Richmond, Va. –
Name: Odessa Yumi Maxwell
Title: Branch Chief, Logistics Cataloging and Data Solutions Portfolio, Defense Logistics Agency Information Operations
Years of Service: 7 years and 2 months
What does Black History Month mean to you? I think given the history of the United States which has struggled with enacting equality, Black History Month is a chance to learn and celebrate those heroes who showed resilience, pride and initiative to overcome obstacles in order to provide our nation the courage to eradicate racial stereotypes and prejudices. We must study history in order to not repeat its atrocities.
What is unique about your heritage, country of origin or family traditions? I celebrate both sides of my heritage. My father’s side originated from slaves around Giles, Tennessee. They earned their freedom through share cropping that led them to Louisville, Kentucky. My father joined the Air Force where he started his own legacy by marrying my mother who is of Japanese descent while stationed in Japan. My mother’s family were all in arranged marriages to gain higher social status. However, when my Japanese grandmother was married a second time after being widowed, she decided that two of her daughters [of which one was my mother] could marry whomever they wanted, versus an arranged marriage. This decision to marry for love brought together two people from two very different cultures. When my parents returned to the States, their marriage started an internal family and external public racial strife almost every place they went. My father and mother raised my brother and I to be open to diversity. Because of their struggles, I embrace both sides of my heritage as being mixed and having the best of two worlds.
What misconception about your heritage or country of origin would you like to correct? That I need to choose one side over the other that would “disrespect” the heritage of either parent. Culture is one of the steppingstones of diversity through our traditions, experiences, and implanted morals and values. Through culture, we are molded in the way we view others as well as evaluate the world around us. I love the strength that was displayed in both heritages and how my parents faced adversity. Life was not easy for those in an interracial marriage nor children born from that marriage. My mother never reciprocated hatred, instead she utilized her intelligence to create teachable moments. I remember a time when family members would openly talk in her presence about her, assuming she did not understand English. She would smile and play along. After enduring the day, she went home and repeated the entire conversation to my father. My father was shocked by what transpired and confronted his family members. Interestingly enough, my family members learned to not make assumptions when it came to my mother.
What do you consider the most important cultural value for you and for those close to you? Our cultures and heritage should be the blending of the paint on our canvas of life. When you step back, you should see the entire picture of who you are. People should not make the colors of the painting the focal point, but the entirety of who the person is through their life experiences and values. Cultural value should be the full acceptance of our differences.
What is a little-known fact that most people don’t know about you? I am an entrepreneur and have delved into many experiences in my life such as handmade soaps, spoken word and poetry, livestock farming, professional photography and dog showing.
How important is it to you that DLA Aviation recognizes this month? I think it is very important to recognize Black History Month until there are no more misunderstandings, misconceptions or stereotypes. We must be willing to tell the true history and both sides of the story, including “little-known facts” until they are known and embraced by all.
What do you like employees to learn from celebrating Black History Month? To take some time this month, including additional cultural celebrations, to learn one fact in the name of diversity so that this world will be a better place for us and future generations: through our appreciation of everyone’s differences. Every day we live, we should live with purpose and strive to learn – what better way to learn than by celebrating diversity in others and remembering their struggles and heroism without expectation.