A Different Experience
I didn’t see black people on TV like my parents. We lived in a segregated neighborhood near Fort Eustis, where the Army Transportation Corps was located at the time. A lot of the fathers in the neighborhood, military and civilian, worked there and were proud men. My dad, a sergeant, wore his uniform to work; my mother had a part-time job at a restaurant. Our community was full of black men and women who thrived professionally, raised their children, and supported each other. Many were highly intelligent and provided good advice and wise counsel. My neighborhood was safe and secure, with well-kept properties. The media stereotypes of black people acting stupid and living in squalor wasn’t my experience growing up.
Sixth grade was also when the school district bussed me and my friends to an all-white elementary school. Thankfully, the integration of that school went peacefully. I wondered whether the outraged parents had moved their children to private schools by then. I excelled academically and earned the privilege to raise and lower the flag in front of the school—the first black student to do so. It was the beginning of many “firsts.” The next year my family moved, contributing to the integration of a previously all-white neighborhood. We were welcomed with “KKK” spray-painted on our garage door. It motivated me to graduate early. I skipped a grade to leave home as soon as I could.
There Is Much to Be Proud Of
After graduation, I began my federal civil servant career as a GS-5/7/9 quality assurance specialist (Ammunition Surveillance) (QASAS) at Sierra Army Depot in Herlong, California. The first black QASAS at Sierra, I was told I was unsuitable for promotion beyond GS-9. Undeterred, I sought a more supportive environment. Today, I am proud to have lived in eight states and two foreign countries—traveling to 49 states and more than 40 countries—representing the U.S. Army or Department of Defense. I retired in August 2019 as a GS-15 after serving for five years as the first black director of DCMA’s office in Stockton, California.
This past November, I co-chaired the 45th anniversary celebration marking the chartering of UVA’s Kappa Alpha Psi chapter. This chapter is positioned to continue its legacy of community service in the Charlottesville community.
Being reminded of the positive contributions by black Americans—not just during Black History Month, but daily (#BlackHistory365)—has sustained me during tough and lonely times. Each February, my spirit is refreshed by reading and hearing about the positive impact black men and women have made on the United States and the world. I intend to do my part to further those contributions for the next generation. There is much to be proud of.