Joint Region Marianas, NAVFAC Marianas Observe African-American History Month

Joint Region Marianas (JRM) and Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Marianas personnel joined together to celebrate the observance of African-American History Month, Feb. 28.

Service members and Department of Defense civilians portrayed historical figures spanning a hundred years to recount their accomplishments, test the audience’s historical knowledge and remember their sacrifices.

“It’s a tremendous thing to celebrate that part of our history, our heritage and the tremendous accomplishments, and the struggles that occurred to get us where we are today,” said Rear Adm. Tilghman Payne, Commander, Joint Region Marianas. “We can embrace and look back at the history, the legacy that has been woven and the contributions of African-Americans throughout our government, our country and the military.” Payne said it has been a struggle of more than 200 years to realize and sculpt the defining words of the Founding Fathers: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The characterization of those words has only evolved into today’s meanings due to the many sacrifices of Americans who have struggled.

“The integration of the military was a tremendous move in creating and defining what that meant and we got to where we are today in celebrations like this,” he said. “I think these are so important to honor because the struggle is not over.” He said the strength of the armed services is derived from the diversity of the people that contribute to its mission.

“That’s what makes our military strong and our nation great,” he said. “The acceptance of that diversity and all those ideals is the sum of a whole that is greater that the individual parts.” Yeoman 1st Class (AW) Monica Batts, JRM administration, emulated Rosa Parks, who made history when she refused to give up her bus seat, and was subsequently arrested, to a white man in segregated Montgomery, Ala., Dec. 1, 1955.

“It felt inspiring to get into her character and realize what she had to go through to fight for racial equality,” she said. “We got a chance to break out of our normal military roles and go back in time to become one with the character that we were portraying today. It taught people more about Black history it was good to tell others.”

She said the historical personalities were selected from the time between Emancipation Proclamation, Jan 1, 1863, and the March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.

“As an African-American, I really enjoyed today,” said Operation Specialist 1st Class (SW) Ennis Hooker, assigned to JRM Operation’s department. “It was important for the command because it helped observe the accomplishments of the lesser known African-American contributors. People get a sense of history, a sense of their accomplishments.” Hooker personified Phillip Randolph, a civil right activist who led the March on Washington Movement which prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802 in 1941 which banned discrimination in the defense industries during World War II. After the war, Randolph was instrumental in influencing President Harry Truman to issue Executive Order 9981 in 1948, which ended segregation in the armed services. “I hoped to bring just a taste of who he was about and I gave a little taste. Hopefully people will go out and do more research on him,” he said.

Naval Today Staff, March 5, 2013