Deborah Omowale Jarmon is the executive director for the San Antonio African American Community Archive & Museum (SAAACAM), with a mission to collect, archive, and tell the stories of the African American community in San Antonio. She spoke at Know Your Neighbor’s January Third Thursday even at the new H. E. Butt Foundation offices in San Antonio.
How Third Thursdays work: guests arrive, eat tasty food, listen to a speaker’s story, and discuss the story with others.
Deborah started by presenting the history of her family. Her mother grew up in Selma, Alabama, and was the granddaughter of an enslaved woman. Her father only had a fifth-grade education when he and her mother met in Columbus, Ohio.
Deborah does not go by “Debbie” or “Deb.” As her parents often told her, “Your name means ‘queen bee.’” She is named after the first and only female judge from the Bible (see Judges 4–5), and like her namesake, Deborah has often been the first and the only in her life. She was the first Black girl on her drill team in high school and at Ohio State University. In her 27-year career in air traffic control, she was part of a small minority. To this day, fewer than one percent of air traffic controllers are Black women.
“I come from a resilient group of people,” she said, and that motivates her to connect the African American community—both to one another and to their history.
“I know my history and the history of my people,” she said. “I owe it to my people to pay it—and play it—forward for what they’ve done for me.”