ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. -- Stimulating blues, architectural abstracts and a brief history lesson defined the African-American/Black History Month observance here Feb. 11.

The Army Sustainment Command and First Army Equal Opportunity offices hosted the observance at Heritage Hall in Building 60.

"The year 2013 marks two important anniversaries in the history of African-Americans and the United States," said Sgt. 1st Class Barrie Royal, master of ceremonies. "The first is sesquicentennial of the emancipation proclamation and the second is the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington."

This year's theme was "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington."

Rev. Dwight L. Ford, executive director of Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center in Rock Island, Ill., was the guest speaker.

Ford enlisted in the Marine Corps, and is a third-generation six-year combat veteran who served during Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm.

"Today we honor the acts of moral agency; those who fought for emancipation and those who organized and participated in the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom," Ford said during his speech.

Ford is an innovative leader, author and, public theologian, known as "The People's Pastor" for his commitment to helping vulnerable populations and impoverished communities.

"I deeply appreciate any opportunity to speak about our rich and noble history," said Ford.

"I consider it to be a responsibility to speak about the noted great voices and personalities of African-American history, but also to tell the story of men and women who were never photographed, quoted in a story, or awarded for courageous acts," said Ford.

Following Ford's speech, Kevin "B. F." Burt, one of the Midwest's top blues heritage educators, sang two songs accompanied by his guitar and harmonica.

For more than 20 years, Burt has been performing audiences throughout the nation, as stated in the observance program.

Burt performed "Help Me" by Junior Wells, an Chicago blues vocalist, harmonica player, and recording artist.

"I really believe that your today sets up your tomorrow and this next song will explain why," Burt said.

Burt's last song was "Thank You" -- a self-written blues song.

Bryan Cotton, an ink and pen artist was there with a small glimpse of his art contributing to the observance. Cotton, a Rock Island native, began drawing at 5.

"I love doing artwork, and exhibiting my art. Art is in my blood and I'm grateful for the opportunity to be a part of today," Cotton said.

Cotton said his grandfather worked on RIA for 37 years as a supervisor in a warehouse.

Col. Scott Lofreddo, chief of staff, ASC, gave closing remarks, thanking attendees for their contributions.

"Honestly, I'm speechless after your performances. They both made me think as a leader and a man," Lofreddo said.

Equal Opportunity Special/Ethnic observances are conducted throughout the Armed Forces and are designed to enhance cross-cultural awareness among Soldiers, civilian employees and their families.

Page last updated Thu February 21st, 2013 at 00:00