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Cadet ‘thankful’ for today’s diversity

Posted 2/17/2012   Updated 2/17/2012 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Cadet 1st Class Jamela Satterfield
Cadet Squadron 05

2/17/2012 - U.S. AIR FORCE ACADEMY, Colo. -- Editor's Note: Cadet Satterfield is the captain of the women's basketball team.

To me, African-American History Month represents equality and opportunity. I am thankful that today, people of all cultures can sit in a room together and not think twice about it.

Growing up in Sacramento, Calif., I was used to a lot of diversity and being around other cultures from preschool all the way through the Air Force Academy Preparatory School.

Coming to the Air Force Academy was a little bit of a culture change for me because, in many of my classes, I am the only, or one of few, black cadets in the class. During my freshman year I felt a little out of place, but now I barely notice, especially since I am in major's courses and go from class to class with all the same people, who I am familiar with. I see everyone as equal and I would hope that everyone here felt the same.

There are also clubs here that represent the different cultures, such as Pacific Rim and Way of Life Committee. These clubs allow cadets to get back to their roots by being around people who have the same background as them while also keeping an open mind and allowing anyone to join. I am part of the Way of Life Committee, which is focused mainly toward black cadets. We focus on community service and hosting events that deal with African-American History Month and Tuskegee Airmen.

Recently our team went to the movies together to see Red Tails, along with our basketball head coach. This gave us all a perspective on how far the Air Force has come in response to diversity issues. The struggles that African American pilots went through back then helped shape the Air Force today. In those days people would have been surprised to see our commandant, Brig. Gen. Richard Clark, and probably would have labeled him as "black general," but to us today he's just a general and our commandant.
History has given me, as well as many others, opportunities that would not have been dreamt of decades ago, or even in my parents' generation. Today most kids are expected to graduate from high school and attend college, but that wasn't always the case. Alabama's head coach was probably laughed at for wanting to attend and play sports at Alabama, but he became the first African-American to receive an athletic scholarship there and changed everything. Events like that made it possible for me to be the senior captain of my team here at the Academy, without getting upside down looks.

While our team was at Alabama, we took a team picture in front of their gym where blacks were once denied equality. Throughout practices that week, Coach Williams took away small things from different individuals: no water breaks for certain people, holding others out of drills. We didn't understand why she was doing this until the last day of practice, when she explained the history of Alabama and how they were denied rights for no reason. That just showed us that discrimination can happen to anyone for a number of reasons, but today we are deprived of water breaks instead of human rights.

To me African-American History Month represents all struggles and overcoming them to make a change that will shape the future for everyone.

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