NEWS | Sept. 9, 2021

Kentucky Guard and affiliates celebrate Diversity and Inclusion Day

By Jesse Elbouab, Kentucky National Guard Public Affairs Office

After months of hard work and preparation from the Kentucky National Guard's Joint Diversity Executive Council (JDEC), the sixth annual Diversity and Inclusion Day was held at Boone National Guard Center, Sept. 2.
The event's theme, "Diversity of Hearts and Minds," was an overall success. It featured a guest speaker, live music, a 5K run, service booths from across the organization, and a USO-sponsored lunch.
"Anybody that will raise their right hand to serve our country deserves to have the opportunity to serve honorably and to their highest potential," said Brig. Gen. Chuck Walker, Kentucky Air National Guard chief of staff and JDEC council chair. "That is what diversity and inclusion are all about. We are going to need all hands on deck to get past the problems our country is depending on us to solve."
The event kicked off with retired Sgt. Maj. Donnie Isaacs performing Jamey Johnson's song, "In Color."
The master of ceremonies was Capt. Michael Hart, commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment of Joint Force Headquarters. He opened with a welcome message and recognized distinguished guests and speakers, including Brig. Gen. Hal Lamberton, Kentucky's adjutant general, Walker, and Dr. Roszalyn Akins, a civic leader and the event's keynote speaker.
An invocation by the state chaplain, Col. Jay Padgett, was next, followed by "The Star-Spangled Banner" as sang by April Brown.
"No matter what branch of service, it's about bringing folks together from different backgrounds and building a team. Because, in the military, we have a common focus and purpose," said Lamberton. "Everyone assembling toward that common purpose gives us the strength we need as an organization to be the strongest force we can be for our communities."
The commitment and dedication from the staff made the event possible. Major contributors were Ms. Sheila Lawson, the equal employment opportunity manager, Lt. Col. Bobbie Jo Badgett, the state diversity and inclusion advisor, Sgt. 1st Class Michelle Ware, the equal employment opportunity specialist, Chief Master Sgt. James Tongate, state command chief for Kentucky Air National Guard, Senior Master Sgt. Joyce Robertson, human resource advisor, and Ms. Eva Nicol, the operations and programs manager from USO Fort Campbell & Nashville.
Dr. Akins, president of Black Male Working Academy and former superintendent of Fayette County public schools, shared several personal, enriching, and inspirational stories, spotlighting diversity and inclusion from her life as an educator.
To reach the hearts and minds of her audience, Akins shared her passion for civic development and outwardly expressed her emotions as she experienced them.
Evident in her speech, she wants to help grow and heal our diverse nation. As an advocate for equal opportunity, she is an innovator for creating brighter futures for young minorities.
In one story, she brought attendees along with her during a former class trip to Madrid, Spain. At the time, she awarded the opportunity to her top 30 students after hard work and dedication in the classroom.
As she tells the story, a dance was held for these students and others visiting there. This made everyone very excited to do something special so far from home. But, an exchange on that dance floor took away that joy for these young men and affected them on many levels when a group of females dancing there told the boys they "didn't dance with their kind."
"After talking to them, let me tell you what I learned from that experience," Akins said. "Diversity is being invited to the dance. Inclusion is being asked to dance. Equity is being able to choose some of the music."
Akins received a standing ovation after she finished her inspirational speech.
The event concluded with a lunch served by USO Fort Campbell & Nashville.