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    The importance of Black History Month and Recognizing its Great Leaders



    Story by Stephanie Santos 

    1st Armored Division

    "A Celebration of Greatness" is my penned definition of Black History Month every year.

    It's my self-programmed alarm, not set by a smartphone or smart watch, but my own conscious to learn something new about my history and recognize the numerous accomplishments from those who came before me.

    Let's start at the movies. The film Black Panther was a commercial success, and it was the first superhero movie directed and written by African-Americans.

    Black Panther shook up the box office and became a must-see movie for everyone. Now, I admit to never being a big Marvel Comics fan. However, the excitement and endless tweets sparked my interest and made me want to see this film.

    The film industry continues to highlight the accomplishments of African Americans. The movie Hidden Figures depicts the story of three African-American women working at NASA in the 1960s - the midst of segregation. These remarkable women were instrumental using their engineering and mathematical skills serving as the real-life masterminds behind launching astronaut John Glenn into orbit; the first American to orbit the earth.

    This film was a shock to most Americans that such an integral part of Black history had been overlooked and quietly dismissed for so long.

    It also raised awareness on the large gender gap in science and mathematics. In fact, it inspired the formation of Hidden No More: an educational program geared to encourage women to take active roles in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers.

    Contributions by African-Americans across NASA and beyond have seen trailblazers like Vanessa Wyche serving as the first Black woman to hold the title of deputy director at NASA ‘s Johnson Space Center. Dr. Patrice Harris serving as the first African-American woman elected president of the American Medical Association and Tyler Mitchell making history as the first Black photographer to shoot the cover for Vogue magazine.

    When reflecting back in history, I admire the bravery of the Tuskegee Airmen who were relentless and fearless in their mission to protect U.S. bombers. These African American fighter pilots performed countless combat missions during World War II and stayed strong at a time of racial divide and negative predictions that African-Americans could not serve as pilots. Today’s modern-day pilots and aircrew mechanics should look to these brave men as a lasting legacy. After proving themselves and their unprecedented flying abilities, it was finally decided to provide training to African Americans as pilots and mechanics.

    West Point Cadet-Emily Perez also broke barriers as the first Black female Cadet Command Sgt. Major at the U.S Military Academy at West Point. Perez earned her commission as a 2nd Lt and was killed in Iraq in 2005. However, her legacy lives on to this day. Soldiers in her former unit honored her with a street called “Emily’s Way” and a foundation named in her honor.

    Even on my daily commute into work, I'm reminded of Garrett Morgan who created the first three position traffic signal, and is most noted for his gas mask invention.

    When speaking into my home and cell phone, I give credit to Dr. James West for patenting the foil electret microphone which is used in most telephones today.

    As I continue onto the highway, I am surrounded with large food delivery trucks. I think of Frederick McKinley Jones who was an African-American inventor who designed the portable air-cooling unit for trucks carrying perishable food. His design was vital during World War II for the preservation of blood, medicine and food to field hospitals and on the front lines.

    There's so much more to learn about Black history that goes beyond what we have learned in school. I’m hopeful that this month will bring forth an awareness and inspire all Americans, regardless of race, to learn more about achievements and sacrifices made by Black Americans. I will continue to challenge myself, and my children to share knowledge and make our own personal strides.

    Maybe 100 years from now, even more Americans will also look upon these pages in history and be inspired to appreciate and share this “Celebration of Greatness.” My hope is that our nation will view Black History Month as not only African-American history but American history!



    Date Taken: 02.15.2019
    Date Posted: 02.21.2019 18:55
    Story ID: 311063
    Location: FORT BLISS, TX, US 

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