148th Fighter Wing celebrates African American History Month

Pastor Billy G. Russell, Senior Pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn., shares remarks with members of the Minnesota National Guard while in Duluth, Minn., on Feb. 5, 2016.  Russell was at the 148th Fighter Wing to share his experiences about the hardships he encountered growing up during racial segregation and to talk about the importance of diversity.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka)

Pastor Billy G. Russell, Senior Pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn., shares remarks with members of the Minnesota National Guard while in Duluth, Minn., on Feb. 5, 2016. Russell was at the 148th Fighter Wing to share his experiences about the hardships he encountered growing up during racial segregation and to talk about the importance of diversity. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka)

Pastor Billy G. Russell, Senior Pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn., shares remarks with members of the Minnesota National Guard while in Duluth, Minn., on Feb. 5, 2016.  Russell was at the 148th Fighter Wing to share his experiences about the hardships he encountered growing up during racial segregation and to talk about the importance of diversity.  (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka)

Pastor Billy G. Russell, Senior Pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minn., shares remarks with members of the Minnesota National Guard while in Duluth, Minn., on Feb. 5, 2016. Russell was at the 148th Fighter Wing to share his experiences about the hardships he encountered growing up during racial segregation and to talk about the importance of diversity. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Master Sgt. Ralph Kapustka)

DULUTH, Minn. -- The 148th Fighter Wing celebrated African American  History Month by hosting a lunch and learn event on Feb. 5, 2016.  The keynote speaker for the event was Pastor Billy G. Russell, Senior Pastor of Greater Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Pastor Russell talked about his experiences growing-up as a young black man in Mississippi during racial segregation.  "Legally mandated segregation of race, separate schools, separate motels, separate rest-rooms and drinking fountains, segregation was the world I grew up in," said Russell.  As a youth he was bussed 23 miles one-way to school, passing up a school that was just three miles away because he wasn't allowed to go there.

Russell's message was one of forgiveness and encouragement.  "You can be anything you want to be ... you do not let circumstances hold you down, you can rise above that."

He encouraged the audience to interact with other cultures.  "Talk to them, get to know them rather than just having a perceived thought about them," said Russell.  "We must recognize that we live in a very diverse place, we must begin to talk now."

Col. Jon S. Safstrom, 148th Fighter Wing Commander, stressed both the importance and benefits of diversity.  "We need to open our eyes as a wing and educate ourselves on some of the things we don't get to experience that often in the Duluth community, which is diverse backgrounds and experiences," Safstrom said.

The 148th Fighter Wing is working hard at building relationships both in the Duluth community and the surrounding areas, with an on-going effort towards recruiting from a diverse talent pool.

"Everyone of has a diverse experience and background to bring to this wing, we just want to make sure we are encompassing all of those backgrounds to strengthen the wing," said Safstrom.