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Through the eyes of our Airmen: Black History Month

Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Harper poses for a portrait photo inside of his office, looks directly at the camera and smiles.

Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Harper, 341st Missile wing command chief, poses for a photo, Feb. 19, 2021 at the command suite on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Chief Harper was one of many Airmen interviewed at the conclusion of Black History Month for comments and advice on how to keep the conversation going regarding inclusivity and diversity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Elijah Van Zandt)

Staff Sgt. Khalif Hines stands in front of a maintenance squadron emblem and looks directly at the camera as he smiles for the photo.

Staff Sgt. Khalif Hines, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron facilities maintenance team chief, poses for a portrait photo, Feb. 19, 2021 at the maintenance squadron on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Hines commented during his interview that the U.S. Air Force has began taking must needed steps in the right direction but must continue becoming a more diverse and inclusive organization. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Elijah Van Zandt)

Maj. Rashida Brown stands in front of a glass wall with the 341st Medical Group emblem on it as she smiles for the photo.

Maj. Rashida Brown, 341st Medical Group practice manager and program director for the 341st Missile Wing Diversity and Inclusion Council, poses for a portrait photo, Feb. 22, 2021 at the base clinic on Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont. Brown and the Diversity and Inclusion Council worked behind the scenes to coordinate events on base for Black History Month. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Elijah Van Zandt)

MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- With Black History Month concluded, the Airmen of Malmstrom Air Force Base are determined to keep its lessons and history in the forefront of the conversation by reflecting on how it personally affected them.

Numerous events were hosted on base throughout the month to recognize prominent black leaders in history, their accomplishments and to continue the conversation around inclusivity and equality.
Black History Month is all encompassing of African American history, including highlighting influential figures in history such as Martin Luther King Jr., showcasing accomplishments and milestones, while also celebrating African American lifestyle and culture.

“When I think of Black History Month, I think of African American leadership - in my case, the leadership of my father, who raised five beautiful children that have had opportunities he could never even dream of,” said Chief Master Sgt. Ronald Harper, 341st Missile Wing command chief. “It’s also a time for reflection and gratitude, and a time to acknowledge that African American history is simply a large part of American history.”

History was recreated the evening of February 18th with the Ozark Open Mic night at the Grizzly Bend, hosted by the Black History Committee and the Diversity and Inclusion Council. The event included live jazz music, poetry and open dialogue, and honored the historic Ozark Jazz Club in Great Falls, known for hosting the best jazz from between Chicago and the west from 1933 to 1962. The club broke away from the roots of segregation with the slogan: all are welcome.

The U.S. Air Force moved from segregation within its ranks to a fully integrated force by 1964 and for some, Black History Month is a way to further educate Airmen on how far the Air Force has come in the constant mission of achieving racial equality.

“Sometimes it does weigh on me knowing that the Air Force has transformed from a segregated Air Force into an all-inclusive Air Force,” said Staff Sgt. Khalif Hines, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron facilities maintenance team chief. “It’s a testament to the progress made by everyone who came before me and all their hard work and effort to change the status quo.”

Airmen on Malmstrom continue to raise awareness in the hope that positive change will continue. The U.S. Air Force was given a green light to facilitate conversations in the workplace on race relations in June 2020 from retired Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. David L. Goldfein and retired Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth O. Wright. Airmen now have a platform to keep conversations going and to continue the positive awareness from Black History Month.

“There are a lot of Airmen on this base who feel extremely empowered to improve things for themselves and their fellow Airmen in regards to diversity and inclusion,” said Maj. Rashida Brown, 341st Medical Group practice manager and program director for the 341st Missile Wing diversity and inclusion program. “I think it’s important to remember that we don’t have to be constrained to the first 28 days of February, we can celebrate black history anytime - and we should.”
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