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Spreading the word: Sharing community is not Bland

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Capt. Letitia Bland, 21st Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight commander, facilitates conversation during the Black History Month Film Festival at Penrose Library in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 11, 2017. The featured film was “500 Years Later.” (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. – Capt. Latetia Bland, 21st Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight commander, facilitates conversation during the Black History Month Film Festival at Penrose Library in Colorado Springs, Colo., Feb. 11, 2017. The featured film was “500 Years Later.” (Courtesy photo)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- The eyes are where it shows up first. One look into her eyes and two things become instantly obvious: intensity and concern. The two reside together behind a welcoming gaze.

Those two qualities drive Capt. Latetia Bland, 21st Force Support Squadron Military Personnel Flight commander to share her heritage and the African American community with everyone she can, everywhere she can.

“Not knowing history and culture well leads to issues and stereotypes,” Bland said. “We have nothing else to go by but what we hear from the media. Education of the good, bad and in between makes it better.”

Bland was a youngster when she started to take an interest in African heritage after seeing people at a church who were wearing traditional African garb. Later, in college she learned about aspects of African American history she was not aware of before.

“I had always been taught that our history started with slavery,” she said. “But it was history interrupted.”

Bland began to find African influences in places she never noticed it before and came to understand her culture included innovators and originators dating back centuries.

“I figured out that I am more than an emancipated slave,” Bland said. “My culture is more than that.”

Her passion for culture, and love of volunteering, led to sharing all she discovered with others. Bland is a member of the Black History Month planning committee for Peterson AFB and extends her involvement to the Colorado Springs community as a member of the executive board of the Colorado Springs Kwanzaa Committee. Kwanzaa is a celebration of African American cultural heritage and traditions.

“I absolutely love to volunteer,” she said. “I am single and I have time, so why not get involved?”

Bland finds herself wearing many hats in both groups. She handles a lot of public relations, training and facilitation in helping bring events to the local community’s eye. The work is paying off, too. She still meets people locally who say they never heard of Kwanzaa before, but it is getting better.

“Now we are seeing more about it on social media,” said Bland. “Interest is diverse, it’s not just black people who are interested. There is a need and it’s just as important as other celebrations in the community.”

The Peterson AFB Black History Month committee just wrapped up a successful series of events marking the month and Bland is proud of the work the group has done promoting African American’s and their contributions throughout history.

Making sure the impact of people of African heritage is passed on to younger people is important to Bland as well. She volunteers with the Way of Life Committee, an organization for students of color at the U.S. Air Force Academy and with the African American Youth Leadership Conference, a veteran-run event for school-aged children from kindergarten through high school.

In every one of these organizations and events, it is the passion for her heritage pushing Bland to do all she can to share it with others.

“I think it’s my passion, 100 percent, that is my biggest contribution,” Bland said. “I am passionate about educating the community. I want to educate children that they come from greatness and they can be anything. It’s that message that’s driving me. I want to instill that passion in others.”

The look in her eyes reveals the intensity that pushes her passion, but just as obvious is the concern that brings it all together, leading Bland to share what means most to her with a passion that is infectious.

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