By Senior Airman Rachel Hammes, 55th Wing Public Affairs
/ Published March 07, 2016
Master Sgt. Demetrius Booth, with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, speaks to attendees of the Offutt Diversity Team’s Black History Month commemoration at the Offutt Air Force Base Patriot Club, Neb., Feb. 17, 2016. Booth spoke of the history of the Atlantic slave trade, as well as the progress made toward equal rights in the U.S.
John Sullivan, a representative from Omaha’s Durham Museum, delivers a presentation on the history of racial segregation and the civil rights movement in the Omaha-Metro area at the Offutt Air Force Base Patriot Club, Neb., Feb. 17, 2016. Sullivan was taking part in the Offutt Diversity Team’s commemoration of Black History Month.
The Offutt Diversity Team hosted a Black History Month lunch and learn at the Offutt Patriot Club Feb. 17, 2016.
Building on the DOD’s theme of “Hallowed Grounds: Scenes of African American Memories,” the event focused on the history of race relations in the Omaha, Neb., area, as well as the greater African-American experience in the U.S.
Master Sgt. Demetrius Booth, with the 55th Security Forces Squadron, delivered a speech that left several audience members in tears.
Pulling quotes from Langston Hughes’ “I, Too, Sing America,” Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” and Billie Holliday’s song, “Strange Fruit,” Booth delivered a history of the American slave trade and the injustice and fight for equality that culminated with his place in today’s Air Force.
“I am living the dream,” he said. “My grandfather could have never imagined that I’d be standing here in this place today, giving this speech. But there was a hope for that promise, which is why he sacrificed. Harriet Tubman, as she conducted the Underground Railroad, could have never imagined that I would be in this room, sitting at a table with Command Chief Michael Morris, talking about what we want to do tomorrow. She could have never imagined it. But it was for that hope of a promise that I could get here today that she sacrificed. It is on that promise I stand. So every place I plant my feet is hallowed ground.”
Booth also emphasized the importance of carrying on the history of sacrifice to future generations.
“One day they will stand on our shoulders as we continue to move and make this world a better place,” he said. “There is no time when we did not contribute to what makes us great as a nation. So to echo Langston Hughes’ words, ‘I, too, sing America. I am America.’”
Bob Rose, president of the Alfonza W. Davis chapter of Tuskegee Airmen Incorporated, spoke on the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, as well as the importance of carrying that legacy into the future.
John Sullivan, a representative from Omaha’s Durham Museum, gave a history of African-American inequality in the Omaha area, detailing a history of lynching and riots leading up to peaceful marches for equal treatment during the Civil Rights era.
“When we’re looking at our local history, compared to the state and the national history, the things that were happening here we also saw happening in bigger cities like New York and Chicago,” Sullivan said. “It’s interesting when you start to look at the civil rights movement in our community – people had something to say.”