NEWS | Feb. 26, 2021

NAWCAD Lakehurst honors Black History

By Alicia Mitchko Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division Lakehurst

Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) Lakehurst (LKE) hosted a virtual Black History Month event Feb. 18 to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions Black Americans have made throughout history.

The event focused on the national Black History Month theme “Black Family: Representation, Identity and Diversity,” and was co-hosted by the NAWCAD LKE African American Pipelines Action Team (APAT) and the Naval Civilian Managers Association (NCMA).

“Throughout the history of our nation, the black family has fought for racial equity, justice and full citizenship for all,” said Kathleen Donnelly, NAWCAD LKE executive director. “Black History Month prompts us to further educate one another, engage in difficult conversations and commit to making lasting change in the workplace and the communities we serve.”

Keynote speaker Dr. Teresa Nance, Villanova University vice president for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and chief diversity officer, spoke on the concept of race, the history of racism and the role it played in her family narrative.

“Race and racism are an embedded part of my family’s history,” Nance said. “In fact it is a part of our American history. As you look at the definition of racism, the most important part is to notice that racism normalizes racial inequalities. My family is no different than millions of other Black families. Our experiences were ‘normal.’”

According to Nance, the normalization of racism can be traced to policies in need of change. “We have to help others see the everyday policies and structures that are racist, sexist, homophobic, ageist, etc. and how the structure of policy is denying groups of people an equitable or fair shot,” she said.

In order to counteract these biased policies, Nance encourages an active involvement in history.

“Tell your own history, yourself. Recognize what is happening around you and how it will increase or decrease equity or justice for you and people like you,” she said. “We must stop thinking of history as passive and done. We are our history. Tell it loud and tell it proud.”

Nance also discussed the importance education and communication play in combatting racism.

“It is very important for people to speak up when witnessing racism or injustice,” she said. “If you know better then you must do better. You don’t need to think of this as a fight always, think about it as offering another perspective, or even offering others an education. Each one—teach one.”

The emphasis on education outreach is reflected in the NAWCAD LKE partnership with Lakewood Middle School to inspire interest and increase awareness of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) opportunities for minority students.

“APAT has had a long-term relationship with the local Lakewood Middle School led by longtime, dedicated APAT member Dawn Gehrsitz,” said Ibrahim Kargbo, APAT co-lead. “Last year, we sponsored back to school drives and donated school supplies such as backpacks, notebooks and even t-shirts to the school.”

The partnership includes an essay contest in which students are asked to write a short essay about heroes in the fields of STEM. Winners were recognized during the event.

“The goal of the contest is to raise awareness about minorities’ contribution to the fields of STEM and to encourage students to consider these fields for employment,” Kargbo said.

APAT is one of seven NAVAIR‐wide collaborative diversity teams. Its mission is to facilitate information sharing and lessons learned pertaining to the advancement and mentorship of NAVAIR's African‐American workforce.