By Ms. Brittany Carlson (IMCOM)February 22, 2010
STUTTGART, Germany -- "United we stand, divided we fall."
That centuries-old sentiment was especially felt in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart this month, as different commands came together to commemorate the achievements of African-Americans whose struggles utimately helped unify the nation.
In a series of activities hosted by U.S. Africa Command, U.S. European Command, Marine Forces, Europe, and Department of Defense Dependent Schools in Stuttgart, the garrison celebrated African-American/Black History Month.
The variety of events hosts fit with the garrison's theme for the month: "Strengthening Our Community Through Unity."
"We were thinking about Black History Month and the civil rights era and how communities would come together, as far as marches and other things," said Sgt. 1st Class Chrysti Lassiter-Jones, garrison equal opportunity advisor. "It wasn't just black persons, but a collaborative effort.
"We [in the garrison] came together, even though we're from different units, and that's what makes this community so great."
The AFRICOM-sponsored kick-off for the month Feb. 5 included special music, a soul-food cook-off and remarks from Gen. William E. "Kip" Ward, AFRICOM commander.
Ward applauded the Stuttgart military community for commemorating the achievements of African Americans.
"Not all Americans, having contributed to the greatness of this nation, have been recognized by the nation," said Ward, the fifth African-American to be promoted to the rank of four-star general in U.S. Army history. "To the degree that we have a greater awareness, understanding and regard for these contributors, we are all better served."
Ward added that, "It is indeed the richness of diversity that causes our nation to be great. I stand [before you] a plain old American guy, recognizing that I have been able to achieve things that are really special."
Community members then listened as April Adkins, civilian, and Army Staff Sgt. Tedria Martin sang gospel-style hymns before sampling the cook-off entrants' prized soul-food recipes for collard greens, sweet potato pie and others.
"I got [the recipe] from my mom, who got it from her mom," said Velma Nwafor, a military spouse who entered her banana pudding in the cook-off. "[People] seem to just love it. They are scraping the bowl."
The Marines sponsored a second soul food cook-off Feb. 16.
AFRICOM and EUCOM also hosted free screenings of two movies: "The Wiz" and "The Princess and the Frog."
"We chose [The Princess and theFrog] because it's the first [Disney] film where the leading character is an African-American princess," said Sgt. 1st Class Ramon Garcia, equal opportunity leader for EUCOM J3.
Patch High School students expressed their views on how the Civil Rights movement helped strengthen and unify their community in an essay contest.They were also visited by Ron Archer, international business strategist, who spoke on Black History Month.
EUCOM Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. John W. Morgan spoke to younger students at Patch Elementary School.
Lassiter-Jones and Col. Cheryl Harris, AFRICOM assistant chief of staff, also read books on African-American culture to community children.
To cap off the month, USAG Stuttgart residents are scheduled to participate in a symbolic Unity Walk Feb. 26 at all garrison installations, along with community members in Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, and Molesworth, England. All participants will begin walking at 4:30 p.m. Central European Time.
Like all equal opportunity observances, this month's events were provided to help garrison residents celebrate. However, the many hosts brought the community together.
"Talk about diversity," Lassiter-Jones said. "When we're united with our collaborative units, we're always stronger."