Black History Month feature: Tech Sgt. Kimberly Lewis

  • Published
  • By SrA Jon Stefanko
  • 932nd Airlift Wing

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- In recognition of Black History Month, Airmen with the 73rd Airlift Squadron shared their stories of being a minority in the Air Force, the barriers they've overcome, and their thoughts on the service's initiatives to achieve a diverse and inclusive force.

In this article, we talk with Tech Sgt. Kimberly Lewis, a St. Louis native who works as a flight attendant with the 73rd Airlift Squadron.

In your career, is there something you've done that you're most proud of?

Tech Sgt. Lewis: I would say just sticking with it [the military] for 13 years. I started in security forces, and, honestly, there were some days when I was just done, but I'm proud that I didn't quit.

Have you experienced any barriers or discrimination in your career or civilian life?

Tech Sgt. Lewis: Absolutely. Being a double minority and a female in a male-dominated career, like security forces, I had to overcome many barriers. Sexism is real and especially difficult for Black women, but the Air Force has and is making great strides to build a more inclusive culture.

Just initiating the conversation is a significant step. It makes a difficult and potentially awkward discussion more commonplace, empowering those who may otherwise feel like they must stay silent. Having a voice, not being afraid to speak up, and being part of a team that doesn't tolerate discrimination helps to ensure everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed—making for a stronger, more unified force.

Do you have any advice for newer Airmen?

Tech Sgt. Lewis: The best thing you can do is speak up for yourself. It's hard at first, especially if you're a newer Airman, but no one will look out for you more than yourself. 

Stand up, take charge, and pave the way for those who will come after you because that's the only way real change will come.

In honor of Black History Month, is there someone in history or your personal life you want to recognize?

Tech Sgt. Lewis: I want to recognize my mom. She had some health issues recently, and seeing her push through them inspired me. While this experience was hard on her and the whole family, she stayed strong for us. 

I also want to recognize all the minority Airmen. There will be times when you enter a room, and you're the only one that looks like you. It would be easy to turn away or keep to yourself, but instead, you stand tall, keep going, and stay true to yourself. Even though you may not have all the confidence in the world or feel like you belong, you press on and clear the path for those behind you—for people like me, and for that, I thank you.