Program captures struggle of African Americans, shows strength of country's diversity
February 19, 2010
FORT LEE, Va. (Feb. 18, 2010) -- African-American achievement and black history as American history were the focus of an African-American History Month program held Feb. 11 at Lewi Auditorium, Mifflin Hall.
The 244th Quartermaster Battalion sponsored the event. Brig. Gen. Jesse R. Cross, commanding general, Quartermaster School and Command Sgt. Maj. Nathan Hunt Jr., regimental command sergeant major, were among the attendees.
Staff Sgt. Kimberly Cook, G Company, 244th Quartermaster Battalion, was coordinator for the event. She said the program aimed to celebrate black achievement as achievements that should be shared amongst all people.
"We are a diverse nation," she said. "There are all kinds of cultures and people who played a role in black achievement. Sometimes, we as black people, think that we're the only ones that can celebrate black history."
That notion was conveyed in the skit, "Glory Train." The 15-minute piece introduced in narrative form a few of those who made significant contributions in the struggle for equal rights and justice.
Among those featured were Harriet Tubman and Elizabeth Van Lew. Tubman is known as a leader of the underground railroad. She was played by Staff Sgt. Marva Austin, who held a rifle and wore a printed shawl, lavender period hat and a stern look.
"Frederick Douglass called me Moses," she said during her narrative, "because I brought the slaves out of the wilderness."
While Austin's character is one that is often mentioned during AAHM, Lew is a name known to few. The white wife of a Richmond slave owner, played by Lt. Col. Sydney Smith, the 244th's commander, freed her slaves after her husband died and spied for the union. Smith said Van Lew was a very interesting person.
"I learned a lot about her," said Smith. "I never knew she was from Richmond. I never knew of everything she'd done for the Union cause. It was great for me, studying my part, to learn of her history."
Recent history had a part in the event as well. The White House was the setting in the first skit, "The Obamas Meet the Kings." Its chief occupant, President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, are having a meal, reflecting on the journey that led them to the nation's highest office.
During the course of the meal, they ponder what civil rights pioneer Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. would have thought of their ascension. Martin along with wife, Coretta Scott, mysteriously appear as spirits and inquire as to why they have taken up residence. The moments that followed were both awkward and funny.
"Basically, it was the president and his wife talking, wishing Martin could be there to witness the fulfillment of his dream," said Cook after the show.
Cook said she borrowed the idea and put her own twist on it.
"I got it from a skit online," she said, "but it wasn't 'The Obamas Meet the Kings.' I did take bits and pieces of skits I read and went with it off of that."
Other entertainment during the program included Cross playing a saxophone version of the national anthem and music between sets, and Cook singing "His Eye Is On The Sparrow."