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So here I am

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Nichelle S. Hunter Nichols
  • Superintendent, 12th Air Force (Air Forces Southern) Executive Support

As I sit and ponder on what Black History Month means to me, I can’t help but to wonder, am I wrong for wanting to celebrate and remember those who have come before us and those who are still making a difference today?  For me, this month is a time of education, appreciation, and understanding of who we are, where we’ve been, and what we plan to do for our future. 

The late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically.  Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.” 

So, who am I?  I am an African American woman who comes from a culture that has endured many hardships and pain.  I can in no way imagine having walked in the shoes of such great American icons as Harriet Tubman, an American bondwoman who escaped slavery and worked for the Union Army during the Civil War.  Her efforts help liberate more than 700 slaves in South Carolina.  Or another influential person in history, Maya Angelou, was an American author, poet, and civil rights activist.  Angelou endured first-hand the brutality and racial discrimination that was prevalent during the 1930s and 1940s, which led her to share her stories and experience with racism, poverty, seeking higher education, as well as living through and participating in the civil rights movements. 

I personally would not compare my life experiences with the lives of these two great women.  But, what I do have to offer is my own story. 

I was born during the end of the Vietnam War, my father an African American and my mother a Vietnamese citizen.  My parents have always shared with me the day they had to decide on the fate of my future.  Would my mother and I stay in Vietnam or would they process the paperwork to give me a life in the United States?  You see, the struggles and fight for equality and cultural acceptance was fought and won here in American, but those same rights were non-existent in my country of birth.  Had we stayed I wouldn’t have been allowed to attend the schools, seek employment for decent pay, or even marry an Asian man unless he was of mixed race too.  I’m always reminded by other mixed race children from Vietnam, who came to the U.S. later in age, to be thankful for what I have and to continue to share my story with others. 

So in my own words, I am thankful for the freedoms I have been afforded, the acceptance of others all around me, and knowing that my dreams are a possibility as long as I continue to reach for it!  And reach for it I did! 

I joined the U.S.  Air Force in 1998 and it’s a commitment I have never once regretted.  During my career, I have been honored to hold different positions that required me to serve with strength, determination, and confidence.  When the Air Force released the 2015 Diversity and Inclusion Initiative to promote an all-encompassing, rewarding and flexible environment in which we retain and maximize the talents of our country’s best minds,   it reaffirmed my commitment. 

If I could sit with those who came before me, such as Harriet Tubman, and tell her my stories of leading, training, and educating the numerous diverse groups of extraordinary men and women…it would make her so proud, because in her eyes…I am a hero…I am a leader…and I am influential.  You see, dreams do come true and I owe it to her for dreaming it.  If I could say anything to Ms. Tubman it would be, thank you for believing, for fighting, and for seeing the possibilities of my future.  So here I am…standing tall, thankful and proud of wanting to honor Black History month, so that we can continue to celebrate and remember those who have come before us and those who are still making a difference today.

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