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By Lea Johnson, 21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
/ Published August 17, 2012
A dancer performs at the Diversity Day Fair Aug. 8 at The Club. The fair was hosted by the Special Observance Committee, overseen by Wynona James, 21st Space Wing Equal Opportunity Office special emphasis program manager. Nearly 500 people attended the fair which features, dancing, educational booths, and cuisine sampling from around the world. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Howk)
A Native American demonstration is given as part of the Diversity Day Fair, Aug. 8, at The Club. This year’s theme was “Passport to Diversity in a Changing World.” Nearly 500 people attended the fair to enjoy the displays, dancing, and food. (U.S. Air Force photo/Dennis Howk)
It is often repeated the 21st Space Wing is a diverse organization. The wing is located in nine countries and 15 time zones. Whether Airmen are stationed at Thule Air Base in Greenland, Clear Air Force Station in Alaska, or Royal Air Force Fylingdales in the United Kingdom, they are influenced by a variety of cultures and customs every day.
To celebrate the diversity that makes up our wing and our Air Force, the Special Observance Committee, overseen by Wynona James, 21st Space Wing Equal Opportunity Office special emphasis program manager, hosted a Diversity Day Fair Aug. 8 at The Club.
The theme of this year's diversity day was "Passport to Diversity in a Changing World." Nearly 500 people attended the fair to watch different cultural dances, try a variety of cuisine, and visit the educational booths. Visitors were given passports that were stamped at each of the educational tables and were redeemed for a prize at the end.
According to James, Department of Defense mandates the observance of nine minority groups throughout the year: Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Black History Month, Women's History Month, Days of Remembrance for Holocaust victims, Asian Pacific Heritage Month, Women's Equality Day, Hispanic Heritage Month, National Disability Employment Awareness Month, and Native American Indian Month.
James said the fair does not take the place of those observances, but includes these groups and other cultures from around the world. "The fair is where we become collective for the day and bring all those (people) groups together," James said.
Planning for the fair began almost eight months ago with finding volunteers.
Senior Airman Emily Maass, 21st Mission Support Group knowledge operator, said she became a volunteer after receiving an email about the fair from James. "I decided to step up and help out," Maass said.
Steven Daniels, 21st Space Wing protocol office, helps with the fair both as a protocol specialist as well as a volunteer from the wing. He called the booths and dancers "edutainment."
"They are entertaining, but they also teach something about a particular culture," Daniels said.
This year's diversity fair was a continuation of last year's event. Many of the same people groups were represented both years. One way the committee expanded the view of the fair was to focus on the wing's geographically separated units and to look at regional cultures from within the United States.
"When people talk about diversity they think globally, but culture encompasses anything a group of people embrace in traditions and experiences," James said.
She gave the South as an example. "When you think of the South you think of southern belles, Civil War, sweet tea and that becomes the culture of that area. It's not necessarily the ethnicity," she said.
The fair received lots of praise from attendees.
2nd Lt. Alexis Edwards, 21st SW contracting specialist, went to the fair because others in her office recommended it. "A lot of people came back to our office and said we had to go get out there," she said. "It's been worth it. We just watched the Czech dancers, and they were incredible."
The buffet of food was another big draw for the fair. The samples featured taco meat, bratwurst, gumbo, hot dogs, stir-fry, borscht, and many other foods.
"We put a lot of work into trying to cover a lot of various cultures and exposing people to how diverse our area really is," Maass said. "We are diverse, but we're all part of one population."
Daniels said that unofficial planning for next year's event had already started and that it will continue to feature more cultures from around the world.