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5 reasons to celebrate Black History Month, with Brig. Gen. Flowers

  • Published
  • By Lindsay Mahon
  • Air Force Surgeon General Public Affairs

When it comes to making black history, Brig. Gen. Alfred Flowers, Jr. has seen it firsthand. His father, retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Alfred K. Flowers, Sr., who served for nearly 47 years, is the longest-serving African American service member in Department of Defense history and the longest-serving Airman in U.S. Air Force history.

“In the Air Force Medical Service, diversity is truly our strength, and that’s why it’s important we celebrate it during Black History Month,” said Flowers Jr., Manpower, Personnel and Resources Director, Office of the Air Force Surgeon General.

Flowers Jr. outlined some of the reasons he considers it important to celebrate Black History Month.

5 reasons why it’s important to celebrate Black History Month:

1. There is still a lot to learn about black history.

In order to get to where we want to go, we have to know where we’ve come from, but there’s a lot of black history that isn’t well known. This month-long spotlight provides an opportunity to go beyond discussions of racism and slavery, and highlights black leaders and their accomplishments, many whose work or legacy touch your daily lives. Whether it be Charles Richard Drew, MD, the surgeon who pioneered blood transfusion, Corporal Lena Derriecott, a nurse assistant in the U.S. Army Air Forces, Women’s Army Corps’ during World War II, who was at the forefront of desegregating American military bases, or the history of the Tuskegee flight surgeons. Black history didn’t start with Rosa Parks and end with Martin Luther King, Jr.

2. Black history unites us.

The lens through which we see the world shapes our reality, and the only way to see past it is through sharing our experiences. Diversity is our strength, and when we recognize this and take the time to learn about each other’s backgrounds and cultures we better understand how we are all connected. We are all part of a shared history and we all share common goals. This country, and even the Air Force, would not be what we know it to be today without that shared history, and there’s a lot to be proud of. I’m proud that the Air Force Medical Service has been a pacesetter in diversity and representation.

3. Celebrating differences has countless benefits.

When individuals bring their own brand of thought to the table, it creates a broader perspective that often leads not only to a more positive environment but also to more innovation. Publicly celebrating differences creates a feeling of belonging, making team members feel that they have a voice and are empowered and respected. This sense of belonging creates higher performance and productivity, reduces conflicts, and produces overall better mental and physical health, even down to improving immune systems and easing burnout. The bottom line is that the readiness impact is real.

4. We better understand how important our own stories are.

Black History Month shouldn’t be focused just on the famous or the exceptional, but also on all those who pave the way for us each and every day. This goes for all the people who are raising up diverse voices, building on their strengths, and empowering others to be more and do more. I consider it a badge of honor to be the senior black Airman in the Air Force Medical Service, but the reason I’m here is because I had a whole lot of folks who believed in me and poured their time and effort into me along the way. What fuels me is the chance to mentor and do the same for others. I hope to play a pivotal role in supporting diversity and inclusion amongst Airmen and Guardians.

5. Black History Month reminds us to dig deeper and think bigger.

Every morning when we wake up, we are each given two things; we are given a chance, and we are given a choice. It’s all about what we do with these choices and chances, and that’s up to us. Black History Month stands as a reminder to all of us to re-imagine what new heights are achievable and to set our course to make history, or be a trailblazer. I’ve seen it happen firsthand.