The ceremony memorializes those who've impacted not just the country but the world with their activism and achievements.
FORT BENNING, GA – On Wednesday, WHINSEC personnel came together to celebrate the achievements of Blacks in the Military and recognize their central role in U.S. history. The event is part of the month-long number of events to provide a fresh reminder to take stock of where systemic racism persists and give visibility to the people and organizations creating change.
Black History Month's first iteration was Negro History Week, created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, known as the "father of Black history." This historian helped establish the field of African American studies, and his organization, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, aimed to encourage "people of all ethnic and social backgrounds to discuss the Black experience."
President Gerald Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976, calling upon the public to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.” Today, Black History Month is a time to honor the contributions and legacy of African Americans across U.S. history and society—from activists and civil rights pioneers such as Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Marcus Garvey, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks to leaders in industry, politics, science, culture and more.
During the ceremony, COL John Dee Suggs Jr addressed the audience. He spoke about the Institute and its propagation of Democracy, Rule of Law, and Human Rights.
“Freedom is a human condition. The desire for freedom knows no race, creed, color, religion, or national origin. It is what we all want. Freedom is a Human Right. The quest for freedom and equal treatment under the law is a human right. I cannot think of a better place to discuss the struggles of African Americans to be treated equality under the law than here at WHINSEC. Where we focus on Human Rights,” Suggs pointed out.
Afterward, Mr. Spivey Green gave a rendition of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream Speech” he heard from Dr. King when he was eight years old.
The Keynote speaker for the event was Doctor Johnny H. Flakes III, pastor at the 4th street Missionary Baptist Church here in Columbus. Flakes talked about taking time and having a conversation about the many achievements of African Americans. Black History Month recognizes African Africans’ central role in U.S. history. He also mentioned, dating back to the American Revolution, Blacks played a key role in the success and history of the United States Armed Forces. Finally, he talked about Dr. King’s I Have a Dream speech, where King mentions, “not to be judged by the color of your skin, but by the content of my character.”
“In his speech, King was not telling us not to see me as a black man, perpetuating color blindness; that was not the intent. Dr. King wanted others to see black men and women with integrity, character, conduct. That was the intent of the statement Dr. King made,” said Flakes.
Several community leaders attended to include Congressman Sanford D. Bishop Field Representative, Mr. Chris Kelley; U.S. Army Training & Doctrine Command Chaplain, Chaplain (COL) Gregory B. Edison; Maneuver Center of Excellence Chaplain, Chaplain(COL) Dagwud A. Agbere; District 10 Columbus Council Member, Mr. John House; and the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Mr. Jerald Mitchell.
Mitchell commented, “Fantastic ceremony today, certainly heartfelt appreciation for the accomplishments of minorities throughout history of our country. We still have a lot of work to do. While we are on the right path, we are doing good things we need to do more. There are so many that need those efforts.”
U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Chaplain, Chaplain (COL) B. Gregory Edison, had this to add.
"The ceremony was phenomenal. It captured the true essence of the celebration of Black History month; Education!” said Edison. He added, “I have seen transformation towards integration and diversity in the force. So very thankful for those pioneers who forged the way and for those who are carrying the baton.”
The Field Studies Program(FSP) and Directorate of Resource Management office personnel organized the event here as a learning experience for WHINSEC International Military Students (IMS). The Field Studies Program is a DoD program that allows the IMS to become familiar with the United States; its social, cultural, and political institutions; and its people and their ways of life. The program further increases the IMS' awareness of the U.S. commitment to basic principles of internationally recognized human rights.
FSP Coordinator Ms. Cecilia Alexander commented, “We decided to celebrate Black History Month here to expose our IMS to an integral part of our American history. The FSP is a class outside of a classroom. It’s an opportunity to display how we have evolved as a Nation, our traditions, and our way of life.”