Sunday, February 25, 2007

Humor, history mix in Black History Month observance

Humor, history mix in Black History Month observance
By Spc. Chris McCann
2nd BCT, 10th Mtn. Div. (LI) Public Affairs

CAMP STRIKER, Iraq — Many performers show support for the troops by playing concerts in various theaters of operation. But in celebration of Black History Month, Camp Striker, Iraq was treated to a show by a band that has been around since 1964.
“The Temptations” – actually a group of Soldiers of Troop D, 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry) - sang and danced in honor of the day, and Soldiers of that troop also re-enacted Rosa Parks’ refusal to give up her bus seat and the assassination of Malcolm X.
The theme for the annual celebration this year was “From Slavery to Freedom: Africans in the Americas.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Spencer Gray, a native of Thomaston, Geo., and the command sergeant major for the 210th Brigade Support Battalion, 2nd BCT, was the keynote speaker at the celebration, and called to mind all those who have struggled for the rights of African Americans in the United States, including former presidents John F. Kennedy and Harry Truman.
“This celebration gives Soldiers the opportunity to celebrate African-American heritage month,” he said. “This means a lot – even with the struggles of African-Americans, there are people without whom we couldn’t have done it,” he said, speaking of the strides made in equality. “Lincoln, Kennedy – everybody had a part of this just cause.”
“The military has evolved greatly,” Gray said, speaking of the desegregation after the American Civil War and the fact that black Soldiers were often steered into support occupations, even until recently. “The mindset has changed now. In every branch, you have African Americans. …We’ve been serving side-by-side with our majority counterparts in the U.S. military.”
He cautioned that African-American Soldiers cannot rest on what has been done before.
“Whatever took place in the past, it was a bad deal,” he said. “But don’t make that negativity a focus. We’ve got to push on, and it’s okay to struggle.”
The re-enactment of Rosa Parks’ watershed refusal to surrender her bus seat to a white passenger was played out by Trp. D, 1-89 Soldiers using chairs as bus seats. As Pfc. Jackie Jones, a Spartanburg, S.C. native and a communications specialist with Trp. D, was hustled off the stage by Soldiers playing police officers, a narrator spoke about the year-long Montgomery Bus Boycott that came about because of her courage and the civil rights movement of the 60’s that found its precipitating factor in her refusal.
Soldiers also re-enacted the assassination of Malcolm X by members of the Nation of Islam, and spoke about his legacy of promoting equality between the races.
Spc. Jenna Maravillas, a native of Lake in the Hills, Ill., and an information systems specialist for 2nd BCT, sang Mariah Carey’s “A Hero Lives In You” as a tribute.
“I was asked to perform by Sgt 1st Class (Anthony) Drayton, the brigade’s equal opportunity representative,” said Maravillas. “I had wanted to sing it for the Fourth of July, so I brought it up to him and he said it would be nice as a dedication.”
Staff Sgt. Nikkii Courtland, a native of Columbia, S.C. and a brigade aviation element noncommissioned officer in charge, commented on the importance of the observance.
“Black History Month is important, because it recognizes the accomplishments of African-Americans that are not duly noted in the history books. But it shouldn’t just be a month – it should be every day.”
Staff Sgt. Angela McKinzie, a native of Lockhart, Texas, and the equal opportunity representative for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd BCT, said she enjoyed the performances.
“I particularly liked it because it showed that the Soldiers are knowledgeable about history because they came up with the skits themselves. I think it really illustrated to the other Soldiers that Rosa Parks isn’t just a name in a history book, she was a real person. And their struggles, while they might have been before most Soldiers’ times, were real and continue to have real repercussions for us today.”

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