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Black history in the making

African American man in blue Air Force service dress uniform holds hand in salute position with

Col. Gavin Marks, 55th Wing commander, renders his first salute to the men and women of the 55th Wing at the conclusion of the 55th Wing change of command ceremony June 14, 2019 at Offutt Air Force Base. (U.S. Air Force photo by Charles J. Haymond)

Two Airmen elbow bump

Col. Gavin Marks, left, the 55th Wing's first black wing commander, greets Gen. Charles Q. Brown, right, the first black Air Force chief of staff, as he arrives for a base visit Dec. 3, 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. William A. O'Brien)

OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. --

February is black history month. It is a time to remember black history, with its difficult beginnings, struggles and hardships. It is also a time to celebrate the achievements of those who have overcome many of these challenges to become a part of our nation’s black history.   

Most recently, history was made when Kamala Harris raised her right hand and was sworn in to office as the first black vice president of the United States on Jan. 20.

Another recent milestone occurred in 2020 when Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. became the 22nd Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the first black person appointed to that office and the first to lead any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.

Local history was also quietly made in June 2019 when Col. Gavin Marks became the first black commander of the 55th Wing, the second largest wing in the Air Force.

Milestones such as these are an inspiration for many who will celebrate these accomplishments throughout the month of February.

“For many years I walked the hallways of the wing as I provided briefings to leadership - the halls were lined with photographs of past great wing leadership, but I never saw a picture of someone who reflected my cultural background,” said Randy White, 55th Wing Equal Opportunity director. “When Col. Marks assumed the role of wing commander, it was the first time in my over 25 year Air Force career to serve under an African American wing commander. During this Black History month recognition, I celebrate him as wing commander and I am inspired to see a mirrored reflection of myself in the wing seat.”

These black leaders of our nation and military join many others that came before them, such as President Barack Obama, Army General and Secretary of State Colin Powell, Gen. Daniel “Chappie” James and the Tuskegee Airmen who have set examples for future generations to come.

Black history is an important part of America’s history with glimmers of hope that a time will come when these accomplishments will not be noted as a first.

“Black History month means so much to me because my grandmother and mother endured so many hardships to make things better for their children,” said Senior Master Sgt. Debra Spivey, 55th Wing Equal Opportunity superintendent. “Black History month is more than just a month, it allows us to see where we were to where we are now. We have overcome so much over the years and I am ready to stop celebrating the first, but start celebrating the now,” Spivey said.

Beginning Feb. 1, Offutt will hold the following events in celebration of Black History month:

  • Lifestyles of the Black American - Facebook Live video with Col Marks on Feb. 1
  • REaD (Remember, Educate & Develop) weekly newsletters - Daily historical facts about Black/African Americans
  • Essay Contest for school aged children (5th – 12th grades), and a Coloring Contest for 4th grade and below, to include the daycare children
  • Virtual Gospel Extravaganza - Gospel music videos will be played inside the Base Exchange Mall on Feb. 26

To find out more about these events, contact the Offutt community support office at (402) 232-9731.