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(Commentary) Celebrating Black History on Offutt AFB

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

Team Offutt will join bases around the world throughout February to celebrate diversity and pride during Black History Month.

Multiple organizations across the base have scheduled events as part of the celebration. On Feb. 15, there will be a food sampling at the Commissary from 11 a.m. – 1 p.m. On Feb. 23, 11:30 a.m. – 1 p.m., the Patriot Club is hosting an event that will include a presentation on African American contributions during times of war and a panel discussion.

During this event, everyone can learn of the struggles faced and reflect on the success achieved by African Americans in the U.S. They have contributed to the growth of society that many are not aware of, ranging from music and culture to military and politics.

“We should celebrate African American history because it's an opportunity to remember and give thanks for our ancestors that paved the way for our freedoms and opportunities; not just for African-Americans, but for all cultures,” said Randy White, 55th Wing Equal Opportunity chief.

The list of distinguished African Americans would be too long to include in a single article, but to not highlight a few would be a shame. Great Americans like Henry Ossian Flipper who was the first African American to earn a commission from West Point. Then there are the great Tuskegee Airmen. It just so happens that Benjamin O. Davis Jr. was the first four-star African American general in the U.S. Air Force. Also in 2012, Maj. Shawna R. Kimbrell became the first African American female fighter pilot. As stated previously, the list could go on and each would be impressive, but it is not just where we have been but where we are going that is important.

“The struggles that black people have endured just to be treated equally, is the reason that we celebrate Black History,” said Almeda Giles, Offutt AFB Community Support Coordinator.  “That history recognizes the struggle to be treated equally, as fought for by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement - and the right to not only ride a bus, but to sit wherever you want, as fought for by Rosa Parks.”

“Additionally, we have had astronomers, poets, inventors, engineers, writers, novelists, Civil War heroes, physicians, diplomats, scientists, millionaires, composers, cartoonist and musicians - just to name a few,” she added.  “But the most significant thing to remember is that black people have contributed to the backbone of the American culture and have contributed their skills and gifts to advancing the basis of harmony and affluence in America.”

The celebration of black history was not always a month-long observation. It originally lasted  seven days during the second week in February. In 1929, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, as it known today, sponsored what was then called National Negro History Week.

This week was chosen because both Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass’ birthdays were during this time frame.

In 1976, President Gerald Ford identified the month of February as “Black History Month,” saying, “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”