthy manner, we’re going to become extinct,” Cooke said.

From a business perspective, Wise said, sustainability just makes sense as the cost of being “green” has become much more affordable.

“It also makes sense that something that you don’t need to throw away could become something else – something else more beautiful, more practical,” she said.

For Hankey, teaching children “a new normal” is Job One. Hankey fears children will grow up in a world that few will recognize if we don’t change our ways. That change includes reversing the torrent of toxins in the environment, educating today’s youth about the planet’s finite resources and promoting recycling of everyday items, she said.

The panelists’ overall message: Small steps can add up to big changes in the sustainability movement.

The push for a more sustainable mindset continues into April, as Hartsfield-Jackson marks Sustainability Month.

Inaugural Cal Carter Trailblazer Award Luncheon "A Mirror Into Your History" Celebrating Black History Month.

The family of Cal Carter accepts the inaugural Cal Carter Trailblazer Award at Hartsfield-Jackson’s Black History Month luncheon Feb. 25. Carter led ATL from 1983-1990 as the first African-American airport commissioner. Photos by Decisive Moment Event Photojournalism

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Women's History Month Luncheon

Aviation General Manager Miguel Southwell addresses more than 100 attendees at the Women’s History Month luncheon March 3.


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