Presidio of Monterey, Calif. -- An hour-long program of information and entertainment in observance of Black History Month was conducted Feb. 17 at the Presidio of Monterey as part of the nationwide celebration throughout February of the contributions African Americans have made to the United States and the world.

The event was staged at the installation's Tin Barn assembly hall before an audience of some 400 service members and civilian employees, most of them students and faculty members of the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio.

"The History of Black Economic Empowerment" is the theme of this year's Black History Month and, in addressing the topic, guest speaker Army Lt. Col. David T. Crawford had much to say about America's current economy.

"The middle class of this country collectively groans under the weight of so much daunting news," said Crawford, who is the Staff Judge Advocate for DLIFLC and the Presidio.

He cited high unemployment, plummeting home values, soaring health care and education costs and growing homelessness among the nation's current afflictions.
How have African Americans fared during this economic downtown'

Crawford said an "ironic dichotomy" is contained in the National Urban League's annual State of Black America Report, a report that measures how the nation is doing in closing the gaps between white and black America.

"It found widespread optimism about the historic election of the nation's first African American president," Crawford said. "On the other hand, there was still a deep, and in many cases widening divide between the promise and the reality of the American Dream."

Crawford said "a very somber portrait" emerges from the 2009 Equality Index, a statistical measurement of the living status of blacks compared with whites.

"Even as African Americans have risen to heights that their forbears and ancestors could only dream about and even though an African American holds the highest political executive office in this land," Crawford said, "African Americans are twice as likely as whites to be unemployed. They are three times more likely to live in poverty and more than six times as likely to be incarcerated."

Crawford said the U.S. Department of Labor last month reported an unemployment rate of 16.5 percent for blacks compared to 9.7 overall and 8.7 for whites.

"Additionally," said Crawford, "aggravating disparities between blacks and whites remain across such important benchmarks as health care, educational equality and wealth-building."

He said an undeniable conclusion to be drawn from the National Urban League report is that middle and working-class Americans are tied together, regardless of race or ethnicity.

"President Obama gets this point," Crawford said. "He has consistently held that he cannot adopt employment policies that are designed solely to help blacks. But he supports targeting help to regions most in need, which in turn, he says, would lift the African American community."

The Presidio-based 229th Military Intelligence Battalion hosted the program. Staff Sgt. Dimitria Baldwin of the 229th served as moderator of the proceedings and the battalion's commander, Lt. Col. David P. Jewell, gave attendees an official welcome.
The program had a patriotic and religious prelude with the singing of the national anthem by Spc. Michael Cain of the 229th and an invocation by Army Chaplain (Capt.) John M. Morgan.

Poetry recitals were part of the observance, with a performance by Pfc. Kristofer Lay of a poem by Pvt. 2 Jamal Malik, both of the 229th, and performances of poems of their own composition by Seaman Kristina Farmer of the Navy's Center for Information Dominance Detachment and Sgt. Zacarius Pierre of the 229th.

Also included was music by the four-member jazz combo "229th Freaqee Musiqee" made up of Staff Sgt. Rebecca Doucette on trumpet, Staff. Sgt. Haze Campbell on trumpet, Spc. Paul Tamashiro on trombone and John Bieniarz on tuba.