FORT IRWIN, Calif. — The history of African Americans in this country is long and very complex. Originally brought to America as slaves in 1619, 382 years later a black man was elected president of the United States in 2008.
The journey from slave to president was long and hard fought, generation after generation was forced to prove itself, but with each step African Americans took in the path to success, they left footprints for others to follow.
The 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment and the National Training Center conducted an African American Observance, Feb. 1, 2017, at the Sandy Basin Community Center here. The observance paid tribute to those who have led the African American people out of an era of oppression, to equality in every facet of life.
Booker T. Washington once famously said, “Success always leaves footprints.”
It was the footprints of Benjamin Banneker, Nat Turner, and Harriet Tubman that helped lead African Americans out of slavery. It was people like Booker T. Washington, George Washington Carver, and Mary Mcleod Bethune who urged their people to educate themselves.
“The reality of this country at one point was, people of African descent, were legally denied the right to read, or even possess the tools to educate themselves. Often times, the punishment would be death,” said Dawn Lewis, the Image and Grammy award winning singer and actress, the keynote speaker for the African American Observance. “Why would they make something like that illegal? It was because those that understood, knew that education is power.”
With the end of the Civil War in 1865, life did not become any easier for the African Americans. That did not stop Madame C.J. Walker, from becoming the first American female to earn a million dollars, or Jack Johnson, who was a Jim Crow era boxer from becoming the first African American world heavyweight boxing champion.
The fight for education would plague African American communities throughout the United States. In the deeply segregated South, the Civil Rights Movement was led by the footprints of Martin Luther King Jr., Ruby Brown, and the Little Rock Nine, leading to leaps and bounds for Black communities that truly struck a chord within the country.
We as a collective society need to be willing to reach back to the lessons of our forefathers, so that we can teach our young, who we are and where we came from, said Lewis, a star of the 90’s sitcom, A Different World.
The Civil Rights Movement permanently changed America, but with each new day comes new changes. With the end of segregation and the Jim Crow era, it was the impact of Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, and Barack Obama that changed the perception of world.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek,” said Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States. “If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress.”