Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)
The Voice | Issue 2 - Fiscal Year 2021
What you do with your life and how you do it is not only a reflection on you, but on your family and all of those institutions that have helped to make you who you are. Hank Aaron
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the VA Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) are celebrating and honoring African American heritage as we observe Black History Month. This year’s Black History Month theme is, “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity.”
While the national observance of Black History month dates back 35 years, the “National African American History Month” had its origins in 1915 when historian and author Dr. Carter G. Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History. Through this organization, Dr. Woodson initiated the first Negro History Week in February 1926. Dr. Woodson selected the week in February that included the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, two key figures in the history of African Americans.
This year’s theme focusing on the Black family underscores the fact that in spite of the challenges and oppression experienced over the years, many African American families managed to maintain strong familial bonds. This commitment to family developed strong family core values: dedication, commitment, perseverance, faith and most of all agape love and understanding God’s grace and mercy for their families.
In the 1800 and 1900’s, the African American families had to persevere through economic hardship and lack of an opportunity for a viable education.
Education proved to be a catalyst out of poverty:
- The Second Morrill Act (August 30,1890) - The creation of Historical Black Colleges and Universities. This acted created 19 historical Black universities.
- Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 - The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944 (G.I. Bill) was created to help veterans of World War II. It established hospitals, made low-interest mortgages available and granted stipends covering tuition and expenses for veterans attending college or trade schools.
Throughout the years, the wisdom taught from family elders instilled knowledge on how to achieve and contribute effectively to the community. These guiding principles resonated to generations of African Americans.
The outcome of these instructions on how to achieve your career dreams are documented across the spectrum of professional careers.
The list of accomplishments represents a microcosm of millions of African Americans that have diversified our Nation and made it the land of opportunity! I am enthusiastic about the future achievements that will come from the next generation of leaders. It is incumbent upon today’s leaders, parents, partners, stakeholders and neighbors, to inspire the next generation of African Americans, not just in month of February but throughout the year.
May God continue to bless our Veterans, their families and the United States of America!
By D’Andrea Jacobs, Program Analyst, Center for Minority Veterans
By fate, I learned about Colonel Clinton J. Black. I must say that his reputation proceeded him. I was intrigued with his story and decided to highlight him and his accomplishments. After researching more, I realized that Colonel Black was not only a force by himself, but also the proud patriarch to an influential military family: son Colonel Michael B. Black (U.S. Air Force), daughter-in-law Captain Wilda Stewart Black (U.S. Air Force), and grandson First Lieutenant Clinton M. Black (U.S. Space Force). This family embodies the meaning of black excellence and the official Black History Month theme “The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity” for 2021. Overall, what makes this family so admirable is their ability to keep each other grounded, be each other’s support system, and be a sense of security to each other.
The story starts as a vision: Billie and Oweda Black had a plan to send their children to the then called Tuskegee Institute after being inspired by seeing the “Lifting the Veil of Ignorance” Monument located on the school campus. Ultimately, six of their seven children graduated from the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. The couple’s 2nd, 3rd, and 4th born were respectively paired by order birth to mentor, aid, and ultimately be accountable for the graduation of the 5th, 6th, and 7th born. Billie and Oweda Black were recognized as “Parents of the Year” in 1974 at Tuskegee Institute for their vision coming to fruition.
Colonel Clinton J. Black
Clinton Black, (5th born and 3rd son to Billie and Oweda) was 9 years old when he spotted a soldier home for furlough during World War II in his small town of Beatrice, Alabama. “He had trousers starched to perfection, his shirt pressed with three creases in the front and back, and his boots spit-shined!” exclaimed Clinton when recalling the memory. The soldier, McKinley ”Mac“ McFadden, saluted the Black family in town that day and at that instant, Clinton knew he too would join the military. Young Clinton thought “when I grow up, I want to be like him…the perfect soldier!” He was also inspired by his uncle who served in the U.S. Navy during WWII.
Clinton started Tuskegee Institute in June 1958 following the footsteps of his older siblings. His parent told him: “you’re going to Tuskegee where your sisters and brothers are - DON’T MESS UP!” Clinton graduated with honors in 1963. He applied for and was awarded a direct commission in the U.S Army. Shortly after being commissioned he earned his Airborne Jump Wings and began his military career. He had a variety of assignments over his career, including two tours in Vietnam and an accompanied tour in Asmara, Ethiopia. He made his parents very proud as well as his oldest brother who served with the U.S. Army during the Korean War with the 24th Infantry Regiment, one of four historic all-black regiments. Colonel Clinton Black served in the Army for a total of 28-and-a-half years.
