By Jim Hughes, Fort Rucker Public AffairsMarch 4, 2019
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- With the theme Black Migrations, the Fort Rucker Black History Month Luncheon explored the journeys of people of African descent to new destinations and new social realities.
William G. Kidd, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence and Fort Rucker deputy to the commanding general, addressed attendees before the guest speaker for the event, Dr. Irma Townsend, assistant superintendent with Colquitt County Schools in Georgia and Auburn University graduate, took the stage.
"Black Migrations. We think of that as going places, but it's really about a journey, a journey of a people and a journey of our country and all of us, not just in time, but as we go through the continuum of our lives," Kidd said. "As we join together today, we're in another part of that journey. This is an opportunity for us to reflect and gain some inspiration, and then interact with others on that journey in a more positive way -- in a way where we can inspire future generations that will make that journey different for them and for our country."
After vocal performances by the Enterprise State Community College Entertainers, and an original play, penned by Sgt. Christopher Green of the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group, entitled "A Meeting of the Minds" based on the 1964 meeting between Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X, Townsend spoke about Black Migrations and more.
"Black Americans cannot be understood apart from their experiences during involuntary and forced migrations over the centuries," Townsend said. "Dr. Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham said, 'The black migration's a story of pain and unbridled hope that ultimately are about our striving, about our endurance and about our perseverance in America.' Black Americans continually forge new identities with each major transfer of population from the great migration from the agricultural south to the industrial north, to a reverse migration of sorts back to the south."
But Townsend's speech primarily dealt with another type of migration.
"The main lesson all people fail to learn or refuse to acknowledge is people are people no matter their location -- north, south, east or west -- mankind cannot escape each other," she added. "We need each other to survive. We all have one home for now, and that is planet Earth. Because we all have to share this planet together, let's change the trajectory of our migration. Instead of a physical locale, let's migrate up.
"What do I mean by up?" Townsend asked. "If we're not dead, we can always do better. Migrating up means I'm going to move forward from my present situation to make my section of the world better than when I found it.
"How many dreams, hopes, aspirations are buried deep in your heart? Many of us allow our fear to stop us in our tracks, causing us to stagnate and not migrate," she added. "All it takes is a less-than-encouraging word, a negative facial expression or a less-than-positive opinion, and we give up before we even get started. Fear will paralyze you and steal your dreams."
Townsend said people who pursue their dreams may discover support hard to find as they make their journey.
"We must remember migrating up involves a climbing. It's easy to find people to rescue you at the bottom, but climbing a mountain takes time, effort, concentration and skill," she said. "So don't be surprised when you start migrating up and your circle starts dwindling down. Believe in yourself, and when people don't support your dream because they don't believe in it, remember that it wasn't their dream to start with anyway.
"Do what you've been called to do," she added. "Fear shows up to cause stagnation and can hinder upper migration. You must be armed and ready to speak truth to yourself about yourself."
Townsend encouraged people to not let fear stop them.
"We are afraid of how we look. We are afraid of what people will think. We are afraid we will fail. And so we do nothing," she added. "We exchange fear for regret, we exchange migration for stagnation. Fear can be conquered, fear will fade away in the face of determined action. Regret, well, you'll have to live with that for the rest of your life. What are you afraid of? Name the fear. Choose to face it. And take action to conquer it today."