Snow and inclement weather did not prevent Fort Huachuca from recognizing African Americans or their place in U.S. History this month. As planned, the Black History Month celebration was held on Wednesday at the Thunder Mountain Activity Centre. The theme for this year’s observance was, “At the Crossroads of Freedom and Equality: The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington.”
There are a number of significant accomplishments in African-American history, from the Underground Railroad to the Buffalo Soldiers and their military role. During February, the nation recognizes the African-American pioneers who played important roles through their contributions in shaping this country.
“We are here to celebrate and acknowledge the vital and significant role that African-Americans have played within the development and progress of our country over the past 37 years,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Todd Holiday, command sergeant major, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence.
The Emancipation Proclamation and the March on Washington, D.C. were two important turning points in African-American history and led to them being singled out as the theme of this year’s event.
In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. As a war measure, the proclamation freed slaves in rebel states that were not under Union control. Although it did not free every slave at the time, it paved the way for the passage of the 13th Amendment, ending slavery in the United States.
One hundred years later in 1963, a turning point in the battle for civil rights occurred in Washington, D.C. Approximately a quarter of a million people, both black and white, marched from the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial as both a protest and show of togetherness between the two races. During this event, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
February, Black History Month, is a time when all Americans can learn about and understand the struggles and achievements that African-Americans faced from the beginning of slavery until now, said Staff Sgt. Daniel Willis, chaplain assistant, 11th Signal Brigade. People should not allow their children, or their children’s children to forget the importance of Black History month so that history is not repeated, he explained.
This year’s guest speaker was Pastor T.L. Simpson, senior pastor of the New Jerusalem Community Church. Simpson served for 22 years in the U.S. Army as a military intelligence specialist and now works as the executive officer to the deputy commanding general of Fort Huachuca as a Department of the Army civilian.
As Simpson looked back on the battles and conflicts for equality in the United States, he noted both the accomplishments of African-Americans and the fact that there is still more work to do.
“No one can argue that this nation achieved its greatness as a result of all ethnicities, nationalities, religions, and sexes,” said Simpson. “It has been a long road and yet an even longer journey to travel.”
Soldiers and other service members are taught to live up to standards [such as Army Values and the Soldier’s Creed] which keep them grounded and more capable of treating the rest of humanity with dignity and respect. This concept goes a long way during the observance of Black History Month, the speaker explained.
With that in mind, Col. Roger Sangvic, commander, U.S. Army Intelligence Center of Excellence and Fort Huachuca, made a similar observation during his closing remarks.
“Even though we have an African-American who is president of the United States, we have a long, long way to go [to achieving equality for everyone],” he said. “Not everyone thinks the same way we do here in this auditorium.”
People have overcome many obstacles and accomplished many goals throughout history to better the lives of not only African-Americans, but all U.S citizens. The success the nation has achieved thus far can only be sustained and improved on through teamwork, compassion, understanding and vigilance, the speakers explained.
“Let us move together as a people to help improve this road called ‘freedom and equality,’” said Simpson.