TEC celebrates Black History Month with a special guest speaker

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MCGHEE TYSON AIR NATIONAL GUARD BASE, Tenn.— The Training and Education Center welcomed Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook to speak to the Airman Leadership School and Non-Commissioned Officer Academy on Friday. 

Middlebrook, a pivotal figure for the civil rights movement, and the East Tennessee community spoke to the students and staff about his journey to becoming an activist and the challenges he and others faced during the civil rights movement. 

Born on the south side of Memphis in 1942, Middlebrook spoke of a culture where the color of one’s skin determined their worth. 

It was a climate of segregation and inequality, where prejudice and racism rang loudly, and where he was relegated to live in the shadows. 

Thankfully, there was his grandmother, Big Momma, who instilled in him the unwavering belief that he was somebody. Middlebrook reflected that “at five years old, she told me, ‘You are somebody.’ And at seven, she reminded me, ‘Your feet might be in the mud, but your head ought to be in the stars, because you are somebody.’ And I believed her,” he said.

With belief in himself, Middlebrook defied expectations and became a formidable figure in the civil rights movement. It was on this journey that he met his friend and confidant, the late Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. 

The audience could feel the weight of his emotions as he had to take a pause when reflecting on his friend and speaking of their shared passion for equality and justice, and of the struggles and sacrifices they shared in their pursuit. 

Middlebrook, remembers the struggles of the past and keeps a vision for a better tomorrow for future generations. “For me, every day is Black History Day." “And it's not just Black History Month, but America’s History Month—every one of us makes this nation what it is,” he said. 

As he closed, he rallied the students in a chant of affirmation: “I am somebody.” This is a poignant reminder of the inherent worth of all, and this country will only be what it is meant to be when we learn to embrace each other.

Middlebrook thanked everyone for their service to this nation and for building a better tomorrow through unity and inclusivity.