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62nd AW honors MLK with pop-up museum

Col. Brian Collins, 62nd Airlift Wing (AW) vice commander (left), and Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Arce, 62nd AW command chief, cut a ribbon during the grand opening ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Movement Pop-Up Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Jan. 12, 2021. The museum will be open until Jan. 22, 2021, in honor of MLK Day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Callie Norton)

Col. Brian Collins, 62nd Airlift Wing vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Arce, 62nd AW command chief, cut a ribbon during the grand-opening ceremony for the Martin Luther King Jr. and Civil Rights Movement Pop-Up Museum at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Jan. 12, 2021. The museum highlights the life and legacy of MLK as well as his fellow leaders, the impact of youth and celebrities and how the civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s led to laws and future fights for civil rights. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Callie Norton)

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. (AFNS) --

The 62nd Airlift Wing opened a pop-up museum Jan. 12 at the McChord Field Chapel Support Center highlighting the accomplishments of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the civil rights movement and the hardships both faced in honor of this year’s MLK Day observance.

“We knew we alone wouldn’t be able to inspire more than the actions of these men, women and children,” said Master Sgt. Benjamin Braithwaite, 62nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron assistant first sergeant, who co-led the team who put the museum together. “We wanted to create an environment that was conducive to learning and understanding at all levels, one without bias.”

Col. Brian Collins, 62nd AW vice commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Joseph Arce, 62nd AW command chief, led the grand opening of the museum with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

“Behind me and everywhere you see on these walls are some individuals who throughout their lifetime have overcome major obstacles, challenges and adversity through hard work, dedication and the human spirit to achieve monumental successes,” Collins said at the ceremony. “My hope and desire is that each and every Airman will take the time in the coming weeks to come out, take a look, read these stories and (learn from) their experiences.”

The museum highlights the life and legacy of MLK as well as his fellow leaders, the impact of youth and celebrities and how the civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s led to laws and future fights for civil rights.

“At first, putting the museum together was a little daunting because I wanted to make sure I got everything right,” said 2nd Lt. Dyami Bryant, 62nd AMXS aircraft maintenance unit officer-in-charge and museum team co-lead. “As we spent more time on it, it filled me with so much pride and helped me come to terms with my personal emotions about what has been going on in the world, especially the Black community today.”

Every year, the third Monday in January is observed in honor of the birth of Dr. King Jan. 15, 1929. He was the chief spokesperson for nonviolent activism in civil rights, which successfully protested racial discrimination in federal and state law.

 “It’s always important to highlight Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement,” Bryant said. “If recent events are any indication, the struggle for equal and civil rights is ongoing. We as a people and society have come far, however we still have a long way to go.

“Our hope is that through our efforts, others may learn and understand the importance and significance of the actions of the men, women and children of the civil rights movement,” she continued. “Not only how important it was back then, but also the parallels to the events going on today.”

The museum also highlights many other key players in the civil rights movement, such as Emmett Till, a 14-year-old African-American boy whose death sparked the movement; Malcolm X; the Black Panthers; the Little Rock Nine; and a Wall of Leaders display.

“We chose to add the civil rights movement as a whole because although Dr. King may have been the most familiar face and voice, the success of this movement also depended on the sacrifice and commitment of many other individuals and organizations to bring about change,” Braithwaite said.

The 15-person team who created the pop-up museum devoted more than 150 hours of research, 225 hours of graphic design and 50 hours of layout planning and setup to complete the museum.

“Through it all, our team never wavered and continues to work tirelessly to make it a success,” Braithwaite said. “It was very uplifting to see the amount of people willing to help move us forward.”

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