Lorraina Nyanza correspondence on military harassment
This collection contains one letter from SSgt. Lorraina Nyanza, USAF to her mother. In the fourteen page letter, written as Lorraina Jones (her married name at the time), she details some of her attempts to seek justice for racial mistreatment and harassment in the military while overseas.
The letter was written on January 26, 1989 from her duty station in Texas after recently being reinstated as a non-commissioned officer, a grade of which she had been stripped of while overseas in Spain. The correspondence, in her words, is a "feverish plea sent to my mother as I was suffering from severe psychological distress relative to military abuse, harassment and turmoil at Zaragosa Air Base, Spain."
In the letter, Nyanza plans to take her issue to a higher level in the military and the government to seek justice for her harassment and is attempting to explain some of the details to her mother to earn her assistance. Without going into detail about her abuse, she lays out some of her efforts to bring this to the attention of her commanding officers, to no avail, and later to senior military officials and even congressmen when she returns to the United States. She contacted Congressman Kweisi MFume of Maryland and Congressman Ted Weiss of New York, receiving only a response from Congressman MFume and told "not to pursue" the matter further by Congressman Weiss' office and the Pentagon. She also reached out to Reverend Jesse Jackson and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). Jackson never responded and the NAACP asked her not to pursue the matter further, a decision which she expresses is due to the fact that a board member was a retired Army officer.
Throughout the correspondence she listed dates and makes references to incidents, though mostly documents her attempts to seek justice. An ongoing court case in Spain, in which she is seeking a $100,000 restitution, an apology and jail time for two Spaniard assailants, had depleted her funds and she ends the correspondence by asking her mother for financial help, as well as for her to begin calling high ranking officials in Washington, D.C., including the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, CMSgt. Binnicker.
Added October 19, 2021: one word document (digital and print included) with book excerpts from Moving Past Broken: Memoirs of a Wounded Warrior, by Lorraina Nyanza, MSW, 2016. In the excerpts she recalls her decision to terminate her military career as a Ground Radio Operator based on the adverse impact of cumulative in-service trauma exposure in lieu of re-enlisting and accepting an overseas assignment in 1990.
- 1989 January 26
- Nyanza, Lorraina (Person)
Conditions Governing Access
This collection is open for research.
Conditions Governing Use
There are no restrictions on the use of this material except where previously copyrighted material is concerned. It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain all permissions.
Biographical / Historical
Staff Sergeant Lorraina Nyanza, United States Air Force is an African American woman born in New York City and graduated from Evander Childs High School before enlisting in the Air Force in 1982. She was deployed for overseas duty in Turkey, England, Spain and Texas. During her service, according to Nyanza, she was sexually harassed while overseas and suppressed her memories of these events until after her discharge, which she says included hostile work conditions secondary to racism while in Spain. She served until 1990 when she made the "heart-wrenching" decision to end her military career due to her treatment. Though she used Jones as her surname during her service, she has since reverted to the use of her maiden name Nyanza.
Nyanza later earned four degrees (AA, AS, BA, MSW), with service in the field of Military Social Work as a Department of Defense civilian asset in the Army assigned to multiple posts in Germany and Korea. According to Nyanza, these work experiences "mirrored active duty experiences leading to early retirement in duress and resolved to invest in lifelong journey of trauma recovery on behalf of self and others in need of healing." Her correspondence pleads with her mother for help and stated in her donation to the archives, "All my effortes to attain justice via military and other offical channels proved futile. Battle-torn and emotionally incapacitated, I reached out, once more, to a blood relative for help, support, validation for my pain and suffering. And ultimately received none."
0.01 Linear feet (1 folder)
Language of Materials
This collection contains one letter from SSgt. Lorraina Nyanza, USAF to her mother. In the fourteen page letter she details some of her attempts to seek justice for racial mistreatment and harassment in the military while overseas.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of Lorraina Nyanza.
- African American politicians. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African Americans Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- African Americans -- Civil rights Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Blacks -- History Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Spain -- History. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States -- Air Force. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States -- Armed Forces -- African Americans. Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- United States -- Race Relations Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Women and the military Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Finding Aid for the Lorraina Nyanza correspondence on military harassment
- Andrew Harman
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description