PICATINNY ARSENAL, N.J. – The Department of Public Works (DPW), U.S. Army garrison Picatinny Arsenal, hosted this year’s Black History Month observation with a virtual, interactive presentation for installation employees on Feb. 8.
The event consisted of a 20-question trivia game that tested viewer knowledge of African-American culture and history, followed by an information segment on the ascendance of Jean-Michel Basquiat, an American artist who rose to success during the 1980s as part of the Neo-expressionism movement.
Basquiat first achieved fame as part of the graffiti duo SAMO, alongside Al Diaz, writing enigmatic epigrams in the cultural hotbed of Manhattan's Lower East Side during the late 1970s, where rap, punk, and street art coalesced into early hip-hop music culture. By the early 1980s, his paintings were being exhibited in galleries and museums internationally.
Robert Amami, DPW’s Chief of Business Operations and Integration Division, coordinated the presentation. “I thought it would be a great idea to speak about the Hip-Hop aspect of Black Culture that has become a counterculture for the past 50 years with no media recognition until now (the recent Grammy awards),” Amami said.
“I brought into my presentation my favorite artist Jean-Michel Basquiat who just happens to be an African American. Born and raised in New Jersey, and going into New York City as a kid in the late 1980s, early 90s, was inspiring to see the graffiti, the break dancing in the streets, and the electrifying energy of Hip-Hop, which is a way of life for folks,” Amami added.,
The event received praise from the more than 150 individuals who attended the live session, as well as from the garrison commander, Lt. Col. Alexander Burgos, and the installation’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Office Director, Edward Mcbroon.
Mcbroon said Amami’s presentation had the highest live audience attendance since some of the EEO events began broadcasting virtually.
Black History Month began in 1926 and was founded by Carter G. Woodson. Originally the event lasted a week. But in 1976, the 100th anniversary of the United States, the week was extended to one month, allowing for more inclusion of activities and programs.
Each February, the United States Army honors the contributions of African American men and women in building the nation.