With the implementation of an overall approach to Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, commonly referred to as DE&I, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Transatlantic Division looks beyond monthly observances to ensure the principles of DE&I become business as usual.
“I view black history as it is – history.”
Michael Lowery, a contracting officer's representative with the Transatlantic Division’s Afghanistan District, shared his thoughts on Black History Month.
“Not trying to be controversial, but I personally would like to move beyond Black History Month. The achievements and contributions by Americans that were and are black didn't – and don't – just happen in the month of February. I think whenever and wherever we talk about history we should highlight the accomplishments and contributions made by Black Americans where and when it’s relevant.”
The Transatlantic Division moves beyond Black History Month, as well as other monthly observances, by implementing DE&I understanding and awareness throughout the year. This is accomplished through training, listening sessions, and leadership forums that inspire and facilitate open communication and conversation at all levels.
“The Army could not accomplish its missions without the skill and dedication of ALL our members,” said Brig. Gen. Kimberly M. Colloton, Transatlantic Division commander.
“We find our true strength in our ability to bring together people of different races, cultures and beliefs who share common values like loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage,” Colloton said.
Official monthly observances naturally blend into this initiative as an opportunity to explore areas that have long been identified as needing extra emphasis in order to bring a holistic understanding of where DE&I principles haven’t been lived up to in the past.
“I think the Corps of Engineers does a good job every year with its awareness and observance campaign along with celebrations and meetings and with ensuring diversity, inclusion and awareness are a top priority every day,” Lowery said.
“The recent Town Hall with Brig. Gen. Colloton was an example of education and communication as it touched on the topic of race relations. I think continuing with the progression we have made and are making every day is encouraging,” Lowery continued.
When asked who inspires him, Lowery responded that he is most inspired by those around him every day.
“Well, I always think of people I can touch for inspiration. So I would like to highlight the accomplishments of two of my Afghanistan District team members. Margaret Jones is the Deputy District Engineer and Andrea Williams is the chief of the Technical Services Section,” Lowery said. “Both of these women are holding and excelling at positions that for years would not have been represented by people of color. Their examples show how well equipped and capable people of color are if given a chance to display their skills. The way they handle business and conduct themselves is an inspiration to me.”
Willow Booker, current Transatlantic Division executive officer and the Division’s Middle East District official observances coordinator who organized this month’s virtual Black History Month event, shared her thoughts on black history.
“Black history is American history; no more, no less. My hope is that we will no longer have a Black History Month advocating black history as if it is not organic to the American experience,” Booker said.
“The denial of black accomplishments and history is the denial of who we are as a country,” Booker continued. “As poet laureate Amanda Gorman recently said, ‘We are not broke; We are unfinished.’ We are a finished nation when we, as a unified nation, can live up to the ideal expressed by our founding father and third president, Thomas Jefferson. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,’” Booker quoted.
“America is beautiful and as we move forward in making her better, a more perfect union, we must recognize that we are all benefactors of her glory and inheritance and that there is no such thing as black history. It is American History,” Booker said.
The Middle East District hosted a virtual Black History Month event on Feb. 26. The Honorable Randall G. Johnson Jr., a judge of Richmond, Virginia’s Henrico County Circuit Court, was a guest speaker at the event.
“As a second-generation judge, Judge Johnson has left his own mark on the history of our state and our nation’s judicial system with his honorable service to the justice of all who seek it. A true example of theme of this year’s observance – “The Black Family” – that has left an indelible mark on history and on our society,” Col. Phillip M. Secrist III, the Middle East District commander, said as he introduced Johnson.
Johnson spoke about family and about the value of time – how we choose to trade it, waste it, invest it or save it, like any other commodity.
“Why people say time is the most valuable thing on the planet is that it is the one commodity that once you give it up you can never ever – ever – get it back,” Johnson said. “When I talk about family, how important the outcomes in the black family, whether they be good or bad, in large part is all due to time.
“There are bad situations in any aspect of life,” Johnson continued. “If you are not investing the time up from, you are not going to get anything of value on the back end. So, the question becomes, what do you do with your time. That’s up to you.”
As the Transatlantic Division wraps up Black History Month, the Team of Teams will take the ‘time’ spent this month focused on celebrating and honoring an underrepresented part of history and invest it, and pay it forward into everything we do throughout the year.
“The importance of black history does not stop at the end of February. Ensuring DE&I is applied to everything we do is the way we strive to do business every day, Booker said.
“As an Army, we LIVE our Army values and are proud of the shared ideals that bring us together. We remain first, last, and always – Americans. This is the legacy of America, and our hope for the future,” Colloton said.