By Brooks O. Hubbard IV
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District
LOS ANGELES--The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District Black Employment Special Emphasis Program committee held its Black History Month observance closing ceremony at the District's headquarters Feb. 23.
"The Crisis of Black Education,” is this year’s theme which focuses on the crucial role of education in the history of African Americans. The Association for the Study of African American Life and History is the source of the theme.
This year’s Black History Month poster highlights six African-Americans: Henry O. Flipper, Booker T. Washington, Mary McLeod Bethune, Linda Brown, Ruby Bridges, and James Meredith. Their courage and perseverance made indelible footprints by seeking to overcome barriers to Black education—that we benefit from to this day.
“One person I do want to talk about is Mr. Henry Flipper,” said Col. Kirk Gibbs, District commander of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District. Gibbs delivered the opening remarks for the ceremony. “He and I have something in common; we both graduated from the United States Military Academy. I am the first one from the town of Davisville, Missouri, to graduate from the United States Military Academy. His story is much more unique and important, but he was the first Black man appointed to the academy in 1873."
According to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute, which distributed this year’s BHM poster, Flipper overcame harassment, isolation, and insults to become West Point's first African-American graduate—and commissioned officer—in the regular U.S. Army.
“Enduring nine to 12 months of what I consider harassment, some isolation and some insults, I can’t even imagine what he went through to persevere for four years. It is absolutely amazing,” said Gibbs.
The ceremony featured a dramatic reading by Stephanie Hall, BEP program member, highlighting excerpts from the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
The event’s keynote speaker culminated the BHM observance.
“In regards to the crisis of Black education, my hypothesis is that the first thing we need do is to reflect on the origins of our education,” said Hon. Margery Melvin, the keynote speaker.
Melvin is a native of Los Angeles, Calif., and is currently an Administrative Law Judge in the Department of Social Services for the State of California where she conducts disability and Affordable Care Act hearings throughout the state. Melvin presented her personal experiences in the education system as a student and later as an educator.
“Carter G. Woodson, the father of Black history month gives us a great start,” said Melvin. “We need to understand that we come from a tradition of people who have excelled despite the fact that they were enslaved and impoverished.”
A “Soul food” luncheon followed the ceremony with a menu consisting of both fried and baked chicken, yams, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and an assortment of cakes and pie for dessert.
“The ceremony was a success,” said Arnecia Williams, a Value Engineer and BEP president. “I think it’s great when an event like this brings together employees of all races and cultures to learn something about Black history.”
You can find more information about this year’s theme and past observances at https://www.deomi.org/.