By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterMarch 6, 2014
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (March 6, 2014) -- As African-American History Month came to a close, Fort Rucker honored African Americans who have made an impact on American history with a luncheon to celebrate what any observance strives for -- unity.
The installation hosted the 2014 African-American Black History Month luncheon at The Landing Feb. 27, where people enjoyed food, company and the opportunity to reflect on the history of African Americans in the U.S.
The theme for this year's observance was, "Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow: Civil Rights in America," and was meant to highlight the milestones and struggles of African Americans throughout the years, said Timothy Knighton, Fort Rucker Equal Employment Opportunity manager.
A special guest, Edward Vaughn, retired Michigan state representative, spoke during the luncheon on African-American history, and took people through a "poetic journey" of various African-American poets.
"It's an honor for me to be here with you today in celebration of African-American History Month," he said. "It's a good thing to set aside a period of time to focus on the contributions that our people have given, so that the people all over the world would know that we gave something to this civilization."
Throughout Vaughn's speech, he reiterated the theme of unity and the fact that people shouldn't treat other people as those of different races, but treat everyone as members of the human Family.
"We all came from the same place," he said. "The human Family is one … and If we could really understand how closely connected we really are as human beings, I think we could better understand each other."
Vaughn, who has been a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People since 1952, also spoke about the trials that African Americans had to endure from slavery to the Civil Rights movements.
"We've had a very difficult time in this country in the past -- it hasn't been easy for anyone," he said. "Today we have a better day for our people," but it wasn't without struggle.
Much of the struggles that African Americans had to overcome throughout the years wouldn't have been possible without the work of early abolitionists who fought for freedom and rights.
One abolitionist Vaughn spoke of was John Newton, writer of "Amazing Grace," who, as a slave trader, got caught in a major storm during a trip back from the Americas. Out of that storm came his song, "Amazing Grace," and after the storm, he became an abolitionist and helped to eradicate slavery in Great Britain.
He spoke of Langston Hughes, who wrote "The Negro Speaks of Rivers." During this poem, Hughes speaks of rivers that he'd known throughout the world to which he compared his soul and how it had become as deep as the rivers he'd seen.
Vaughn spoke of the difference in language and how people of African descent had to learn English for themselves, and recited a reading of "At Candle-Lightin' Time," by Paul Laurence Dunbar, in the dialect of the time.
The poem is about a slave father who comes home to take care of his children after working in the fields. During that time, in order to entertain children, they made shadow figures on the wall by candlelight, said Vaughn. The poem reflected on the simple pleasures of life, like the smell of supper when returning home and time spent with Family, things that Vaughn said people should focus on.
The last poem he recited was "For My People," by Margaret Walker.
"When she wrote that poem, she wrote it to try to inspire black men to stand up," said Vaughn, and recited the last stanza, changing some of the worlds to reflect all people.
"Let the human Family, the human Family, now rise and take control," he said.
Ron Thomas, pastor from Ozark, was among those in attendance, and said that Vaughn's words were inspiring and reminded him of his heritage.
"I was overwhelmed (by his words) and proud of our history," he said. "The most interesting fact that he said was that we were all one Family, and that really helps me because I know that God brings us all together."