MLK: AIAA and NSBE Aerospace Special Interest Group Present A Tribute to Service: Community, Country

When:  Jan 18, 2021 from 10:00 to 13:30 (ET)
Associated with  Aerospace SIG

AIAA and NSBE Aerospace Special Interest Group Present A Tribute to Service: Community, Country, and Humanity

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and  the Aerospace Special Interest Group of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE Aerospace SIG), continues their on-going commitment to generate platforms for diverse technical interchange in the industry to host an online program to recognize several Black Americans who exemplify Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s concept of service.  AIAA and NSBE Aerospace SIG also joined forces with leading non-profit aerospace educational and career development contributors and the following key collaborators to remember Dr. King: Legacy Bridges STEM Academy, Organization of Black Aerospace Professionals (OBAP), and The University of Texas at Dallas. 

“A Tribute to Service: Community, Country, and Humanity” is set for Monday, 18 January, 1000-1330 hrs ET. The program is complementary to all AIAA 2021 SciTech Forum attendees and open to the public at no charge. Access is limited, and registration is required to receive the program link before the event.

Focusing on the Black Community in Washington, D.C.

Attendees will have the unique opportunity to hear from Virginia Ali, co-founder of Ben’s Chili Bowl with her late husband, Ben. Ben’s Chili Bowl has been a mainstay of the Black community in Washington, D.C. for nearly 62 years. Mrs. Ali will share stories about sitting with Dr. King and later with the first Black President of the United States, Barack Obama, and share how her restaurant has served as a gathering place for everyone. In addition, Ben’s current staff will share a cooking demonstration of some of their specialties. (This message was taped prior to the event.)


Leading and Serving in Military and Civil Aerospace – Live Conversation

Two accomplished Black aerospace and defense leaders will participate in a live fireside chat moderated by the NSBE Aerospace SIG Chief Engineer, Lindani Johnson, discussing their challenges to rise to leadership positions and their personal inspirations.   


  • Charles Bolden (USMC, Ret.) is a former four-time Space Shuttle astronaut and the first Black NASA Administrator, serving during President Obama’s administration.
  • General Lester Lyles (USAF, Ret.) is one of a few African Americans to ever hold the rank of a four-star general and chairs the NASA Advisory Council. Attendees will be invited to interact with these leaders and ask them questions.


Honoring the Tuskegee Airmen –Video Documentary and Live Conversation

Watch the second episode in the documentary series, “Red Tails Angels – The Story & Legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen.” This series showcases the hardships, struggles, and ultimately the successes of the first Black men given the opportunity to serve as military aviators during World War II in the U.S. Army Air Corps (became the U.S. Air Force.)


Attendees will meet one of the few living Documented Original Tuskegee Airmen (DOTA) and hear his story of service and perseverance. Nathan O. Thomas was a member of 99th Pursuit Squadron. He will be in conversation with Joi C. Spraggins, Ph.D., a Pennsylvania State NSBE Aerospace SIG Ambassador,  the founder of Legacy Bridges, a NASA-Related Career and Technical STEM Education Center.  She is also the CEO of Legacy Bridges STEM Academy, Inc., is a 501(c)3 non-profit for developing legacy leadership and innovative STEM and business education solutions.


Recognizing Women in Aerospace and Aviation – Live Conversation

Join the conversation with three Black women who will share their dreams, discuss their service, and look ahead toward their next feats.  This conversation will be moderated by the NSBE Aerospace SIG Director, Enanga Daisy Fale.  Attendees will be invited to interact with the panel and submit questions.

  • Carole Hopson, Pilot, Author, Mother: Hopson works as a pilot for United Airlines.
  • Marion Johnson, A Real “Hidden Figure” (INVITED): Johnson worked from 1967 to 1969 as a mathematician with The Boeing Company during the Apollo missions.
  • Stephanie D. Wilson, NASA Astronaut (INVITED): Wilson has served her country as three-time NASA Space Shuttle Astronaut and recently was named to the Artemis astronaut team.


The Tribute to MLK will be concluded by the AIAA 2021 Diversity and Inclusion Awardee, who is the

NASA Technical Fellow for Loads and Dynamics, an AIAA Associate Fellow, and the NSBE Aerospace SIG Aerospace Partnership Director, Dexter Johnson, Ph.D.



About AIAA

The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) is the world’s largest aerospace technical society.  With nearly 30,000 individual members from 91 countries, and 100 corporate members, AIAA brings together industry, academia, and government to advance engineering and science in aviation, space, and defense. For more information, visit, or follow AIAA on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

About NSBE Aerospace SIG

The Aerospace Special Interest Group of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE Aerospace SIG) is a strategic technical function within the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), a global organization founded in 1975, comprising of more than 24,600 members worldwide.  The NSBE Aerospace SIG was started in 2003 with a mission to stimulate active aerospace industry participation by equipping members and partners of all generations with tools to create and innovate aerospace solutions throughout their lifetime.  As a platform for aerospace industry-specific technical research, technical development, outreach, and advocacy programming, the NSBE Aerospace SIG provides both a network and pipeline for students and professionals to enter and grow within the aerospace industry.  For more information, visit , or follow NSBE Aerospace on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.