Clinton has been married for over 59 years to his lovely high school sweetheart, Rhutelia; who is also an HBCU graduate (Alabama A&M). Rhutelia achieved excellence along the way too, honing her golf skills and becoming an 8-time Women’s Golf Champion at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland with an amazing five recorded Hole-in-Ones thus far! Together, they have three children: daughters, Marcia and Michelle, who are both HBCU graduates (Howard University, where our Vice President Kamala Harris also graduated), and son, Michael Black.
Colonel Michael B. Black
Born 1963, Michael grew up the textbook definition of a military brat. In 1968, his father accepted a special duty assignment to Kagnew Station in Asmara, Ethiopia where the family accompanied him. While in Ethiopia Michael learned to speak Italian while attending an Italian Montessori School in Asmara. Michael admits he was inspired to join the U.S. Air Force by his father’s success in the military. During his senior year of high school, he applied to the Air Force Academy. He attributes his appointment to the Air Force Academy to his mother. She suggested he considered Air Force Academy because the Air Force piqued his interest. Rhutelia put together his entire application package, which was a vigorous and very competitive process. Congressman Jack Edwards (Alabama) awarded his only Air Force Academy nomination that year to Michael as the Blacks were legal residents of Alabama at the time. Michael met Congressman Edwards before departing for the Academy where he expressed to Michael, “Look-a-hear son, don’t you let me or your daddy down!” Michael entered the Air Force Academy in 1981 and graduated in 1985 as a Distinguished Military Graduate which marked a superb start to his 26-and-a-half-year military career.
The highlight of his career was being stationed at Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, Washington, DC as the Commander of the White House Communications Agency. As an African American serving President Barack Obama, the first African American President, he felt honored and extremely blessed. Colonel Michael Black retired in 2012 and is currently a C-Suite executive at Concise Network Solutions, a Service Disabled Veteran Owned Small Business.
Captain Wilda Stewart Black (USAF 1984-Jul 91)
Wilda was born and raised in North Little Rock, Arkansas. Her father served in the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. Five of Wilda’s seven siblings served in the military. Wilda and two brothers served in the U.S. Air Force, while her other two brothers served in the U.S. Army and U.S Marine Corps. She has an amazing exploratory spirit and from a young age, she desired to see the world. Her parents supported her desire for adventure. As a nurse, she started her career at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi where she met Michael who was attending the Basic Communications Officer Course. They met for a second time during Squadron Officer School and have been inseparable since. One of Wilda’s most memorable assignments was at RAF Lakenheath, England, by then she had separated from the Air Force and was a military spouse. The Blacks had two children at this time - daughter Jordan and son Clinton. While in England they explored the sights and sounds of Europe visiting places like Stratford Upon Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace), the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, Paris, and Euro Disney. Their youngest, Hannah, was not born at the time so they are planning to return to Europe once the pandemic is over so Hannah can experience Paris and London, too. Wilda credits the family’s tight bond to keeping traditions alive and well within the family. For over 30 years, the four generations of the Black family has met up in McDonough, Georgia for Thanksgiving. They also regularly meet up in Little Rock, Arkansas for Christmas and take annual vacations during the summers and other Holidays with Wilda’s family.
Overall, Wilda feels the military was a great opportunity for cultivating leadership and advancement. She’s grateful for the opportunity to have served our Nation and is honored to be among the ranks of fellow veterans. She now mentors and teaches new nurses and is currently pursuing Ph.D. in Education with a specialization in Nursing.
First Lieutenant Clinton M. Black
Lieutenant Clinton “Lil’ Clint” Black, the middle child of Michael and Wilda Black, is a 2017 graduate of the Air Force Academy and currently serving in the U.S. Space Force. Not only does Clinton share a first name with his grandfather, he proudly wears the original jump wings earned by his grandfather in 1965 after earning his 2014. Although Lieutenant Black was not available to interview directly over the phone, he responded to a series of interview questions:
Who or what events inspired you to join the Armed Forces and what impact has this had on how you serve? Growing up as the child of two Air Force officers, I had a front-row seat to witnessing the opportunities that the Air Force presented to my parents. I also took note of the high caliber people in the military, because those were the people that my parents forged relationships with during their active-duty careers.
