Portrait

FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- The Fort Jackson community is invited to celebrate Black History Month with a luncheon from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Feb. 24 at the Solomon Center.

Attendees will be treated to a program that -- true to this year's theme "Black Women in American History and Culture" -- centers around the contributions of African-American women. Attendees will receive a history calendar that highlights distinguished African-American women from South Carolina, such as Negro League baseball player Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, tennis great Althea Gibson and retired Brig. Gen. Velma Richardson.

"My intent is to capture the significant contributions that women from South Carolina have made to the (history) of America," said Sgt. 1st Class Chetoria Robinson, operations noncommissioned officer in charge at the 165th Infantry Brigade.

Robinson, the brigade's former equal opportunity adviser, has been involved in the planning of Black History Month events since 2009. She said she was amazed at how much information she has uncovered in those preparations.

"Doing the research (I've learned) a lot of things that I didn't know," Robinson said. "The more we dig into it, the more we uncover our accomplishments, and I don't think that it's talked about or presented in a particular format throughout history, whether (it's in) the school books, the textbooks, the media.

Robinson said she views the event as an effort to broaden people's knowledge about African American women and about South Carolina.

"You wouldn't want to miss it," Robinson said. "It'll be one of those 'aha' moments, because we hear so much about the Harriet Tubmans and the Maya Angelous, but in this case it's (about) those people who were born here in the state and what they contributed to the history and the culture and brought us to where we are."

The program will feature an all female lineup of guest speakers and performers and will include recitals of poems from Maya Angelou and Sojourner Truth.

The guest speaker will be Constella Zimmerman, a South Carolina native who serves as academic adviser and adjunct faculty member for Webster University on Fort Jackson. Zimmerman, who holds a doctorate in education, said she hopes that her presentation will help people overcome barriers by getting a better understanding of the unique challenges that African-American women face.

"Sometimes it appears from the outside that African-American women have a chip on their shoulder or are tough or they have no empathy or no sympathy," Zimmerman said. "If you understand and try to get to know them, you get to know that there is that different person.... (People) need to try to get to know African-American women, because they are gems."

Zimmerman's presentation will focus on Mary McLeod Bethune, a South Carolina native who in 1904 founded the school that would later become Bethune-Cookman University.

"Mary McLeod Bethune did not have any support," Zimmerman said. "Her husband did not want her to take on establishing a school. She did it anyway. She did it against all odds. Most women don't excel to that level, but in their own little unique worlds, they're as much a hero as she was."

Zimmerman said her goal is to provide useful information to everyone attending, regardless of personal background.

"Every person should walk away, saying, 'Wow, I learned something today -- not just about African-Americans, but how I can make that work for me,'" she said.

Page last updated Thu February 16th, 2012 at 10:10