CHIEVRES, Belgium - U.S. Army Garrison Benelux celebrated Black History Month, also known as African-American History Month, with an observance Feb. 28 at SHAPE, Belgium.The event included a poetry reading and a food tasting.Each year, February is the month dedicated to events honoring the history and contributions of African Americans. The theme for this year's event was "Honoring the past, securing the future."Byron Harper, deputy director for Partnership (J9), NATO Special Operation Headquarters, told about the historical context from an American point of view."Consider first the mindset that's necessary to enslave human beings, treat them for centuries as something that can be beaten, raped or even killed, and justified by God," he said. "And then suddenly those same people are equals. And everything that was believed before, everything that grandparents had taught, everything that institutions were built on was wrong. You have to flush it from your mind right now and say we're all equal."Leonard L. Cooper, the second guest speaker, has been a guest lecturer at the U.S. Holocaust memorial Museum in Washington D.C., Darmouth College, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and many other leading institutions of higher education. He is also the author of the book "The Children of My Knee.""Unlike many of you, I spent much of my childhood trying to shed and rid myself of this black cursed skin," he said. "You see, I had white people in Birmingham, Alabama tell me I was nothing, nobody, going nowhere, with life in a dead end.""I believed that, because in the white community they had everything: beautiful homes, cars, education," Cooper continued. "In our neighborhood, we had toxic spill, waste, city dumps, smokestacks, rats and rodents and garbage. But that was then."At the end of the ceremony, Lt. Col. Ericka Brooks, 39th Strategic Signal Battalion commander, spoke about people."Black history is made of people, of different places, different backgrounds," she said. "It is all about people. Black history doesn't make people, people make black history."Related Links:The USAG Benelux Gazette