Commander offers insight during Black History celebration at Oklahoma Capitol

  • Published
  • By Lemitchel King
  • Air Force Sustainment Center Public Affairs

The first-ever Oklahoma Black History Day was celebrated at the state Capitol Feb. 13 with Lt. Gen. Stacey Hawkins, Air Force Sustainment Center commander, serving as the keynote speaker for the event.

Hosted by the Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus, a focus of this education initiative was to highlight black Oklahomans whose contributions benefited not just the state, but also the country.

“This is the first time a day has been dedicated to learning and celebrating the contributions of African Americans to the economy, culture, and growth of our great state,” said Black Caucus Chairman Rep. Jason Lowe, of Oklahoma City.

Hawkins, whose parents were both educators and community service organizers, talked to a rotunda filled with students of all ages and Oklahoma state leaders about the importance of service and giving back to the community.

“At the heart of America's standing in the world, at the heart of our example, is the idea of service,” said Hawkins, “And I would ask all of the young people here today to commit your lives to a spirit of service, serving your parents, serving our brothers and sisters, serving our neighbors.”

“And I would also add serving your local communities, your state, your tribal nations, and our beloved republic,” he said.

Hawkins also talked about the history of African Americans who made significant contributions to the Air Force and military service, including Oklahoma native retired Maj. Charles B. Hall, who was a Tuskegee Airman and the first black combat fighter pilot to shoot down enemy aircraft and the first black pilot to earn the distinguished flying cross.

Hawkins talked about how this journey speaks to the idealistic power of democracy, freedom, equality, renewal, and also to the power and spirit of forgiveness.

“We hold these events to highlight the struggles of those among us who may have encountered a difficult road to becoming fully vested in the American dream of life, liberty, and happiness. And while I think it is useful to remember and reflect deeply, I also think that true progress is measured by society's capacity to review and forgive,” Hawkins said.

The general was joined by several other speakers throughout the day, including Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt, State Representative and Oklahoma Legislative Black Caucus Vice Chair Monroe Nichols, Marilyn Luper-Hildreth, daughter of civil rights activist Clara Luper, and more.