By Sgt. Aaron BeroganFebruary 26, 2018
ROCK ISLAND ARSENAL, Ill. - The room sat quiet, eyes on Brig. Gen. Michael Talley, United States Army Forces Command Surgeon, as he explained why it's important for our country to explore Black History Month during First Army's observance on Feb. 15.
"Without having Black History Month, we may not have the opportunity to learn our own history," explained Talley. "Our nation's past is what binds us together."
Talley spoke about several figures whom he said are usually not mentioned in our history books, but who changed the shape of the nation: Crispus Attaucks, a black man killed during the Boston Massacre; Maj. Robert Henry Lawrence, the first black astronaut; and, Dr. Charles Drew, the man now called "father of the blood bank." Talley noted while many of these people did outstanding work they almost all did it against the backdrop of racism. Talley said while he's never had firsthand experience with racism in the Army, he has coached Soldiers through dealing with it.
"If there is a perception of racism, you have to open up the dialogue between the victim and the perpetrator," Talley explained. "Don't keep it hidden, get it out in the open, we do have great resources in the Army to combat these situations. More often than not, I have found racism comes from a lack of understanding."
Educating the populace is why Sgt. 1st Class Charee Mayon, Equal Opportunity Advisor, First Army, said the Black History Month observance is so important.
"You need to know who's on your left and your right," explained Mayon. "Understanding each other's cultures, nationalities, and backgrounds gives us insight into who our brothers and sisters in arms are."
Mayon believes because of this and First Army's role as the premier trainer of the National Guard and Army Reserve, its crucial First Army also lead the charge in showing just how important observances are. Mayon said she hopes observances held at units across the world brings light to a very important lesson.
"We might be from different backgrounds, but we can all be from one Army and fight for the same cause," Mayon explained.
Mayon said while racism may not be as prevalent in the Army today as it was 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago, it still exists. She also believes that observances will help create a path to removing prejudices from the Armed Forces.
"In our current climate we are faced with racism, discrimination, based on color, gender, religion and even sexual preference," explained Mayon. "With the observances it brings us all together and lets us see each other as people, Soldiers, all serving towards one goal."
Something Talley agrees with.
"Our country is going through a very trying time," said Talley. "We're divided. We're divided politically, we're divided racially; so having these observances is an opportunity. All Americans need to look at it as an opportunity to bring us closer together as a nation, as a people. The state we're in right now can't go on."
Talley said he believes observances sheds light on the diverse cultures and backgrounds in our country and it's only right the Army leads the way in helping others become aware of those around us.