MARINE CORPS LOGISTICS BASE ALBANY, Ga. --
Men, women and children of multiple ethnic backgrounds came together Feb. 12 at the base theater to celebrate Black History Month.
Reminiscent of a Sunday morning church service, the Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany Gospel Choir started the program with a “soul-stirring” selection that had the crowd clapping and some waving their hands.
Hosted by the Albany Chapter of Blacks in Government and Marine Corps Logistics Command, the theme was “African-Americans and the Civil War.”
Beginning her self-descriptive speech with a William Ernest Henley poem, guest speaker, Sharon Smoot, executive director for Logistics, Maintenance and Industrial Operations at Naval Sea Systems Command, Washington Navy Yard, D.C., said “out of the night that covers me, black as the pit from pole to pole, I thank whatever gods may be for my unconquerable soul...”
Smoot said every moment is an opportunity to teach, and asked those in attendance to stand up for what they believe in and to continue to dream.
“What history has taught us and the lessons we have learned from the Civil War through today is the need to ensure that enough is being done to allow future generations to understand what their ancestors went through for the sake of equality,” Smoot said. “Do the young people today understand what it really means to stand on the shoulders of giants? If not, it’s our job to teach them.”
Smoot said her goal was to encourage the workforce and others in attendance to embrace where blacks have been and where they have yet to go.
“There is a long history of extraordinary leaders who accomplished so much,” she said. “I can’t imagine what it is like to live through the things they faced and what they had to overcome. We have so much to be thankful for. Sometimes we hold on to things that have outlived themselves because of fear. It is human nature to fear change and it takes courage to stand up for what you believe in.”
Some of the special guests included Carla Hawkins, Miss Black Georgia 2010, who sang “Be the change you wish to see,” which she penned herself, and students from International Studies Elementary
Charter School who gave brief speeches regarding “Who am I?” that included notable African-Americans.
Dr. Lee Formwalt, executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, said that although black history has been integrated into new history books in school, there are some who are uneducated who have not seen those books or know the history.
“Ideally, we will arrive at the day in which the accomplishments of black history will be fully recognized,” he said.
For Col. Terry V. Williams, commanding officer, MCLB Albany, Black History Month has special significance for him. Of the 24 African-American colonels in the Marine Corps, three are stationed here, including Williams.
“It’s one of the many celebrated cultures within the Marine Corps,” he said. “It is also important that we do not forget our history. For me, as a black man and an officer in the Marine Corps, it takes on special meaning. Every time I tell my history and my story, it surprises me because I never thought I would be in the military and I never thought I would be a colonel of Marines.”
Williams said his biggest take-away from the speaker was that it is important to dream and it is important for everyone to understand the various cultures that exist, not just in the Marine Corps, but society as a whole.
According to the Web site, http://www.biography.com/blackhistory/, Black History Month was originally Negro History Week, which was started by Carter G. Woodson in 1926. Fifty years later, Negro History Week was changed to a full month of celebration that is now known as Black History Month, in honor of Frederick Douglass, abolitionist and escaped slave, and Abraham Lincoln, 16th president of the United States.