Black History Month: diversity key to leadership at all levels

  • Published
  • By Giancarlo Casem
  • 412th Test Wing Public Affairs

During the month of February, the Special Emphasis Program has planned events and educational material in observance of Black History Month.

The educational materials highlighted historic African-Americans. They also shed a spotlight on African-American members of Team Edwards. One of those highlighted was Wilma Dukes, the Chief of Special Missions Software Testing of the 412th Communications Squadron, 412th Test Wing.

Dukes is an active member of the Equal Opportunity Special Emphasis Programs at Edwards. With the program, she leads events for monthly observances to emphasis cultural education and awareness for the base community. But why?

“I believe it is important to understand the cultures of all people in order to communicate, work effectively and live peacefully and harmoniously with those of all backgrounds,” Dukes said. “Dedicating time to these outstanding Special Emphasis Observances is my way, my contribution, of offering opportunities for the Edwards AFB community to share in this inspirational and cultural educational experience.”

The Black History Month observances is personal for Dukes, and she believes education is vital for encouragement and enlightenment.

“Black History Month allows people of all cultures to reflect on the many accomplishments, challenges overcome and the way forward for people of African descent,” she said. “It is important to share these many achievements in black history, as well as remember the tremendous struggles of the past and present, to encourage hope for the future. Education is key to this enlightenment and encouragement so all people of all cultures learn from the past, take action to improve; and with time, find continued success, collaboration and peace for years to come.”

During her time with the Special Emphasis Program, she has also hosted events for other monthly observances such as Women’s History and Hispanic Heritage amongst others. And she has been doing so as a volunteer for years.

This spirit of volunteerism extends past the auspices of the Special Emphasis Program, but also to the base’s Teen Center. There she teaches about speech communications skills and also provides leadership skills and mentorship to over 100 base teens. Equality is keystone in her leadership philosophy.

“My lessons in equality are embedded in my daily leadership and core values philosophy of integrity, service and excellence in all I do. I include another basic core value of respect to this leadership philosophy in order to emphasize treating all equally in work distribution, decision-making and other inclusion and promotional opportunities in the work place,” Dukes added.

That leadership skill is evident at her current role with the 412th Communications Squadron, which she joined in 2005. That same year she was selected as the Policies Plans Flight Chief. Dukes has led the way for younger Airman such as Staff Sgt. Jessica Guerrero.

Guerrero serves with the Weapons Standardization Division, 412th Maintenance Group. She volunteered to chair the Black History Month observance committee after being drawn to it she said. She helped plan and coordinate base events during Black History Month. As a junior leader within her organization, she already sees the value of diversity.

“In my perspective as a junior leader, diversity is one of the most critical aspects of an organization. A diverse organization is one that recognizes and values the difference in its people. By doing this, we create a culture of inclusion, acceptance and respect,” Guerrero said. “Diversity awareness is essential to enable a better future for our nation.”

Dukes agrees and added that she believes in the importance of leaders to dedicate their time and be active in cultural education and awareness.

“It is extremely important for leaders to be active in providing their employees with cultural awareness training and freedom to attend events that emphasize cultural education,” she explained. “These events not only educate and enlighten our workforce, which lead to more effective professional communication and increased productivity, but it also shows that Edwards AFB leadership support this initiative to foster more inclusion and cultural understanding.”