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National recognition for historic flag raising

by Rich Stebbins
The Blacks In Government Award was presented to Region 8 leadership and Black Employee Program members
From left to right - Tanisha Palermo (PBS Regional Commissioner), Kenya Robinson, Antoinette Jones, Tito Register, Danielle Bradley, Penny Grout, Denise Maes (Regional Administrator), and Cindy Palmer

Sometimes when opportunity meets history great things will happen, including getting a prestigious award from a national organization.

GSA Region 8 Black Employee Program (BEP) received the Prestige-Sterling Special Achievement Award at the Blacks In Government (BIG) 44th Annual National Training Institute Closing Plenary Event in Washington, D.C. on August 31.

The award was given for the hard work in planning and eventual raising of the Pan African Flag at the Denver Federal Center (DFC), which was displayed throughout February in honor of Black History Month. 

“Receiving this Special Achievement Award signifies a step forward in never forgetting your past,” said Tito Register, PBS Acquisition and Region 8 Black Employee Program Chair.  “The efforts around this event are precedent setting for not only Region 8, but for all federal agencies to recognize the strength in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility principles.”  

Register added, “Region 8 continues to set the bar high and our culture here encourages collaboration and fairness across the organization.  This award allows the region to showcase its support for all GSA Special Emphasis and Affinity Groups.”

“This is truly a historic moment and I am greatly appreciative of our GSA Region 8 BEP, GSA leadership and everyone involved in this landmark event,” said James Foster, Office of Administrative Services, Workplace Service (R8), Former Region 8 BEP Chair.  “As a founding member of the Region 8 BEP, I'm proud that we've established a tradition that supports the advancement of knowledge for future generations and also pride in Black History while acknowledging the previous lack of human rights.”  

The award plaque presented to Region 8 says Special Achievement Award Presented to GSA Region 8

The Special Achievement Award recognizes an individual or organization outside of BIG whose efforts and accomplishments have advanced African Americans' progress in vital areas such as employment, education, civil rights, community and economic development and/or citizen participation, according to the BIG National Prestige Award website.

“This award means the continuation of trailblazing efforts for Region 8 BEP/BIG programs and is important because we are the the first region to fly the Pan-African flag for the whole month of February and providing the blueprint for other regions to follow,” said Antoinette Jones, Realty Financial Specialist.

The Pan-African flag flew near Gate 1 of the DFC where it could be seen by people coming in and out of the Denver Federal Center campus and  it  served as a visible symbol to the local community that GSA supports the contributions of Black Americans, including Black federal employees, to the nation.

The authorization process to fly the flag over the DFC for the month of February had to go through several levels of approval.  The Public Buildings Service Regional Commissioner could only authorize flying the flag for two days. The request was then elevated to Andrea O’Neal, GSA Special Advisor for Equity, who coordinated with the White House on which flag would be flown and for approval to fly the flag for the month of February.

"What the Region 8 BEP and Region 8 leadership have accomplished is not only history, it is an outward expression and celebration of unity, equity and diversity!", said Tanya Burks, Region 8 Director, Acquisition Management Division.

The Pan-African flag was selected out of a number of others because it best represents the Black community.  That flag was originally created by Marcus Garvey in 1920 to serve as a unifying symbol to connect people of African descent across the globe. While it does not represent one particular nation, the flag and its colors have been widely adopted by Black communities in the century since to honor the shared heritage and relationship between people of the African Diaspora.

This tri-color flag consists of three equal horizontal bands colored Red, Black, and Green. Red symbolizes the blood of the people that is shed in the ongoing struggle for Black liberation. Black represents the people of Black African ancestry. Green represents the abundance and resilience of the Black community, and the vibrant natural wealth of Africa, according to an article on Colorado Public Radio.

"This award is a reflection of the collaboration of several entities including not only the GSA R8 BEP Special Emphasis Program and the BIG Denver Federal Center Chapter Affinity Group but also support from GSA regional and national leadership, the Rocky Mountain Employees Association and others,” said Michael Smith, Branch Chief, FAS.  “This award will live in honor as it has served as a catalyst for other federal agencies to follow."