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D&I: Black History Month 2021

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Kristine Legate
  • 386th Air Expeditionary Wing

Diversity is understanding and appreciating the interdependence of humanity; it refers to the characteristics that make people unique. Inclusion refers to the mannerisms and social norms that make people feel welcome. Inclusivity is important for diversity efforts to succeed, and working on creating a more inclusive culture is proving beneficial to the United States of America and its military.

The U.S. Air Force’s Diversity and Inclusion program continues to help the Air Force evolve. Every team is stronger and more effective when made up of Airmen with different perspectives and backgrounds, who are bound together by core values.

“D&I encompasses a lot more than just black and white, or a racial or ethnicity issue,” said Technical Sgt. Emerald Diehl, committee member and 407th Expeditionary Support Squadron Red Tail Fitness Center noncommissioned officer in charge.

Airmen passionate about the D&I program come together to hold events and services highlighting its value in uniting and celebrating one another.

“It’s the concept of individuality and that every single person has a story and something different that they can bring to the table,” said Technical Sgt. Blake McCartney, committee member and 407th ESPTS Personnel Support for Contingency Operations team chief.

In honor of Black History Month, various initiatives were incorporated throughout AJAB during the month of February.

“For this occasion, we all did something individually,” said Staff Sgt. Felicia Tiumalu, committee member and 407th ESPTS unit training representative. “I printed out a poster that posed the question, ‘What does Black History Month mean to you?’ displayed at the dining facility. My intent was to open the dialogue for those in passing to write what’s on their mind and why this month is important to them.”

Diehl held a virtual 5K where those who participated received a shirt commemorating the event.

“It’s something people can take home with them and potentially start conversations with their family,” said Diehl.

McCartney described himself as being a nerd, and his idea was to find something interesting for those with similar interests that was also Black History Oriented.

“I came up with the idea of putting place cards on the tables at the DFAC.” McCartney said. “I wanted to highlight individuals who developed and created things that are integral to our society.”

Services members had the opportunity to learn about historical figures and trailblazers while eating a meal, helping the message reach everyone.

“What I like about this is that it showcases those who were successful despite the challenges they had to face in the era they lived in. It also focuses on those who were entrepreneurs, and those who made their way despite all the troubles they had to go through,” Tiumalu added. “I’d sit at different tables and read about it. These people are kind of like the unsung heroes that we don’t learn much about and I loved that portion of eating my meal at lunch.”

The D&I team and morale, welfare and recreation center also worked together to schedule a variety of events.

“The goal for the MWR was to create a feel good atmosphere, so we created the ‘Sandbox Lounge’,” said Airman 1st Class Nadia Carter, committee member and 407th ESPTS Airman assigned to the MWR. “It’s where people can let loose and relax from the stress of a work day. We’ve also scheduled films and play music that incorporates Black History Month.”

Celebrating Black History Month is one way to create and encourage good working environments. A place where Airmen can prosper, develop and work freely with others makes for a stronger more resilient force.

“A lot of the issues we deal with or the feedback we receive is the stigma with D&I that it’s ‘only for minorities’,” Tiumalu said. “We want people to know it’s an open door policy for everyone. It’s not to create division between cultures, it’s to unite and celebrate.”