NATICK, Mass. (Feb. 15, 2017) -- Chief James Hicks, the Town of Natick's police chief, spoke to the Natick Soldier Systems Center workforce during the Black History Month observance, Feb. 8.

This year's Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute theme for Black History Month is, "Success Always Leaves Footprints."

"This year's theme is profound because every state in this great country was touched in some way by the offensive hand of slavery," said Donna Leon, Black Employment Program Committee member. "From the poor cities where Africans disembarked from the slave ships, to the battlefields where their descendants fought vehemently for freedom; from the colleges and universities where they pursued education, to the areas where they created communities during centuries of migration, the imprint of Americans of African descent is deeply embedded in the narrative of the American past.

"One cannot tell the story of America without preserving or reflecting on the places where African-Americans have made history."

The program allowed Natick's personnel to remember and learn about the people and places that, over time, have left footprints in our history.

Hicks was born in Brooklyn, New York, where he received his early education. He relocated to Massachusetts in 1975 to attend the Groton School, and later continued his education at Brandeis University in Waltham, Massachusetts.

Throughout his career, Hicks has served on several committees and working groups throughout the Commonwealth, such as the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Civil Service and Finance Committee and the Legislative Special Commission on Massachusetts Police Training.

"It is an honor to be here to speak in front of a group such as this," said Hicks. "When I was first approached to speak today, I was given some choices. Obviously, looking at the theme, 'Success Always Leaves Footprints,' I had an opportunity to choose to talk about success or talk about education, and specifically the crisis of African-American education today."

Hicks said when he was younger and looked at his friends who went to public school, it appeared that the schools at that time did not push or emphasize what education meant.

"I'd be the first one to tell you that I'd rather be out with my friends doing certain things they were doing than to go to school," said Hicks. "But our parents kept us in touch and kept us focused."

Hicks said that even while attending the Groton School, he struggled with what being successful actually meant.

"At Brandeis, I got to learn and understand the value of an education and that came to me slightly when I started to get involved with the community," said Hicks.

After graduating from Brandeis, Hicks began his law enforcement career with the university as a member of the campus police department. He then worked for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Police Department, and later joined the Waltham Police Department.

"Early in my police career, I had an opportunity to work with communications in the African- American and Latino community, and I tried to understand where we lose this connection about the importance of education," said Hicks.

Hicks said that higher education now will be necessary to be successful in every field because technology is moving to the forefront.

"So we need to understand, from the very beginning, where these job opportunities are in order to be successful," said Hicks. "They're shrinking (and) requiring more skills."

Hicks said most importantly, there needs to be an understanding that the education crisis, which has existed over many years, has gotten worse.

"We as leaders in our communities; we as leaders as parents; we as leaders as educators; we as leaders as teachers -- we need to step up and understand and tell our students why (education) is important and what success means," said Hicks. "The opportunities are out there, but what concerns me is that we're not taking advantage of it."