By Sgt. Mark MirandaFebruary 27, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-McCHORD, Wash. -- Hundreds of service members gathered at McChord Field Club Feb. 21 for this year's African-American Black History Month Observance.
Hosted by the 201st Battlefield Surveillance Brigade, the theme of this year's event was "Black Women in American Culture and History."
"It is a celebration of the changes in our society that have been prompted by the courageous African-American women in history, and a celebration of women who are here today. In our future, they will continue to break down barriers and shape the world around us," said Col. Paul Norwood, commander of the 201st BfSB.
Event emcee Maj. Kathleen Moffatt began the ceremony by reading the proclamation letter from President Barack Obama, commemorating February 2012 as National African-American History Month.
The Grace Gospel Choir, based out of JBLM's North Fort Lewis Chapel, performed a selection of spiritual songs inspired by the program theme.
A rolling presentation with captioned pictures of iconic African-American women played on screens around the room throughout the observance. From Harriet Tubman, leader of the Underground Railroad, and Rosa Parks, icon of the civil rights movement, it was a tribute to notable black women who stood against oppression.
For many Soldiers in attendance, the stories and rich histories were inspiring.
"Coming to this helps me to understand where we came from, and where we're going. I feel a sense of pride knowing what these historical figures were able to accomplish, despite adversity. So in the course of my own life I would try not to let them down, as they didn't let me down," said Pfc. Gilbert Aurelus, an information systems operator/analyst from Orlando, Fla.
This year's guest speaker was Col. Valerie Hasberry, deputy joint base commander and commander of the 627th Air Base Group, JBLM, Wash.
In her speech, Hasberry gave a brief overview through 200 years of black women who made a difference.
"The history of these women is the history of the United States and how their ideals dreams and accomplishments are woven into the fabric that covers this nation in greatness. Across the centuries, black women have found a way to influence and impact our culture and society in a variety of fields and endeavors," said Hasberry.
From politics, legal and judicial systems, business, literature, science and medicine, aviation and the military, Hasberry spoke of influential women who set the stage for change through their accomplishments.
"I enjoy the historical lessons that go with these observances, and I feel like I learn something new every time. It's inspiring to hear the different stories, and some of them touch me on a personal level," said Sgt. 1st Class Minnie Miller, a combat medic from Enterprise, Ala., assigned to Headquarters, Headquarters Company, 201st BfSB.
"The Army has been good to my family. My father retired from the Army and it's certainly a different (organization) today. The fact that there are strong black women role models that have paved the way and gone to accomplish so much in the Army -- it lets me know that I can take that next step forward," said Miller.
According to website africanamericanhistorymonth.gov, Black History Month has its origins in 1915 when Dr. Carter G. Woodson, an African-American historian, travelled to Chicago for the celebration of the 50th anniversary of emancipation there. In 1926, Woodson created Negro History Week, which by the early 1970s had grown into Black History Month.