"The journey is not yet over."

That was the message from the guest speaker at Wednesday's Black History Month luncheon at the MG Robert B. Solomon Center.

"Now that we have our first black President, as African Americans we cannot afford to become too complacent, for the journey is not over; it has just begun, and there is still a lot of work within our community that requires attention and action, if we are to enjoy the freedoms of this great democracy," the Rev. Willie Lawson told the packed gym.

Lawson, a retired Soldier, and currently the pastor for a church in the Washington area, was present to witness the swearing in of our 44th president.

He said it shows that the playing field is closer to being level for African-Americans today.

"America has changed. The fact of the matter is that Barack Obama is our new president, not simply because African Americans put him into office with their votes alone, but he won the nomination because an overwhelming number of people of other ethnic and racial backgrounds voted for him as well, without whom he would not be in the Oval Office today," Lawson said.

The South Carolina native also stressed that this was a time to celebrate the diversity in America, but to use that diversity to unite.

"We may not have all come here on the same ship, but we are most certainly all in the same boat," he said. "We need to work together as one nation, accepting our diversity, and focus on where we need to go."

While the majority of Lawson's remarks focused on the present and future, both he and Col. Brian Reinwald, commander, 165th Infantry Brigade (host for the event), urged those present not to forget the past and to remember the contributions all races made to equality.

"This is a time for us to reflect and hopefully learn. In the Armed Forces we take this opportunity to remember the contributions and sacrifices made by selfless African Americans, who did not always serve side-by-side with Soldiers who did not look like them," Reinwald said. "It's time to look to the future with optimism."

"Let us remember that as we observe Black History Month that we are also observing the history of non-blacks who also played a role because they sought to abolish the enslavement of the ancestors of African Americans," Lawson said.

Entertainment was provided by the Dent Middle School Blue Diamond Steel Pans Drum Ensemble as well as the school's chorus.

For the fourth year, the Ayoluwa African Dance Theatre made the trip from from Savannah, Ga., to be part of the celebration.