RALEIGH, N.C. - The North Carolina National Guard lived up to its commander in chief’s, Gov. Pat McCrory’s, Black History Month Proclamation.
The decree calls upon the citizens of North Carolina to honor "a relentless pursuit of freedom, equality and patriotism" that has enriched the African-American community, the state of North Carolina and the nation at large.
The USO of North Carolina was up to this call. The organization hosted a Black History Month Celebration for the soldiers, airmen and civilian staff at the NCNG Joint Force Headquarters here, Feb. 27.
Eugene Weeks, the mayor pro-tem of Raleigh, was the host for the USO-sponsored event. He introduced fellow African-American leaders motivational speaker retired Army Lt. Col. Terrance A. Garrick and Miss North Carolina USA 2013, Ashley Mills.
"It is an honor and privilege to show gratitude to our military,” said Mills after she was introduced by Mayor Pro-Tem Weeks.
Once Miss North Carolina finished, Terrance Garrick was introduced. Garrick's speech was a blend of rhyme, rhythm, humor and passion - all with patriotism and purpose.
"Know your history, know your worth," said Garrick.
Garrick talked about how he was educated by a retired military veteran, 1st Sgt. King, who took him under his wing and helped him to realize his potential. He spoke about the importance of associating with the right kind of people in an amusing analogy about the difference between pigeons and eagles.
“I stayed in trouble all the time because I was hangin’ with pigeons,” said Garrick.
“An eagle,” said Garrick, “only deals with things that will make it bigger, stronger and make it better.”
The point being, pigeons only think of themselves. Eagles encourage each other and have enough strength that they can handle themselves on their own.
Garrick also highlighted the actions African-Americans who had the personal courage and fortitude to persevere.
During his talk, he highlighted the actions of Robert Smalls, a slave in the Civil War South, who was able to successfully escape and later worked for and fought with the Union Navy.
Smalls, in the early days of the Civil War, commandeered a small Confederate Navy steam ship. After taking on several slaves and their families, he navigated through the darkened channels of Charleston Harbor under the guns of five forts. When he reached the Union Navy blockading off shore his first act as a free man was hoisting the colors of the United States over what was now his vessel.
He later went on to start the first public school and founded the Republican Party in South Carolina. Robert Smalls' story of escaping slavery during the Civil War and helping others represented patriotism and the goal of freedom.
Garrick’s message was simple and inspiring. Realize your potential, set high goals and surround yourself with positive people who will keep you focused and challenge you every day.
“There is a reason the windshield in your car is bigger than the rear-view mirror,” said Garrick. “Because where you’re going is always bigger than where you’ve been.”
Garrick reflected on these accomplishments and firsts that African-Americans have been responsible for throughout his talk. He talked about how African-American history inspired him, a young man growing up in South Carolina, who struggled with dyslexia and overcame his shortcomings to achieve success.
Once Garrick completed his speech, audience members received signed autographs and posed for photos with Miss North Carolina USA between fits of giggles and many smiles shared with the audience.
Overall, it was a fun and inspiring day for everyone and a great reflection on how far we have all come together as a nation.