By Catherine Ross (Fort Carson)February 22, 2013
FORT CARSON, Colo. -- Through history and music, the Fort Carson community celebrated African-American History Month at the Elkhorn Conference Center Tuesday at an observance hosted by the Fort Carson Equal Opportunity Program.
Following the invocation by the Rev. Kenneth Goss, emcee Sgt. Daryl Harris, 4th Special Troops Battalion, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, detailed the origins of African-American History Month.
"Americans have recognized African-American and black history annually since 1926," Harris said. This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington.
Harris then introduced guest speaker Jerri Marr, forest supervisor of the Pike and San Isabel National Forests, Cimarron and Comanche National Grasslands, U.S. Forest Service.
"My desire for all of us is to not just let this be another month," Marr said. "My desire is that we use it as a springboard, and we use it to propel ourselves to get up, to get out into our world with power, with vigor and with confidence, and most importantly, intentionality.
"We live in the greatest country in the world, but it didn't get that way by people just sitting back and waiting for change," Marr said. "Things happened because someone saw an opportunity, or maybe an injustice or a challenge … and fueled with passion, they made sure they made a difference."
Marr said the accomplishments of Martin Luther King Jr. paved the way for her as an African-American female forest supervisor.
"He opened a door for me. Yet sadly, I'm only one of two African-American females who are forest supervisors out of 200. So for me, it's not enough to just enjoy my position.
"I have a desire and a passion and a dedication to make sure that I keep the door open for others to come behind me and freely flow through it," Marr said. "Or better yet, maybe I should just rip the door off so that nobody has to worry about the door closing on them in the first place."
Marr captivated attendees with the accomplishments of African-Americans including Lewis Latimer, the only African-American researcher on Thomas Edison's team; Mark Dean, inventor of the computer monitor; Bessie Coleman, the first African-American female to receive a pilot's license; and George Washington Carver, who created 325 products from the peanut.
"I'm asking you to join me on a lifelong journey inspired by the lives of these great African-American men and women who came before us, to live lives of excellence and determination, commitment and resolve," Marr said. "Do not let a day of your lives go by without striving to ensure that your life is making a difference."
Musician Chuck Limbrick performed both the vocals and keyboard for "Amazing Grace" and "We Shall Overcome." He also provided insight into the link between music and emotion, and the transformative power this link can produce.
"When we're able to tap into our emotion and tap into our passion, when we use our pain, it enables us to do some pretty powerful things with our lives," he said.
Using "Amazing Grace" as an example, Limbrick explained how the traditional song was transformed into an expression of emotion by slaves forced to attend church.
"You put your emotion into that thing; there becomes a passion for it. So now it's no longer just a song with a beautiful melody. It's a song that says even though I'm not free, I'm looking forward to being free."
The history and messages imparted by Marr and Limbrick were not lost on those in attendance.
"The speaker and entertainment were inspiring and uplifting," said Sgt. 1st Class Liza Wells, equal opportunity adviser, 4th Inf. Div.
Listing several messages he found to be powerful in his closing remarks, Brig. Gen. Ryan Gonzalves, deputy commanding general for maneuver, 4th Inf. Div. and Fort Carson, stressed the importance of "making sure that your subordinates have just as much opportunity as you did."
Pvt. Michael Artis, 4th BCT, 4th Inf. Div., said Marr enlightened him on some people he had never heard of.
"It wasn't the same thing you always hear. It was new. That's why I liked it," he said.