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Remembering the past, advancing the future

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- There are many articles in the news about how far America has to go in terms of reducing bias and prejudices, especially involving the African-American community. There isn't a lack of comment or opinion on how to divide and categorize this nation along color lines.

One of the things I love about this country is that, as a woman of West Indian descent, I am able to look out across history and find stories that provide inspiration and pride. There is so much more that should bring us together as a nation than divide us.

For hundreds of years, African-American poets - like Phillis Wheatley, Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, Langston Hughes and Alice Walker - and musicians - like Cab Calloway, Nat "King" Cole, John Coltrane and Miles Davis - bring chapters of the African-American experience to life through word or song in every genre and generation.

These individuals bring a soundtrack to America and inspired countless other artists to express themselves, their thoughts and their feelings in ways not heard before, no matter the medium. Children and adults know their words, giving a voice to those not heard before, regardless of racial and social background.

It has been over 50 years since schools across the nation were desegregated.
In 1963, at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Charles Vernon Bush took an oath to become a second lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force and became the first African-American to graduate from the academy.

After mentoring countless individuals of varying race and leading the way for many other individuals of color to follow his footsteps as graduates of the Air Force Academy, Bush passed away in 2012.

Legislation opened the door and his excellence carried him through. Countless African-Americans have been able to selectively choose to go to higher education universities, colleges and academies instead of being limited to the ones society felt they should attend.

It has been more than 30 years since the first African-American went to space aboard the space shuttle Challenger. Col. Guion Bluford, Jr., was the mission specialist on four different shuttle missions and was made a member of the International Space Hall of Fame in 1997.

In 1992, Dr. Mae Jemison became the first African-American woman in space aboard the space shuttle Endeavour. Together, their trips to space proved there is no limit to what a young person of color could achieve in this world.

The stories shared are not just African-American stories, but American stories. The individuals here recognize their lineage and did not let social prejudices hold them back from the futures they wanted.

These poets, musicians, officers and astronauts have added to our American tale. They show how much promise America has to offer if we let go of our prejudices and truly live as, "one nation ... indivisible."