News: Deployed service members celebrate Black History Month
Story by Sgt. Antony Lee
KANDAHAR AIR FIELD, Afghanistan – By the time the American Civil War ended in 1865, almost 200,000 African-American service members had fought for the Union. Nearly 40,000 died fighting for freedom.
Henry Ossian Flipper was the first African-American to graduate from the United States Military Academy. Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. was the first African-American general in the U.S. Army.
Deployed service members at Kandahar Air Field, Afghanistan, honored these past African-American service members as well as other notable African-Americans in U.S. history as they celebrated Black History Month during a luncheon at the KAF Fest Tent, Feb. 27, 2014.
Sgt. Maj. Carolyn Y. Donaldson of the 82nd Sustainment Brigade-U.S. Central Command Materiel Recovery Element gave a speech during the event – a powerful one that drew a standing ovation from the attendants. She noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the signing of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
“During the 1950s and 1960s, when racial tension and ignorance was paramount throughout our country, individuals like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Linda Brown, Thurgood Marshall, Edgar Nixon, and Medgar Evers became icons and leaders for racial equality,” she said. “These great men and women, plus countless more, led the civil rights movement in a peaceful manner, hand-in hand with black and white civilians, with no record of imminent danger.”
Three specialists with the South Carolina National Guard’s 1223rd Engineer Company who attended the luncheon shared their thoughts on the importance of Black History Month and what it meant to them personally.
Spc. Kenyeta Mazyck, a carpentry and masonry specialist, said that he sees Black History Month as “a time to remember fellow black Americans throughout history who helped make a change.”
Spc. Anthony Neal, also a carpentry and mason specialist, said, “Black History Month is important to me because it’s celebrating the heritage and achievements of African-American people and people of color who paved the way for me to be where I am today.”
Spc. Henry Chisolm said that Black History Month “means a lot” to him and added that the luncheon was an excellent way to observe black history.
A slide presentation during the event reminded attendants of African-Americans who made history and helped pave the way for the nation. Sojourner Truth, an abolitionist who also fought for women’s rights, and Jesse Owens, a legendary athlete who won four gold medals in the 1936 Summer Olympics, were among the African-American pioneers honored in the slide presentation presented by Sgt. Ron Mohone, a chaplain assistant with the 207th Regional Support Group. Mohone also led the attendants in singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” as the luncheon came to an end.
Capt. James Duwor, chaplain of 2nd Cavalry Regiment’s 4th Squadron, said that 40 years ago, an event like this would have been unlikely.
“I just think it’s wonderful that all people can come together to celebrate what has been accomplished and what remains to be accomplished,” he said.
The event – and Black History Month as a whole – was perhaps best summed up by Donaldson as she concluded her keynote speech.
“So today, I celebrate my heritage by paying homage to all African-Americans who helped shape, mold and influence our great society that we live in today. Their legacy is echoed by the sacrifices made and their fight for equality is simply justified by our very own Preamble to the Constitution: We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish justice, ensure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”