Defenders of the Week: Kenyatta Scott and Tammera Holmes – The Power of Local, Collaborative Black Girl Magic

2020 has undoubtedly been a gut-wrenching year packed with blows that have affected us all in some form or fashion, and that includes our children. Our young people are faced with the same challenges, doubts, hopelessness, and fears about their immediate future as adults are. Thankfully, there are two lights at the end of the tunnel. Kenyatta Scott and Tammera Holmes are Black women CEOs who have joined forces to send a message of hope and encouragement to our children by merely working TOGETHER.

Tammera L.  Holmes is a mother, wife, sister, daughter, an ordained minister, entrepreneur, philanthropist, student pilot, and inspiration magnet. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in Aviation Management and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Spanish from SIUC. Tammera is a past Defender’s Women of Excellence honoree. She began her career as a professional aviation consultant at a global leader in airport planning. After 11 years in corporate America, she knew entrepreneurship was a viable option for a double minority in an industry that lacks representation.  In 2008, she started AeroStar Consulting Corporation and became one of the only women of color in the world to own an aviation company. Her business provided inspiration through speaking engagements and aviation career exposure to youth across Chicago.  From there, AeroStar moved to after school apprenticeship programs for high schoolers in 2012 with After School Matters.  In 2016, she launched a non-profit, The AeroStar Avion Institute, to deliver programs to a broader audience.

Kenyatta Scott is a children’s book author, educator, and motivational speaker. She is the CEO of The Violet Book Series, Executive Director of The Violet Foundation, NFP, and Founder of VMDS. She attended UIC for her B.A. in Sociology then matriculated to Yale University for Child Development and Early Childhood Education. Upon returning to Chicago, Kenyatta worked with predominantly low-income families on the West Side of Chicago, providing home health, parent education, and mentoring. The Violet Book Series, a morally based series that builds self-esteem in children, grew out of her love for community and a strong belief in the power of imagery in literacy for children. The 4th book in the series and first collaborative book, Violet Takes Flight, is about empowering children to “Do it Afraid.” This speaks directly to what many children have been feeling during 2020, and the current black lives matter movement.

The virtual book reading & launch takes off Saturday, August 8th, at 1 pm from a fun, secret location. Register for this online event at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/violet-takes-flight-virtual-book-reading-and-launch-tickets-112304904994.

A portion of all book proceeds benefits AeroStar Avion Institute.

Kenyatta and Tammera met in 2017 at the 40 under 40 Young Women Professionals League’s (YWPL) ceremony. They connected instantly through their shared love of empowering youth and their faith, which fuels their purpose. They shared what they hope to achieve through their collaboration and the message they want to convey to young people across the globe.

Why is your collaboration so important?

Kenyatta (KS): Tammera’s love for her children and community and her authenticity offline and online and how she connects with her faith in such a bold, transparent and unapologetic way resonated with my spirit. I am very specific and pray for discernment over who I allow to partner with and be in the same space with my gifts. Partnering with Tammera was an easy choice. The black female pilot in the book is a cartoon of Tammera. We are showing the collaborative power of black, female CEOs, displaying what we can accomplish when we work together, empowering and uplifting each other and loving each other and our community.

Tammera (TH): Kenyatta knows how much I adore her and the work that she does. I love her spirit, energy, work ethic, discipline, willingness, and openness to learning. With so much competition among Black women, it was so refreshing for her to be at a level of maturity to ask for my assistance and partnership; to not only articulate what she lacked, needed, and could contribute but to also demonstrate it in developing a real relationship turned genuine friendship. There is great beauty in black women working together.

This path: how did you get here, and why?

TH: I fell in love with aviation when I took my first flight at the age of 16. Two years later, I went on to college to find that I was not only a minority but a late bloomer. Most of my classmates had already had their pilot’s license at 16 and had spent their childhood flying with their fathers and grandfathers…aviation was in their blood, Now, here I am a girl from the hood ready to get started and they’re like ‘you’re late, you’re super late.’ To add insult to injury, I was one of two Black females in a class of 200 students for the entire four years of college. I discovered that it was not “normal” for a black woman to have a degree in Aviation Management. I realized that I needed to make what I did for a living become normal and not an extraordinary exception. This revelation turned into developing a curriculum on everything I learned in college. Doing this afforded me opportunities to work with some of the biggest aviation companies in the world and eventually starting my non-profit organization. Our first donation was $50k. With that gift, we were able to begin our K-8 aviation program, which is unheard of and reach youth from Chicagoland, Northwest Indiana, and all over the country.

KS: When I first set out to write the story, I intentionally wanted to feature a Black female pilot.  Children sometimes need first to see it before they can believe it. Often, when I am out sharing the books or the kids see my t-shirt, yes, they love the story, but their very first genuine reaction is “wow, that looks just like me.” Our black children must be able to see themselves represented. Studies have proven that a lot of books geared toward African American children are written by people who are not African American. And so, I am purposeful with my stories. In my Violet Book Series, Dad is at the top, telling and teaching the children the stories in each book. I want the father to be the premise and focus as far as the teaching because it combats the stereotypes that fathers are not present in communities of children of color.

What is your hope, overall intent for the August 8th event, and after that?

TH: Number one is to support my sister [Kenyatta] in her vision, which was my intent from day one. When she finally put the book in my hand, I said, “oh my God, we did a book, and the pilot is a cartoon of me!” This book is a big deal. Aviation is global. Young kids all over the world are afraid to do stuff, live their dreams, and pursue their passion. This is not an American story. This is a human experience for young kids all over the world. To be able to translate real hard emotions of things that adults are still processing and dealing with and put that in a children’s book in 100 words or less – is Kenyatta’s gift to children.

KS: I do not take the responsibility of what I do lightly. This is something that we must be mindful of when we have a platform. When we have been put in a position where people are watching us, there is power behind our words. I have a social responsibility to move ethically in all that I do. So in my storytelling, I must be transparent and authentic and focused on doing the right thing.

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Remember, Register for The Violet Takes Flight virtual reading and book launch here.

Contributing Writer, Kim Durden is a lifestyle writer and owner of Divine Dine Food Tours. Follow her on Facebook and Instagram, @divinedinefoodietours, and on Twitter, @divinedinetours.

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