A march of freedom

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Jessica Haynie
  • 14th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
COLUMBUS AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. – U.S. Air Force service members assigned to Columbus Air Force Base, participated for the first time in the 25th Annual Juneteenth Parade Festival, June 18, 2022. U.S. Air Force Col. Seth Graham, 14th Flying Training Wing commander and Chief Master Sgt. Antonio Cooper 14FTW command chief, led the formation, comprised of over 45 Airmen from CAFB.

"The Airmen assigned to Columbus Air Force Base are integral members of the Columbus community,” said Graham. “We live in the same neighborhoods, we shop in the same stores, we worship together, our kids go to school together and we celebrate every holiday together I speak for the Airmen of Columbus in saying we were honored to celebrate Juneteenth alongside our Columbus neighbors and fellow Americans," said Graham.

U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jamal Walker, 14th Communications Squadron, Non-commissioned Officer in Charge knowledge management, played a key role in bringing the base and surrounding community together.

“Bringing together the base and community for the Juneteenth parade was vitally important and I'm grateful we had the opportunity to do so,” said Walker. “As an African-American man, Juneteenth is a reminder that the life I live now would have been unimaginable to the ancestors before me. This holiday serves as a beacon of hope, that the actions we take today will make a more welcoming and inclusive world for the generations to follow. As an Airmen, Juneteenth serves as proof that the ideals presented in the Declaration of Independence are achievable, and we put on this uniform every day to give our nation another chance to make those ideologies reality.”

Leroy Brooks, Juneteenth Festival founder and coordinator and Columbus, Mississippi native and long-time member of the Afro-American Culture Organization shares the history of Juneteenth and advocates for the future for the newly federal holiday.

“Juneteenth is the acknowledgment that slavery was real and it was cruel,” said Brooks. “The proclamation that President Biden signed acknowledges that dark portion in our past.”

Brooks quoted a portion of Biden’s proclamation that stuck with him saying, “A day in which we remember the moral stain and terrible toll of slavery on our country – what I’ve long called America’s original sin. A long legacy of systemic racism, inequality, and inhumanity. But it is a day that also reminds us of our incredible capacity to heal, hope, and emerge from our darkest moments with purpose and resolve.”

“I certainly want Juneteenth to be understood by African Americans that those of us who have been successful and have made achievements, it is from the blood, sweat, and tears from our ancestors,” said Brooks.

Cindy Lawrence, Juneteenth Festival co-founder, has been right beside Brooks for the past 25-plus years, planning Juneteenth celebrations and being an avid leader in the Afro-American Culture Organization.

“It is important to use Juneteenth to inspire the African American youth,” said Lawrence. “It is important to engage with the younger generation and show them that they can be successful in their endeavors. We need to provide them guidance and role models they can look up to.”

Brooks said he wants the holiday to be a call to duty for everyone.

“Juneteenth may have only just become a federal holiday in 2021, but its roots run deep within the Columbus community. A story that needs to be remembered, one that has been told for the past 26 years,” said Brooks.