TRIPLER ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Hawaii -- "As courageous visionaries who led the fight to end slavery and tenacious activists who fought to expand basic civil rights to all Americans, African American woman have long served as champions of social and political change," wrote President Barack Obama in the National African American History Month 2012 proclamation.

Since 1967, African Americans are honored and their great accomplishments and contributions to America's great history are recognized during the month of February.

This year Tripler Army Medical Center celebrated "Black Women in American Culture and History," which is the theme for this year's observance, Feb. 16, in Kyser Auditorium.

TAMC invited Ervin Hendricks, Jr., who is a U.S. Army veteran and very active in numerous civil and social programs, to be guest speaker for the event.

Hendricks said he was somewhat hesitant about whether he was a good choice to articulate the importance of black women's history and culture, but after giving it thought, he felt he had knowledge to share.

"Being the son of a loving black woman, whom I deeply loved, admired, and honored, I felt it an honor and privilege to discuss their unique history," said Hendricks.

Hendricks highlighted the lives of a few important black women and their contributions to American history, starting with Isabella, an indentured servant, in August 1619, whom was said to be the first black woman to arrive to Jamestown. He ended his speech with Mary McLeod Bethune, an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African American students in Daytona Beach, Fla.

"Those black women would not have wanted me to articulate their heart aches," Hendricks said. "They were about life. They were about liberty. They were about love for the human race."
"The women I have spoken of are of the past," Hendricks added. "Women of today are making a proud history for the future."

David Harris, group practice manager, Department of Medicine, TAMC, sang the Black National Anthem, "Lift Every Voice and Sing" as part of the observance.

Brig. Gen. Keith Gallagher, commanding general, Pacific Regional Medical Command and TAMC, gave the closing remarks for the observation and thanked Hendricks for volunteering his time to the TAMC staff.

"We come here because we want to learn ... and we want understand and to develop a respect for one another," Gallagher said. "Our Army and country let us do this. We as an Army and as a nation are rich because of that."