Redstone joins the nation in celebrating the history and accomplishments of African American Soldiers and civilians during February in honor of African American/Black History Month. Throughout the month, we’ll honor the experience, sacrifice and contributions of black Americans who came before us and who still serve.
The origin of the observance dates back to 1926 when Carter Woodson, historian and founder of the Association of the Study of Negro Life and History, established the first Negro History Week to foster a better understanding of the black American experience and raise awareness on African Americans’ contributions to civilization.
In 1976, President Gerald Ford issued the first Black History Month proclamation, calling on the American people to celebrate the event each February. Since then every U.S. president has designated February as Black History Month, a time set aside by law to recognize the contributions of African Americans to our nation.
Each year various Redstone organizations host the Department of Defense ethnic observances to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace. The observances are held at various locations across the installation. In 2020 the observances were moved to a virtual platform due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Master Sgt. Elaina Paxton, equal opportunity adviser and program manager at Army Materiel Command, is responsible for the coordination of ethnic observances on Redstone.
“The success of each special and ethnic observance is directly related to leadership involvement and needs widespread and maximum participation from the Redstone Arsenal team,” Paxton said. “The special observances are conducted to recognize the continuous achievements of all Americans to American culture and to increase awareness, mutual respect and understanding. They are designed to enhance cross-cultural and cross-gender awareness and promote harmony among all military members, their families and the DOD civilian workforce.“
Two Soldiers explained why they think it is important to celebrate diversity and inclusion in the workplace.
Sgt. 1st Class Sanqwey Walker, career counselor at Army Contracting Command, said having the special observances at Redstone increases awareness on diversity and provides more understanding of other cultures. He also discussed the role that African Americans have played in the military.
“Having the observances is important because they increase awareness on diversity and provide more understanding of other cultures,” Walker said. “They give people an opportunity to connect culturally which is necessary when working with individuals with different backgrounds.
“African Americans have defended our nation since the Revolutionary War, serving with honor and distinction. They continue to defend and serve our country, to preserve our freedom. As an African American Soldier, I am grateful for the sacrifice of those who served before me and I am honored to continue this legacy.”
Staff. Sgt. Bradford Alex, a religious affairs specialist at Army Contracting Command, agreed.
“The observances are important for me as a Soldier. I’ve only been assigned to Redstone for a short time, but I’ve served in the Army for 10 years,” Alex said. “My past military units have always had the special observances. It’s good when you’re invited to take a look at other cultures. You can’t get this experience in a classroom setting. I look forward to having an opportunity to attend a special observance on Redstone.
“It’s crucial to highlight the accomplishments of all people. I think it’s good that the Army stands together to celebrate and honor the African American experience and sacrifice. Every year, churches, schools and other organizations across our nation will put a special emphasis on the accomplishments of African Americans during Black History Month – and this is good. However, these efforts are also a part of American history and can’t be contained in a single month. It’s a continuous discussion.”