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Meet the Naval Academy's first Black female brigade commander. Yes, it took this long.

Sydney Barber is the academy's first Black woman to hold the prestigious position of brigade commander.

Meet the Naval Academy's first Black female brigade commander. Yes, it took this long.
Image Source: SydneyRSims / Twitter

Sydney Barber, a Black woman from Lake Forest, Illinois, is set to lead the United States Naval Academy's student body. Barber, a mechanical engineering major, was named brigade commander for the academy's spring semester. This is the first time in history that a Black woman will hold the prestigious title, the highest student leadership position available at the academy. The Naval Academy announced her appointment in a press statement released on Monday, CNN reports. The appointment comes at a time when discourse about race relations has been reinvigorated due to a resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement.


"Earning the title of brigade commander speaks volumes, but the title itself is not nearly as significant as the opportunity it brings to lead a team in doing something I believe will be truly special," first-class midshipman Barber stated in the news release. "I am humbled to play a small role in this momentous season of American history." The newly-appointed brigade commander is part of the academy's track team, holds positions of leadership in a number of student organizations, and aspires to be a Marine Corps ground officer in the near future. She was chosen for the position from a group of the top-ranked first-class midshipmen. A board made up of senior leadership staff made the selection after interviewing the candidates and reviewing their records.


While Barber is the 16th woman to hold the position, she is the first Black woman to do so since women were first allowed to join the academy 44 years ago. The first woman brigade commander was then-Midshipman 1st Class, Juliane Gallina. She held a prestigious position in the year 1991. Barber's monumental appointment was thus celebrated by many, including Janie Mines, who became the first Black woman to graduate from the Naval Academy in 1980. She took to social media in order to share her excitement. "This bought me to tears," she wrote in a post. "This young woman, Midshipman Sydney Barber, will be the first Black Female Brigade Commander at the US Naval Academy. 40 years later. Thank you, Sydney! Love you!"


According to the Naval Academy's website, the brigade commander is responsible for many of the academy's day to day activities as well as professional training for the Naval Academy's midshipmen. There are currently more than 4,400 midshipmen at the academy. Therefore, Barber has quite the task ahead of her, and there is no doubt that she is more than capable of fulfilling her duties. The Navy has, in fact, had quite the year. In July this, Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle earned her Wings of Gold, making her the service's first Black woman to become a tactical air (TACAIR) pilot. While true equality would focus on the dismantlement of the industrial military complex, it is heartening to know that Black women are filling roles that they have historically and systemically been disenfranchised from.


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