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Black History Month: Awareness and Understanding

PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- We are now in the middle of Black History Month here at the 45th Space Wing and all across our country.

To start, let me offer a heart-felt thanks to Capt. Jarvora Duncan, and his team of volunteers, for organizing the Wing's BHM events.

We still have two big events coming up: The Gospel Extravaganza held 7 p.m. Feb. 22 at the South Chapel, and the "Open Mike" Night, held 7 p.m. Feb. 28 at The Tides.

I have long felt one of the most important "take-backs" we can get from monthly events like these is the ability to heighten awareness and understanding, which is always a good thing.

Growing up, I had Indian, bi-racial and African American girlfriends, like Charneeta Wilson, who was the first person to teach me how to hit a volleyball over the net. The way we celebrated that first hit, you would've thought we were going to the Olympics!

So I like to think I grew up "color blind" myself, although racism was all around me in the suburbs of Chicago in the '70s and 80s.

I was also lucky enough to be the daughter of parents (my Dad emigrated from Italy here at the age of 16 in the mid-50s) who looked at everyone individually, and firmly believed that laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.

That upbringing, I think, helps me today as a leader -- to be clearly aware that racism still exists -- and to see the value of every human being, every Shark in the 45th Space Wing ... regardless of the color of their skin, their gender, age, or religion.

During months like these I am also reminded of a quote from Jackie Robinson, one of my all-time heroes, best known for breaking the Major League baseball color barrier in 1947 with unbelievable class, while undergoing unbearable stress.

"I'm not concerned with your liking or disliking me ... all I ask is that you respect me as a human being," said Mr. Robinson.

That's the very basis of a strong, high-performing team: respect for each other as a human being.

I hope we get a good turnout at these last two BHM events, and support other diversity months throughout the year. We can all use the awareness and education.

Stay Focused Sharks!