How do you feel serving has affected you and your identity? Examples? Serving in the military has instilled in me a profound set of core values. “Service before self” comes to mind when I reflect on my time at the U.S. Air Force Academy. While there I was a member of the U.S. Air Force Parachute Team — The Wings of Blue. As a certified jumpmaster and instructor in the Airmanship 490 Program, Introduction to Military Free-Fall, along with my teammates and colleagues, I was responsible for training and equipping students with the requisite knowledge to safely execute their first solo parachute jump.
What was your family’s view on you joining the military? When I was accepted into the Air Force Academy, my family was very supportive. To this day, my family has remained actively supportive of my decision to serve by attending major milestones such as graduations and promotions.
What is a favorite family memory you’ve had while serving or as a dependent child? One of the coolest moments I experienced as a high school student and military dependent, was the opportunity to meet and shake hands with the 44th President of the United States, President Barack Obama, in the Oval Office at the White House. My family and I were all afforded this spectacular opportunity based on my father’s service to the Executive Office of the President during his time in Command at the White House Communications Agency (WHCA).
Can you give me an example of a day at your current work position? Daily I support the GPS mission as a member of the 2nd Space Operations Squadron. I help ensure reliable Position, Navigation, and Timing signals are provided to more than 6 billion civilian and military users every day in my role as a Payload System Operator.
Is there any advice you have for young men and women that aspire to follow in your footsteps? Avail yourself of every opportunity possible — do not close any doors. Harbor supreme self-confidence. Find a good mentor — someone who has been where you would like to go — engage with them regularly and heed their advice. Follow these measures to place yourself on an upward trajectory in life.
This is proof of a Veteran Family that has faithfully and honorably served our nation for nearly 75 years combined and counting. These are proud veterans who have used their VA benefits and services for health care, home purchases, educational benefits to dependents, and support of small business efforts with Veteran-owned businesses. A genuine example of black excellence by the Black Family that embodies the official 2021 Black History Month.
Celestino Almeda is a Filipino Veteran of WWII, a member of the constabulary who became a guerrilla and was later reprocessed and joined the construction corps. After emigrating to the United States, he became a citizen and activist for veteran’s rights and benefits. See videos, photos, and more at Celestino Almeda | Duty to Country.
By VA Central Office’s U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development/Veterans Affinity Group
It is with great sadness that I announce the passing of 6888th CPDB Member - Mrs. Maybelle Rutland Tanner Campbell, PFC. Mrs. Campbell closed her eyes on Tuesday, Feb 9, 2021 and entered Eternal Life. Mrs. Campbell was born in Forsyth, Ga, May 14, 1921. She was a mother, grandmother, aunt, and faithful woman.
She served in the Army WAC from Feb 1, 1945 – Dec 2, 1946. She was one of 855 women to serve in the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the all Black female unit that served overseas in World War 11. Go to www.womenofthe6888th.org to read more about the 6888th.
In June 2018, Mrs. Campbell took a Dream Flight in a restored 1940’s Boeing Stearman open cockpit biplane from World War 11. She said, “That was exciting!”
Mrs. Campbell remember the boat ride over to Europe was rocky, the duffel bags with our personal belongings were rolling all over the place, she said.
Mrs. Campbell was an inspiration to all who knew her and inspired us to always look forward. I called her SUPERSTAR, who PAVED the WAY!
By Wilmya Goldsberry, Program Analyst, Center for Minority Veterans
…that Minority Veterans are more likely to NOT report their race and ethnicity on forms when asked. Statistics show that for your physician to be able to better tailor your healthcare it is important that you ensure your race and ethnicity is annotated in your medical records. Accurate reporting also helps the Center for Minority Veterans to collect data on disparities in benefits and healthcare. Call your health clinic soon to ensure they have your correct information!
The Center for Minority Veterans partnered with Blacks in Government VA HQ Chapter (VAHQ BIG), and Federally Employed Women Chapter in hosting the virtual BHM event on February 10, 2021. Mr. Stephen Dillard, Executive Director for CMV, was the senior host for the event. Special guest speaker Dennis O. May, Colonel (retired), U.S. Air Force, Deputy Director, Center for Minority Veterans provided an incredible delivery of his life growing up as a military child, his family life, and his journey.
The event was observed live by about 500 viewers.