Ceremony celebrates, pays tribute to African-American culture
February 28, 2011
SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii - African-Americans have had an important role in the U.S.'s military history, from the Battle of Lexington more than 200 years ago, to overseas contingency operations, today.
During February, the Army celebrates and pays tribute to African-Americans and recognizes the important contributions they have made and continue to make.
"We take time during this month to celebrate the many achievements and contributions of black Americans who, throughout our history, have done so much to make the U.S. the culturally diverse and prosperous nation it is today," said event emcee, Sgt. 1st Class Nathan Chromczak, Equal Opportunity advisor, 516th Signal Brigade, 311th Sig. Command. "During Black History Month, we can gain insight into the experiences of black Americans and the vital role this community has played throughout our nation's history."
The 311th Sig. Command, Team EO and Equal Employment Opportunity-Hawaii sponsored this year's observance with a presentation titled "African Americans and the Civil War," at the Sgt. Smith Theater, here, Feb. 16.
It seemed fitting to invite Hari Jones, assistant director and curator of the Washington-based African-American Civil War Freedom Foundation and Museum, to be the event's guest speaker, said Sgt. 1st Class Ava Williams, EOA of the event, 311th Sig. Command.
"This is one of the most inspiring American stories we have, as it speaks to the strength of our nation," Jones said, who retired from the U.S. Marine Corps in 1997, after more than 20 years of service. "I wanted to share the story with those who defend our way of life today, because they walk in the traditions."
Jones' presentation captivated the nearly 800 Soldiers in attendance, but one part of his presentation especially struck a cord with Pfc. Justin Ravenell, Company E, 2nd Battalion, 35th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.
"He said we are all Americans as opposed to just being African-Americans," Ravenell said. "As a young Solider, being able to learn about how African-Americans became Soldiers in this Army was inspiring."
Attendees were treated to the singing of both the national anthem and the "Black National Anthem" by Spc. Marcus DeFrance, Headquarters Support Co., 209th Aviation Support Bn., 25th Combat Avn. Bde., 25th ID; a musical instrumental from Spc. Mark Bryant, 1st Bn., 21st Inf. Regt., 2nd BCT, 25th ID, and Spc. Jonathan West, 8th Military Police Bde., 8th Theater Sustainment Command; and an original poem titled "The Price of Freedom," performed by Chief Warrant Officer 2 Paulette Montgomery, 536th Maintenance Co., 524th Combat Service Support Bn., 45th Sustainment Bde., 8th TSC.
"As a white person, I see my history all the time, and you don't see the history of minority groups," said Lt. Col. Darren Holbrook, program manager, Team EO, U.S. Army-Pacific. "Our job, through putting on these presentations, is to bring someone in to educate people and teach them something new."