I Am Witnessing Black History

  • Published
  • By SMSgt Brandon Dinkins
  • Air Force District of Washington

The level of accomplishment by Black Airmen in my 18 years of service in the Air Force is nothing less than astonishing. It is essential to recognize the many achievements of great Black historical figures, but many may not realize we are witnessing Black History right before our eyes. As a young Airman, I did not see many leaders in my Security Forces squadrons who looked like me, and often I was one of only a handful of minorities in my organization. A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workforce can inspire Airmen, provide fresh viewpoints, and highlight our multifaceted identities. Looking back, I believe some subconscious influences from a lack of Black representation in my organizations affected my professional development, goals, and leadership aspirations.

The latter part of my career has been more instrumental in shaping who I am and how I lead as a senior noncommissioned officer, primarily through the influence of great mentors and witnessing the successes of Black Airmen. Diversity and representation matter, and I underestimated this importance until I saw others take on challenges and assume roles that Black Airmen did not historically assume. Our Chief of Staff of the Air Force, General Charles “CQ” Brown, is an outstanding example of this. There was a great sense of pride in many of us from the barriers he knocked down, and I believe this drove a higher performance efficacy for many Airmen. I lived that experience, and my children witnessed that moment in history, which will no doubt be recorded in Air Force literature and taught in lecture halls throughout our service. Having diversity at all levels is empirically proven to build a more successful and sustainable model for inclusiveness and high-performing work environments. I know diversity and representation have had a substantial impact on my individual growth and professional development throughout my career.

Black History Month is a time to reflect on our ancestors’ sacrifices. Their sacrifices allowed us to access today’s amazing opportunities. I believe it is also essential to recognize the many contributions of Black Airmen that are happening right now. Mr. Timothy Gerald, Acting Director of Security Forces, had a monumental impact on my life, building personal and professional values and teaching me to know my worth. He was one of the reasons I pushed to elevate my performance and continue my secondary education. His inspirational leadership and commitment to motivating me are one of the reasons I finished my Ph.D. Mr. Gerald is another excellent example of diversity and Black representation and how it can influence others to achieve things they never thought possible. Every day, Black Airmen are doing phenomenal things and creating more pages for our Black History books. Airmen like General Brown and Mr. Gerald are only two of many who have cultivated positive development and galvanized others to achieve goals. 

I hope leaders at all levels will take the time to reflect and emphasize the importance of why we celebrate Black History. Black Airmen have done and continue to do remarkable things. Black history, the struggles, accomplishments, and conversations have inspired and shaped our identities as individuals and as a nation. As a Black Airman, I owe it to the many great Black Airmen who came before me, who work alongside me, and those who look up to me to be the best version of myself in upholding a legacy of excellence. I often use a quote from General Brown: “We aspire to what we are exposed to.” This exposure is why recognizing our Black History is important because it allows us to reflect on monumental Black contributions and use them as aspirations for future growth.