Air Commandos bring passion, pride to Black History Month display

Master Sgt. William Jackson, 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medical Squadron superintendent, and Tech. Sgt. Anssa Knight, 27th Special Operations Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of diagnostic imaging, pose in front of a display commemorating Black History Month Feb. 2, 2017 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Jackson and Knight gave their own money and time to achieve their vision of creating education-focused displays and programming honoring Black History Month. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/released)

Master Sgt. William Jackson, 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medical Squadron superintendent, and Tech. Sgt. Anssa Knight, 27th Special Operations Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of diagnostic imaging, pose in front of a display commemorating Black History Month Feb. 2, 2017 at Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. Jackson and Knight gave their own money and time to achieve their vision of creating education-focused displays and programming honoring Black History Month. (U.S. Air Force Photo by Senior Airman Shelby Kay-Fantozzi/released)

Cannon Air Force Base, N.M. -- Air Commandos visiting the Cannon clinic might have noticed some new displays this month--from the banners that greet them at the front door to the model P-51 Mustang soaring over their heads.

The multimedia display honoring Black History Month was planned and accomplished by Master Sgt. William Jackson, 27th Special Operations Aerospace Medical Squadron superintendent, and Tech. Sgt. Anissa Knight, 27th Special Operations Medical Support Squadron NCO in charge of diagnostic imaging.

In an effort to center education in Cannon’s celebration, Jackson turned to agencies who could help turn his vision into reality.

“I wanted to focus in on teaching people something,” he said. “I went to the Equal Opportunity office, and our wing historian, Steve Frank. I got some guidance from them that helped me focus in on what we should talk about here.”

When Jackson asked Knight whether she wanted to help, her answer came quickly.

“I bought into his vision right away,” she said. “Helping with the display and with our events at the library has been great because the focus is all about education.”

Jackson hopes that Air Commandos who attend the month’s events and check out the display are inspired--like he was--to learn even more.

“When you connect with one piece of information, you can go on and on,” he said. “I spent a lot of time on the computer; now I have a whole stack of books on my desk that I want to read.”

Research took Jackson beyond the legends of noteworthy names in black military history and closer to their reality.

“Once I got started researching, I found so many outlets to learn, and so many different pieces of history,” he said. “You can start from Civil War-era units, when black soldiers fought in spite of the risk that they’d be captured and taken back into slavery, then learn about the Buffalo Soldiers, all the way through to the segregated units in the forties. They could go fight overseas, come back stateside, and not be allowed to sit in a restaurant and eat.”

He continued, “You start looking at that stuff and you think ‘wow, look at where I’m sitting right now.’”

For Knight, the stories began to find a common thread: the theme of overcoming discrimination, segregation and prejudice in pursuit of excellence.

“They had to be the best of the best,” Jackson agreed, “And often that still wasn’t enough. Taking all that history in, you feel a responsibility to educate everybody in what these guys went through.”

“We were really able to bring our vision to light,” she continued. “When you think about historical reports of how African Americans in our military were viewed, and compare that to how well this project was received, you see how far we’ve come, even as we consider the work we still have to do.”

Hearing that people enjoyed the display brings Knight a sense of pride, she said, and shows what all Air Commandos can learn from the video, images, documents on display in Cannon’s clinic.

“We are built off of resiliency,” she said. “Period.”