News: Deployed soldiers learn about civil rights in America, observe Black History Month
Story by Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin
CAMP ARIFJAN, Kuwait – Deployed soldiers paused to reflect on the struggle for equality in the U.S. during a Black History Month observance at Camp Arifjan, Kuwait, Feb. 24. The special theme of the event was “Civil Rights in America.”
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibited discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. It also ended segregation of schools, the workplace and common areas shared by the public.
Sgt. Maj. Ruby Murray, the command sergeant major (FWD) for the 1st Support Command (Theater), and a guest speaker at the event, challenged the audience to remain vigilant in the pursuit of equal rights for all citizens.
“I am an African-American female sergeant major in the United States Army, and I feel that we have come a long way, but there is still more work to be done. There are many American citizens who are still being judged by their race, their religion, their gender and even their sexual orientation,” said Murray, a native of Exmore, Va. “We must continue to stand up [to inequality] and realize the blood we shed is the same color.”
Murray noted several important sacrifices and injustices from the Civil Rights era, including the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, which killed four young girls, and whose perpetrator was not charged with the crime of murder, but with handling dynamite without a permit, until 14 years later. Also, the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who were killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan after attempting to help African Americans register to vote.
She also shared the famous quote from Robert F. Kennedy, an important Civil Rights advocate, “There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why... I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”
In addition to Murray, Maj. Dale Coparanis, deputy chief of operations for U.S. Army Central, gave a lecture on the missed opportunity to abolish slavery in the 1780s. He cited the Great Awakening, an open-air religious revival movement, and the concept of natural law, which endows all creatures with certain rights, as driving initiatives toward ending slavery.
He explained that if a fight is “righteous,” it generally works out that it is better to meet it head on or expect to pay certain consequences. For example, the country had to endure the horrors of the Civil War because it’s leaders and citizens did not cease the opportunity to do away with slavery during the foundation of the nation.
The observance was capped off by an interpretative dance performance. First Lt. Tashima McMurray, 3rd Medical Command, mimed to music and speech selections from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and President Barrack Obama, her message about the Civil Rights journey.
“As a black female, I just felt it was important to be part of such a dynamic observance,” said McMurray, after her performance, which garnered a standing ovation. “It always feels good when the crowd receives the message. [To me] it doesn’t matter what color you are, where you come from, your religion or sexual orientation; we should all be treated equally.”
McMurray reiterated the importance of having observances within the military, as a teaching moment and future growth opportunity.
“I think that sometimes we, as a society, lack situational awareness and having an observance allows soldiers who are not aware of the history to become aware,” she said.
This work, Deployed soldiers learn about civil rights in America, observe Black History Month, by SGT Jennifer Spradlin, identified by DVIDS, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.