News: FLEACT Yokosuka community celebrates African-American/Black History Heritage Month
Story by Paul Long
YOKOSUKA, Japan - Sailors and civilians stationed at various commands onboard Fleet Activities (FLEACT), Yokosuka celebrated African American/Black History Month at a ceremony and luncheon at the Commodore Matthew C. Perry General Mess “Jewel of the East,” Feb. 20.
Naval Administrative message (NAVADMIN) 009/13 declared February as African- American/Black History Month for the Department of Defense.
The theme for this year’s observance is “At the crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”
During the ceremony, Master-at-Arms First Class Carlos Marquez, who is assigned to FLEACT, Yokosuka Security’s Harbor Patrol Unit, served as the master of ceremonies.
Commander FLEACT, Yokosuka Capt. David Owen gave the opening remarks.
Owen told the story of watching his favorite baseball team, the Cincinnati Reds take on the Oakland Athletics in the 1972 World Series.
Coincidentally, 1972 was the 25th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Owen said he also watched Robinson’s opening game remarks during that series.
According to Owen, Robinson said he hoped to live long enough to see a black man manage a major league baseball team.
Robinson died two weeks after making those comments. Frank Robinson became first black manager in baseball when he was hired as the Cleveland Indians' skipper for the 1975 season.
“Today, no one thinks twice about an African-American managing a baseball team, “said Owen. “It’s not the color of his skin who’s managing the baseball team; it’s the man. It’s his ability, it’s his capabilities.
“That’s the day I look forward to. When everything becomes about the person, not the first African-American, not the first female, not the first Hispanic. That’s where we got to go to next and we don’t get there if we forget about what we went through to get where we are now.”
Cmdr. Chad Spencer, chief staff officer for FLEACT Yokosuka, was the keynote speaker. Spencer spoke about the Emancipation Proclamation and the first scheduled African-American march on Washington in 1941 and the more famous one in 1963.
“Racial equality is not solely a black and white issue,” Spencer said. “Today, 50 years after the second march on Washington, we have countless leaders of all races through every branch of the military and our national and local governments.”
Sailors from various commands read the history of Black History Month, chronicled the achievements of African Americans in U.S. and in military and civilian Naval History, and sang inspirational songs. Seven sailors of various ethnic backgrounds concluded the ceremony by reading equal parts of Dr. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream Speech”.