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Black History Month: Remembering the Past, Inspiring the Future

Books are displayed for a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Books are displayed for a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Black History Month reading program was an initiative to read books highlighting the accomplishments of black people in history, including the “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (U.S. Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, reads to children at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, reads to children at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Black History Month reading program was an initiative to read books highlighting the accomplishments of black people in history, including the “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of four black women who helped NASA launch mankind into space. (U.S. Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, reads to children at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, reads to children at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The Black History Month reading program was an initiative to read books highlighting the accomplishments of black people in history, including the “I Have A Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of four black women who helped NASA launch mankind into space. (U.S. Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

A child writes his dream on a paper hand during a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

A child writes his dream on a paper hand during a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The “I Have A Dream” activity allowed the children to create their own dreams for making a positive impact. (U.S. Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Children at the Youth Center write their dreams on paper hands to create a wall display during a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Children at the Youth Center write their dreams on paper hands to create a wall display during a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The “I Have A Dream” activity illuminated Dr. King’s vision for all people to get along and work together. (U.S. Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, and Capt. Cornelius Hall, 341st Operations Group standards and evaluations evaluator, pose for a group photo with children during a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.

Col. Jennifer Reeves, 341st Missile Wing commander, and Capt. Cornelius Hall, 341st Operations Group standards and evaluations evaluator, pose for a group photo with children during a Black History Month event at the Youth Center Feb. 12, 2020, at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. The children created their own dreams for making a positive impact, wrote them on paper hands and created a wall display. (U.S. Air Force photo by Devin Doskey)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. --

As February comes to a close, Malmstrom AFB wraps up its Black History Month celebrations.

Since its inception in 1976, America has recognized February as Black History Month, as a time to honor achievements by African Americans and recognize the significant role of blacks in U.S. history.

Members of the 341st Operations Group planned multiple events at the Youth Center. Events included a black history reading program, an “I Have A Dream” activity and open discussion for the youths.

“The whole purpose behind [these programs] is to educate all nationalities, all walks of life, and especially our next generation on black history, on people of color who have contributed to our country and military,” said Capt. Cornelius Hall, 341st OG standards and evaluations evaluator.

The black history reading program was an initiative to read books highlighting the accomplishments of black people in history, including the “I Have A Dream” speech by Martin Luther King Jr. and “Hidden Figures,” which tells the story of four black women who helped NASA launch mankind into space.

“When I was in school, I didn’t learn about my history… Black History Month sheds light on what people have done in the past and continue to do now because of those who paved the way for us,” said 1st Lt. Shaday Mitchell, 10th Missile Squadron mission combat crew commander.

The “I Have A Dream” activity illuminated King’s vision for all people to get along and work together. The youths then created their own dreams for making a positive impact, wrote their dream on paper hands and created a wall display.

“I think it’s important to let the next generation know that their dream matters,” said Hall. “We want to encourage them and support their dreams.”

The open discussion between the Airmen and youths was particularly important.

“The further we get away from the generations of Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks and Malcom X, the less the new generation is aware of what happened [in American history] and why we have the freedoms we have today,” said Tech. Sgt. Shameka Miller, 341st Operations Support Squadron command support staff NCO in charge. “It’s important to continue the conversation and pass on our history.”

Black History Month isn’t just for the youth. An understanding and appreciation of black history is important for all people, especially in the military.

“Without diversity, we risk failure of the mission,” said Hall. “When you have individuals with different experiences, skillsets, mentalities, and perspectives, you can find more solutions to problems.”

Diversity allows Airmen from different walks of life, experiences and backgrounds to work together and fight for one purpose.

“When you lack diversity, it can lead to communication barriers; and when you’re talking about a mission that is as important as the mission we have here, it’s important to make sure everyone is included and heard,” said Miller. “When you’re able to work through the differences you have, you’re able to come together to accomplish the mission.”

From Airman Basic to Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force, 1st Lt. to General, diversity is critical.

“It’s important to relate to those in leadership positions,” said Maj. Christopher Boney, 341st OG standards and evaluations chief. “Twenty years ago, [the military leadership] didn’t look the way it does now.

“When you’re looking at a field of leaders who don’t look like you, don’t come from the same background as you, who you can’t relate to on a personal level, it can become a barrier…to succeeding at higher heights,” continued Boney. “But today, you see black leaders, female leaders and Hispanic leaders in top positions. You see people who look like what America looks like and it gives you hope and affirmation that if they can do it, you can do it.”

Although Black History Month is coming to a close, learning about those who have contributed a great deal to our country in science, art, literature and culture doesn’t have to stop.

“This isn’t just for the African American community,” said Miller. “We want everyone to come together and continue fighting for people’s rights and freedom.

“We have to keep the dream alive; not just for one culture, but for all,” concluded Miller.