Morgan State president highlights black achievements during APG Program
February 22, 2011
- "Those who fought 150 years ago did so because they wanted to participate in something called the American Dream."
ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. - Dr. David Wilson said he was not a historian, but he delivered
a historic speech on black achievements during the Civil War.
Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, was the guest speaker for the Team APG Black History Month observance at the Aberdeen Proving Ground North Recreation Center Feb. 9.
The year marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The sesquicentennial observance will last through 2014.
Col. Casmere Taylor, USAPHC chief of staff, welcomed attendees who numbered nearly 400 and Col. Orlando Ortiz, APG garrison and deputy installation commander, introduced Wilson.
The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command, Equal Opportunity Office and U.S. Army Public Health Command hosted the event.
Ortiz noted Wilson's humble beginnings, his rise to lead one of the nation's top historically black colleges and the school's engineering partnership with RDECOM.
"You can see this gentleman moves aggressively in pursuit of opportunity and that is what we should all strive to do," Ortiz said.
Wilson talked about the prominent role former slaves and freed men played in "molding the America we know today."
He said 75 percent of black men of fighting age joined the Union Army fight against the Confederacy. They formed 166 units, nearly all of them frontline.
Twenty-five blacks earned the Congressional Medal of Honor, including seven Sailors of the Union Navy, 15 Soldiers of the United States Colored Troops, and three Soldiers of other Army units.
"Those who fought 150 years ago did so because they wanted to participate in something called the American Dream," Wilson said. "Because of their fight, the U.S. military today is a model of diversity for the entire world.
"All over America people are working to achieve their dreams and that's what we are all about at Morgan State University."
Entertainment for the program included music by the Morgan State University Jazz Ensemble and a poem reading by Naveed Rahman, a military Family member from Aberdeen High School.
Courtney White sang the national anthem and sang the unofficial Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing." Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Jimmy Davis, 20th Support Command, gave the opening prayer and Geraldine Miles, USAPHC program manager, served as mistress of ceremony.
At the program's conclusion, guests talked about the program while taking in the ethnic displays
and food tasting.
"I attend every year and it progressively gets better and better," said Alvin D. Thornton, engineering director with the Edgewood Chemical Biological Center and Morgan State University alumnus. "I'm sure the new people coming in with BRAC have added to the experience."
Retired 1st Sgt. Larry Tyson, formerly of the APG garrison, displayed his personal collection of black history books, artwork and collectibles.
"I worked with several of the committee members before, and feedback was so positive when
they asked me, I was happy to do it," Tyson said, adding that he considers displays "one way of teaching."
"If someone can walk away having learned something about the famous 54th Massachusetts [one of the first official black military units established during the Civil War] then I'm happy," he said.
Sgt. 1st Class Laquita Wimbley, RDECOM equal opportunity advisor, and Linda Patrick of USAPHC led the committee organizers. This was Wimbley's fifth event and she said they just keep getting better.
"It was an excellent program with a fantastic turnout," said Wimbley. "These are community events. We try to involve as many organizations as possible to make it a Team APG [event]. "When everyone comes together as a team, we can pool our resources and make something fantastic; and all contributors will feel like they count."
She said the purpose of ethnic programs is to "educate."
"That's my job. It's not all about food and entertainment," said Wimbley. "It's about hearing from other perspectives. This is how cultures and generations learn from each other."