By Jill Westeyn
February 24, 2023
In celebration of Black History Month, U.S. Mint Director Ventris C. Gibson spoke to employees at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in Washington, DC, on February 22, 2023. Gibson retired after 35 years of federal service from the FAA 12 years ago. As a former employee and as a result of the recent release of the Bessie Coleman Quarter, Gibson was asked to speak at the event held in the Bessie Coleman Conference Center. February 22nd marked the first time Gibson had returned to the FAA building since her retirement.
Director Gibson was given a warm welcome by Brad Mims, Deputy Administrator of the FAA. She took the podium and shared how the Mint honors African Americans through coin programs like the American Women Quarters™ Program. Said Gibson:
“Triumphs and contributions by African Americans are crucial to our country’s development in every aspect, whether it’s science, aviation, education, art, technology or entertainment. I’m proud that the United States Mint continues to recognize significant events and accomplishments through the design and production of beautiful coins and precious medals.”
Gibson spoke as to what it was like to launch the first coin in the program, the Maya Angelou Quarter, in January 2022, and then spoke about the Bessie Coleman Quarter, released last month. While most in attendance were already aware of Coleman’s plight and legacy, Gibson shared how Coleman overcame adversity and discrimination, paving the way for future aviators:
“In September 1922, she made the first public flight by an African American woman in the United States. Coleman made a point of refusing to speak or perform anywhere that segregated or discriminated against African Americans. In quoting Bessie, ‘The air is the only place free from prejudice. I refused to take no for an answer. I decided blacks should not have to experience the difficulties I had faced, so I decided to open a flying school and teach other black women to fly.'”
As Gibson concluded her remarks, she challenged the audience “…to approach life with the same courageous and determination as Bessie Coleman did so many years ago.” She then presented Billy Nolen, Acting Administrator, FAA, with a Bessie Coleman shadowbox on behalf of the organization, “for keeping Bessie Coleman’s legacy alive and for all the outstanding work that FAA does in providing the safest, most efficient aerospace system in the world.”
To date, the Mint has distributed nearly 400 million Bessie Coleman quarters nationwide.
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