Service members at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., participated in a base-wide Black History Month observance at McChord's Collocated Club Feb. 12, 2013.

The theme of the program was, "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality."

The program was hosted by the 593rd Sustainment Brigade celebrating two significant events in the advancement of black Americans. The Emancipation Proclamation that was signed in 1863 to free southern slaves, and the 1963 March on Washington, an event that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act.

The Army observes several different ethnic group observances throughout the year to recognize the contributions and achievements of all American ethnicities, while increasing awareness, mutual respect and understanding.

There were several performances during the lunchtime program ranging from poems and songs to a spiritual dance. Spc. Chantelle DeSchutter, assigned to 13th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, 593rd Sustainment Brigade, performed a monologue entitled, "Mother to Son," by Langston Hughes. She explained that she felt honored to be a part of the observance.

"I think that the people who don't know much about black history were able to gain some knowledge," said DeSchutter.

The guest speaker for the event was Oscar Eason, the chairman of the Washington State Commission on African American Affairs. Eason, an Army veteran who served in Korea and Vietnam, actively works for greater equality. Not only is he active in the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and many other organizations that help the underprivileged, but he has made his mark twice in history. In 1995 he planned and conducted an affirmative action hearing in Washington, D.C., that brought together more than 100 organizations, increasing dialogue about the issue and producing the document titled Affirmative Action and Beyond. In 1997 he coordinated an equal opportunity summit, which produced a report that offered recommendations to help alleviate problems associated with discrimination.

Eason knows first-hand what it is like to be discriminated against. He shared with the audience a story of when he was young and his grandmother disciplined him for sitting in the wrong area of the bus during segregation. He stated that that moment stuck with him all the way through college; he earned a Bachelor's degree in Mechanical engineering at Prairie View A&M University, and a Master of Science degree in engineering from St. Mary's University.

"It's most appropriate to have ethnic observances so that as a community everyone can become adhesive and learn about each other," said Eason. "Knowing our history helps us to establish the role we have now and want to have in the future."

Page last updated Thu February 14th, 2013 at 15:54