By Spc. L.B. Edgar,
7th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
CAMP LIBERTY, Iraq – Multi-National Division-Baghdad Soldiers gathered in the division chapel here to celebrate National African-American/Black History Month Feb. 15.
The event presented by the 1st Cavalry Division's Special Troops Battalion was entitled "African-American-Black History Month Observance" and featured a variety of entertaining and educational poems, skits, dancing, music and speeches.
The observance, themed "From Slavery to Freedom: 'The Story of Africans in the Americas'" was co-sponsored by the division's Equal Opportunity Office.
The national anthem began the evening's festivities and was followed by an invocation.
The Liberty Gospel Choir soulfully performed "Lift every voice and Sing" for the packed chapel of Soldiers in attendance. Some MND-B Soldiers acted out a comical, yet educational skit on African-American historical figures. One of the figures was African American poet Langston Hughes. Two poems by Hughes were recited, as well.
A group of Multi-National Corps - Iraq Soldiers from a traditionally African-American fraternity performed a spirited dance show that impressed the vocal crowd.
The keynote speaker then took the floor and summarized the story of African Americans in U.S. history and its armed forces.
"My perspective of this event is a synergy of Black History Month and an appreciation of African-American history in the military," said Lt. Col. Angela Odom, commander of 15th Personnel Services Battalion, 15th Sustainment Brigade, 13th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary).
Odom gave a historical account of how Africans were transported to America as an enslaved people in the 17th century.
"During the course of the slave trade, millions of Americans became involuntary immigrants to the New World," said the native of Jackson, Miss. "When Thomas Jefferson penned the words 'All men are created equal,' he could not have possibly envisioned how literally his own slaves and others would interpret his words."
Not only did Odom recount the story of African Americans in the U.S., but she also highlighted the contributions of African Americans to the U.S. Armed Forces.
African Americans contribution to the U.S. military culminated with the ascension of a young U.S. Military Academy graduate, Roscoe Robinson Jr. When Robinson retired in 1985, he was the first African-American four-star general in U.S. history, Odom said.
"It took individual people digging down to find the strength to say this isn't right and we will never accept defeat," Odom said.
Odom pointed out that every African American in attendance and serving in support of the Global War on Terrorism was also a part of African American history.
"The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience," Odom quoted Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to end her speech, "but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy."