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Celebrating diversity: Post honors African-American heritage

Deborah and Michaiah Smoots, military family members, perform a song during the Black History Month kickoff celebration at the post exchange Jan. 29. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Deborah and Michaiah Smoots, military family members, perform a song during the Black History Month kickoff celebration at the post exchange Jan. 29. (Photo by Nathan Pfau)

Published: February 4, 2016

FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 4, 2016) -- Celebrating the contributions of African Americans throughout history is a familiar sight throughout the month of February, and Fort Rucker is no exception when it comes to honoring that heritage.

The installation kicked off its Black History Month celebration with a ceremony at the post exchange Jan. 29 that featured lessons in history, musical performances and a crowd favorite – free food.

“Why are we here?” asked Sgt. Sgt. 1st Class Michael Lukeman, 1st Aviation Brigade equal opportunity adviser, during the kickoff event. “The biggest thing is to make sure that people know how important the contributions from the African-American community are to our history as Americans.”

This year’s theme is “Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African-American Memories” and focuses on the areas and locations with important historic significance as it relates to African-American History all over the U.S.

“The history of African Americans unfolds across the canvas of America,” said Lukeman. “From port cities where Africans disembarked from slave ships, to the battlefields where their descendants fought for freedom, the imprint of Americans of African descent is deeply embedded into the narrative of the American past. One cannot tell the story of America without reflecting on the places where African Americans made history.”

Throughout the event, people were able to hear about contributions that African Americans have made, not only to America, but to humanity throughout history.

“We’ve done a lot – we’ve influenced society since the beginning of (human existence),” said Precious Freeman, George Washington Carver Museum executive director, who led a charge for people to “shift the narrative” about how African Americans have been viewed throughout history.

“Turn your focus to things that can grow and things that can show love to our young people,” she said. “You can inspire them by talking to them about their background and letting them know what we have done as African Americans, and when children know that, you have all races who have respect for one another.

“When all children understand that everyone has something to contribute, it makes a difference and changes everything. That’s what we try to focus on,” she continued. “A lot of African Americans who made a difference and are recognized this time of year were able to overcome obstacles that were overwhelming, and that’s something that anyone can relate to and can be inspired by.”

For many, like Sara Colton, military spouse, observances like Black History Month are about not only celebrating the contributions of African Americans, but also celebrating the diversity in the U.S.

“I feel like it’s important to be able to look back and see everything that (African Americans) have given to our society,” she said. “The start of our country comes from a pretty dark place, and to be able to look past that and see the good that is able to come from that darkness I think is an amazing thing.

“(Freeman) had a point when talking about people who are able to overcome overwhelming odds, and I think that’s an incredible lesson that anyone can take away from learning about African-American history,” said Colton. “When you think about it, it’s all really incredible.”

Throughout the month, other events will be held to commemorate the contributions of African Americans throughout history, as well.

The Black History 5k and 1-mile fun run will be held Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. Participants can register for the race from now up until the day of the race, and the cost to register is $12 with no shirt and $25 with a shirt. Teams of up to eight can also register for $160, which includes shirts while supplies last.

First-, second- and third-place medals will be awarded in 14 categories for both males and females, as well as trophies awarded to the fastest team. Young children can participate in the 1-mile fun run following the race.

Feb. 12, the Center Library will host book readings, and arts and crafts at 10 a.m. for children up to 6 years old. For more information, call the library at 255-3885.

Feb. 25, The Landing will host the African-American Heritage/Black History Month Luncheon where a guest speaker will talk on the significance of African-American History, and Feb. 28 a free showing of the movie “Selma” will be shown at the post theater to round out the month.

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