News: Iron Brigade celebrated African-American history
Story by Sgt. Vincent Byrd
FORT BLISS, Texas - The '60s soul singer Sam Cooke said it best, “it’s been a long, long time coming but a change is going to come.”
Soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division hosted this year's African-American/Black History Month Observance Feb. 18 at the Centennial Banquet and Conference Center.
Black History Month began as “Negro History Week,” which was created in 1926 by Carter G. Woodson, a noted African-American historian, scholar, educator, and publisher. It became a monthlong celebration in 1976. The month of February was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln.
Dr. Maceo Dailey, associate professor of history and director of African-American studies at University of Texas, El Paso, said “The American community backed away from the import of the 14th and 15th Amendments. The 13th Amendment freed the slaves, the 14th Amendment gave them citizenship and the 15th Amendment gave African-American men the right to vote.”
In 1883, The United States Supreme Court ruled that the Civil Rights act of 1875, forbidding discrimination in hotels, trains, and other public spaces, was unconstitutional and not authorized by the 13th or 14th Amendments of the Constitution. The decision outraged the black community and many whites as well, for they felt it opened the door to legalized segregation. African-Americans would have to wait until 1964 before Congress would again pass a civil-rights law, this time constitutionally acceptable, that would forbid discrimination in public accommodations, employment, and unions.
Dailey said from, the well-known African-American civil rights activist and Harvard grad, W.E.B. Du Bois' novel "Soul of Black Folk," “The problem of the 20th century is the problem of the color line.”
And what this means is African-Americans have to focus on the dismantle of Jim Crow. Jim Crow laws or etiquette was a racial caste system that operated on whites believing that they are the dominant race. Jim Crow represented the legitimization of anti-black racism.
This year's guest speaker was Joanne Bland. She is one of the youngest civil right activists during the civil rights time, and she witnessed and actively participated in many of our nation’s most consequential civil rights battles. By the age of 11 years old, Bland has been arrested and documented 13 times, but she continues to educate individuals on the civil rights movement, and freedom and equality for all.
Nevertheless a mixture of significant events led this year’s ceremony. Events such as Bloody Sunday and Turn Around Tuesday, protest demonstrations, and a Rosa Parks monologue script and gospel choirs.
Capt. Capricia Renee Anderson, a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) officer with the 2nd BCT, 1st AD, acted in a monologue portraying Rosa Parks.
“Looking out upon the audience during my monologue, my eyes fall upon Ms. Bland and seeing the reaction of my words on her face turned my own fantasy of those words into a reality,” said Anderson.
“Mrs. Bland reaction solidified it, the struggle, the heart ache and the triumph. Everything she and many others endured in the past in order for me an African-American female officer in the United States Army today can have the freedoms of today,” Anderson added.
Bland said in her book, "Stories of Struggle," that her grandma joined an organization called the Dallas County Voters League. She began to attend meetings, and she said often her siblings and her will go with her grandmother to the meetings.
“This where color people talked about how colored should have the right to vote. They spoke of getting our freedom,” Bland said.
“I was confused; my teacher told me that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in 1865. What were they talking about? We were not salves anymore," Bland said as she talks about freedom in her book. “I clearly understood that the freedom that grandma and the others were fighting for was not the same as the freedom that Abraham Lincoln had given us. This freedom that Grandma was fighting for was the freedom that really made us free.”
The soldiers of 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division honored those that were there during the struggle for civil rights movement. Re-enacting events like Bloody Sunday, Turn Around Tuesday and the Lunch Counter Demonstrations quantified the path for African-Americans.