JBLM celebrates African-American heritage

By Sgt. Maricris McLaneMarch 7, 2018

African-Americans in the United States have played a big role in almost every war the country fought. In recognition of their contributions to the country's history and wars the country fought, the month of February is the official African-American History Month. Joint Base Lewis-McChord celebrated African-American History Month during an observance ceremony held at Carey Theater Tuesday.

The 16th Combat Aviation Brigade hosted the JBLM event and invited artists to perform.

"Throughout history, we had to fight for our freedom," said Mark Peterson of Lakewood, an African-American actor with the theater company Living Voices.

For example, during the Revolutionary War, the government recognized the need for more men.

"To win that war, they knew they needed everybody, everybody from the colonies" Peterson said. "They won the war because everyone contributed - including the African-Americans."

The country's history is filled with contributions from the African-Americans of this country. During the JBLM African-American History Month celebration, the volunteer performers remembered their ancestors' contributions and sacrifices.

"This commemorative event pays homage to those predecessor before us who paved the way for us to have the opportunities we have now," said Jules Jones, an African-American rhythm and blues singer from Oakland, Calif. "Like in the military, they (ancestors) sacrificed their lives for my freedom."

In addition to recognizing their ancestors, the artists also want to create an impact to the society's future.

"My goal is to tell a story that we have to stand up and contribute to make things better for the rest of the country like our ancestors did," Peterson said.

During the event, Peterson played a role of an 11-year-old fighting in the Revolutionary War which showed the struggles of the past.

"It shows that back then, there was no time to be a kid, it's that serious," Peterson said. "Today's generation needs to stand up and see what happened in the past, so they can contribute for a better future."

Along with the impact to the community, the performers also wanted to create a positive environment. Jones sang a song called "Survive," which entails how people had to overcome adversities, whether it be the military or people dealing with the street life, Jones said.

"I'm trying to give them a positive outlook on life, and that you have to have the willpower in order to achieve greatness," Jones said.