FORT BRAGG, N.C. - “As a nation, our diversity is our greatest strength,” said Chris V. Rey, mayor of Spring Lake, N.C., and guest speaker at this year’s Fort Bragg Black History Month observance, Feb. 11, at the Fort Bragg Club.<br /> <br /> This year’s celebration theme, “Civil Rights In America,” highlighted numerous contributions and progress by African Americans made since the creation of “Negro History Week” and later named as “Black History Month” in 1926 by historian and author, Dr. Carter G. Woodson.<br /> <br /> According to the Library of Congress website, Woodson chose the second week in February because it marks the birthdays of two men who greatly influenced the African American population — Fredrick Douglass and former President Abraham Lincoln. <br /> <br /> The 108th Air Defense Artillery Brigade and Team Bragg, comprising all of Fort Bragg’s unit equal opportunity advisers, hosted this year’s event.<br /> <br /> “Everything we wanted to do, we wanted to involve the community,” said Sgt. 1st Class John Singletary, equal opportunity adviser for 1st Theater Sustainment Command.<br /> <br /> The program included a skit, an oral interpretation by Fayetteville State University Touring Company, a performance by “Men of Distinction” from the Fayetteville State University Performing and Fine Arts Department and guest speaker, Rey.<br /> <br /> “We decided that we wanted to educate everybody,” Singletary said. “We didn’t want the same thing that every observance was used to. We didn’t want that feel … that’s why we dressed the way we dressed in Class A’s, came out the way we came out, and treated everybody as an equal. I think we accomplished the mission.”<br /> <br /> During his presentation, Rey referenced many important figures who were influential in African American history, including Booker T. Washington, Martin Luther King and President Barack Obama.<br /> <br /> Rey said his message was for everyone to not only recognize the contribution of African-Americans, but also understanding the story of all of America and being able to work together.<br /> <br /> “America is all races, one nation,” said Rey. “That’s what our strength is…there are a lot of countries that are not equal to America. We are great because of our diversity. This country belongs to all of us.”<br /> <br /> In this year’s National African American History Month Presidential Proclamation, President Obama stated:<br /> <br /> “Americans have long celebrated our Nation as a beacon of liberty and opportunity — home to patriots who threw off an empire, refuge to multitudes who fled oppression and despair. Yet we must also remember that while many came to our shores to pursue their own measure of freedom, hundreds of thousands arrived in chains. Through centuries of struggle and through the toil of generations, African Americans have claimed rights long denied. During National African American History Month, we honor the men and women at the heart of this journey — from engineers of the Underground Railroad to educators who answered a free people’s call for a free mind, from patriots who proved that valor knows no color, to demonstrators who gathered on the battlefields of justice and marched our Nation toward a brighter day.”<br /> <br /> For more information about African-American History, visit http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2014/0214_aahm/.