By Erinn Callahan | 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — The Black History Month Committee wrapped up February’s celebration by recognizing an often overlooked subset of the population.
“Today’s program pays homage to an often undervalued, underrated, yet one of the most tenacious groups in the world,” Capt. David Robinson, the emcee for the celebration, said Feb. 27, 2019, at The Club on Peterson Air Force Base.
This year’s theme, “The Phenomenal Black Women – Leading the Charge,” was fitting as February transitions to March, which is Women’s History Month. The ballroom stage in The Club transformed into a barbershop as actors chatted about influential black women throughout history – although they never seemed to remember their names.
Fortunately, more actors were waiting in the audience to correct them. The first was Katherine Johnson, a NASA mathematician whose calculations made possible America’s first manned trip to space. Johnson’s story was the focus of the 2016 film “Hidden Figures.”
Next came Patricia Bath, the first black female doctor to receive a patent for medical purposes. Bath broke many other barriers as an ophthalmologist, including becoming the first woman to lead a post-graduate training program in ophthalmology and the first black person to serve as an ophthalmology resident at New York University.
Bath was followed by Shirley Chisholm, elected in 1968 as the first black woman to ever serve in the U.S. Congress. Four years later, she became the first black candidate seeking nomination from a major political party for President of the U.S., as well as the first woman to run as the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee.
The final historical figure was Cathay Williams, an ex-slave who disguised herself as a man to join the U.S. Army in 1866. Williams is the only documented female Buffalo Soldier in history.
“Got ‘em,” the actor said, winking and pointing her index finger at the laughing audience.
Black history is critical to both American and world history, Robinson said, adding he hoped the audience continued to celebrate each year.
“All of us are surrounded by phenomenal women,” Robinson said. “They could be sitting right next to you.”
The program ended with closing remarks by Col. Todd Moore, 21st Space Wing commander, and a buffet of Southern-style comfort food.
“We don’t just take a minute to think about history just to say that it’s history,” Moore said. “It’s culture, it’s tradition, it’s legacy, it’s identity.
“It’s all of the things that we bring together as Americans that make us special – not suppressing the fact that we’re not the same.”