“Have you ever realized something is missing? It wasn’t right missing? looked around. You moved objects out of your way. You even asked others for help. Still, you could not find what you were looking for. Back in 2003, I was looking for something. Or, more appropriately, someone. Someone that looked like me. African-American.
While in recruit school, didn’t come across any African American instructors or staff. There were two other African Americans in class with me. That was it. It wasn’t until half way through school that I saw what I was looking for. It was at the mid-way party held for recruits. I saw him across the room like an ink spot on a white shirt. I didn’t go over to him right away. After all he was the only black person I saw already there. And there were only three of us in class. Three or more African-Americans in a group tend to make people nervous. I gathered up the other two class mates and said, “there is someone we need to meet” I knew we would stand out. Now we would like a an oil spill instead of an ink spot. None the less, we went. I had to ask the obvious question. What’s it really like here? Instead of talking loud and saying nothing, we spoke softly, and stated volumes. Some of which was in the unsaid yet heard loud and clear. I felt as if I were a kid receiving a lesson while sitting underneath a tree of wisdom.”
This is just part of a story that I use to talk about the first African American lieutenant in my organization. A pretty significant person in my life. A pretty significant person in the history of my organization. But his existence as the first African American lieutenant is written down nowhere. No article. No plaque. How am I to pass on to new members of my organization the intrinsic value that I was blessed with? Long before history was pass down in a text book, it was passed down from one generation to the next with a story. Articles can get erased. Plaques can be put away out of sight. Once a story is planted in your heart and mind, it is there to stay. Stories are great ways to pass on legacies and lessons.