15-yr-old Nigerian records flying feat in U.S.
From Laolu Akande, New York
Since July 11 that she accomplished the feat, mainstream American media have been awash, especially in the last one week with the news of the Nigerian-American
Major U.S. media like Cable News Network (CNN), Los Angeles Times, CBS, New York Daily News, and Philadelphia Inquirer, have been writing about Kimberly Anyadike.
However, much as the U.S. media have been reporting her story, there has not been a mention of her's or her family's Nigerian nationality. All the headlines and the stories said nothing about her or her family hailing from Nigeria. Most of the U.S. media headlines have been calling "Los Angeles Teen," "15-year-old girl," "Youngest African-American female," etc.
Speaking to reporters on July 11 as she landed the one-engine Cessna aircraft in Compton, California, after a 13-day flying spree from California on the West coast of the U.S. to Virginia on the East, the young Anyadike, who, hails from the eastern part of Nigeria, said she flew as a "messenger of hope" with expectations that her flight would inspire many more young people "out there."
Anyadike is making waves not only on the airwaves and the press, but also online, where her own facebook has now been supplemented by a fans' page. Already there are talks and you tube videos speculating about her meeting with the U.S. President Barack Obama. She herself has confirmed on her facebook page that the Governor of California, her U.S. home state, Arnold Schwarzenegger, has already invited her to visit at the state capital.
Anyadike's story started after she was enrolled into a flight programme in California having been targeted as an at-risk youth. But before then she had always wanted to fly, a passion that stuck with her until she joined the flight school that trained her under an intervention and mentoring programme.
From there she received air flight instructions and took on the challenge to fly an aircraft across the US under a programme co-sponsored by the U.S. Tuskeegee Airmen, being a group of Black U.S. military pilots whose initial patriotic attempts to join the U.S. Armed Forces and fight in the Second World War were ridiculed with claims that black people lacked the physiological and cognitive developments to fly planes.
She was trained at the Tomorrow's Aeronautical Museum, a flight school and youth mentoring centre in Compton, California.
The aircraft she flew was named after the Tuskeegee Airmen and one of them, Levi Thornhill, now 87, actually flew with her across the U.S., and another safety pilot. Anyadike, according to U.S. media reports, said she wanted to use the history-making flight to honour the famous Tuskeegee Airmen for their service during the war.
On the 13-day journey she landed in 13 US cities and met with Tuskeegee Airmen all over the country. She said meeting all the Tuskeegee airmen on the trip " was really inspiring to me, and gave me the incentive to keep flying." At all her stops, she was reported to have received a hero's welcome like it was on her return flight to California, which has been posted on youtube.
Speaking on her return to California, from where the 13-day trip had started, Kimberly Anyadike who had been deemed an at-risk youth said: "I really appreciate everything that everyone has done for me." She thanked the Tuskeegee Airmen "for what they have done and what they have allowed me to overcome and to accomplish."
According to her: "I am being a messenger of hope. I hope I am an inspiration to many people out there."
She stated that her accomplishment as the youngest black female, perhaps youngest black person to fly an aircraft had been bigger than her imagination. "This is bigger than just me, larger than any accomplishments I could have ever made."
The 15-year old girl is expected to receive a pilot's licence in two years and she said she would like to become a cardiovascular surgeon with her eyes already set on such ivy league US schools like Harvard, Stanford and Yale. At 15 she is currently in high school and already taking college classes. She is also attending a dance academy, learning to read music in church and training on the piano, violin and guitar.