Black aviator and African-American historian to present program at library

Charles (Chaz) Dryden Jr. and Adesina Ogunelese will be presenting an educational and inspiring program for all ages at the Wailuku Public Library at 2 p.m. Feb. 20 in honor of Black History Month.

Dryden is an African-American aviator and the eldest son of a Tuskegee nurse and a Tuskegee Airman, one of the original Red Tails aviators.

He is also a scuba instructor, in addition to flying gliders and powered airplanes and building model rockets with young people in the Kihei Composite Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, U.S. Air Force Auxiliary. His presentation will include some memorabilia from his personal collection.

Ogunelese, a noted historian of African and African-American history, will share stories about African-American inventors and their inventions. She began teaching about black inventors in 2006.

“I grew up in the ’50s and ’60s where not much black history was taught in schools,” said Ogunelese. “So when I discovered the rich history of my people at 16 I vowed to make it a lifelong practice to read and discover as much as I can of the hidden history of my culture. I realized then that it is only your history when you tell it. So what I do is pick a subject that I am interested in and read all the books I can on that subject. I am an avid reader, and I can consume three to four different books at a time.

“I enjoy giving these programs so that young children can be inspired to do great things with their lives at a young age,” Ogunelese continued. “I had wanted to learn to fly when I was 16. I joined the Civil Air Patrol in Philadelphia, but was the only girl and only black in the program. Even though I was second in my class on the exams, they wouldn’t allow me to fly, saying that girls could only do the radio. I didn’t know about Bessie Coleman, a black woman who traveled to France in the 1920s and received her pilot’s license. Nor did I hear about the heroic deeds and flying of the Red Tail pilots in World War II. Perhaps if I had known about them, I would have had the stamina to pursue this dream further.”

Maui poet and filmmaker Ayin Adams will emcee this event sponsored by the African Americans on Maui Association through grants from Maui County and the African American Heritage Foundation of Maui.

The program is free and open to the public. For more information, call the library at 243-5766.