Regional Command-South celebrates black history month
February 25, 2013
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Service members from Regional Command-South gathered Feb. 25 for the annual Black History Month observance. Each February, the Army recognizes African-American soldiers and the contributions they have made to the service.
Since the 1700's African-Americans have contributed and played major roles in military operations. The event, which grew out of Negro History Week and was created by Carter G. Woodson and other African-American figures, has been celebrated since 1926 during the second week of February. The date was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass.
The guest speaker, Lt. Col. Frank G. Davis, Joint Task Force Paladin - South commander, was commissioned in the Army upon graduation from the University of West Georgia in 1991. His theme at the observance was "At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington."
The Vicksburg, Miss., native related his personal experience as an African-American Army officer.
"Today's black history month observance is just another step along the way to gaining perspective and true understanding of just how far we have come as a country and just how far we still have to go," said Davis.
The Kandahar Airfield Gospel Choir performed a selection of spiritual songs inspired by the program theme following his speech.
For many soldiers in attendance, his story, coupled with the performance from the choir, was inspiring.
Spc. Destinee Hudson, a computer technician and KAF choir member, spoke of her father's experience in the military.
"My father is retired Sgt. 1st Class Frizell Means, who is 82 years old," she said. "He served in the Army for approximately 36 years as a combat engineer. He also told of how difficult it was for a black soldier in those days. For example, they were given a one-quart canteen of water and the only time they could take a drink was when the sergeant in charge took a drink. So if he did not drink all day, they could not drink. In today's Army, we have to wear the Camelbacks and stay hydrated or risk adverse action."
Hudson also talked about the why the choir chose to sing old spirituals such as "Down by the Riverside" and "Lift Every Voice and Sing".
"Negro spirituals were what sustained our great grandparents, grandparents, parents and elders while they faced these seemingly insurmountable struggles. Yet, they persevered and now we are able to stand even taller on their behalf," said Hudson.
In his speech, Davis said there are many famous African-Americans that are recognizable by all. However he wanted to highlight the less famous African-American Army leaders who have served or continue to serve in the military today, such as Command Sgt. Maj. Evelyn Hollis, the first African-American female of a combat arms unit and Gen. Larry R. Ellis, the second African-American to serve as the U.S. Army Forces commander (FORSCOM).
"Racial equality is something that our nation's military has long practiced within its ranks and by most accounts had done a much better job at it than most of society," said Davis. "This does not mean that the military is without its own set of racial inequalities and other challenges, but there are systems in place such as Equal Opportunity and (Sexual Harassment and Assault Response Prevention) available to all personnel to help mitigate any potential or existing problems we may encounter."
According to the army.mil website, black soldiers made up 19.8 percent of the active duty Army, 13.3 percent of the National Guard and 22.1 percent of the Army Reserve in 2008 statistics.