Traditional food, praise dance kicks off Vance’s 2016 African-American History Month celebration

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  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

Team Vance kicked off the 2016 celebration of African-American History Month Feb. 4 with food, praise dancing and heritage displays.

More than 50 people, including Vance senior leadership, gathered at the Armed Forces Reserve Center for fried chicken, baked macaroni and cheese and a variety of side dishes.

Staff Sgt. Covito Redman, with the 71st Medical Support Squadron, and his wife, Lashandria, performed a praise dance that moved the entire gathering, said Rhonda Patton, 71st Medical Group.

“Everyone was moved by their performance. You could tell they felt what they were doing and conveyed that emotion to the audience,” said Patton. “If you missed it, you missed a real treat.”

The menu for the observance also included cornbread, peach cobbler and sweet tea.

African-American History Month activities at Vance are organized this year by a committee led by Capt. Tae Lee, 71st MDSS.

The purpose of African-American History Month, like all of the Air Force’s special observances, is education, said Master Sgt. Torry Brittain, director of Equal Opportunity at Vance.

“We want to educate Team Vance on a segment of the Air Force family, which hopefully encourages esprit de corps, teamwork and communication,” Brittain said.

The history of African Americans was first celebrated during “Negro History Week” in 1926. February was chosen to encompass the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas.

In 1976, the observance was expanded to a full month and became African-American History Month. That year President Gerald Ford urged the nation to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

Brittain recalls a wing commander at Aviano Air Base, Italy, who was giving closing comments at a special observance like African-American History Month.

“Brig. Gen. (now Maj. Gen.) Scott Zobrist said that when he was a young lieutenant fighter pilot he never attended any of the heritage month events,” Brittain said. “But as he rose in rank, he started attending and started learning so much more about all the cultures of the people he was leading and working with.”

Brittain encourages both younger Airmen and people not part of the ethnic group celebrating to attend and to learn about another part of the Air Force family’s heritage and history. “I think it just makes us better Airmen if we know about other cultures and their histories,” he said.

The Black History Month observance at Vance continues with a luncheon, scheduled for Feb 25 at the Vance Collocated Club. The guest speaker will be Col. Stephanie Wilson, commander of the 72nd Air Base Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma.