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Offutt observes African American History Month
OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Team Offutt will celebrate African American History Month with its annual Gospel Extravaganza Feb. 28 at 6 p.m. at the Capehart Chapel. The free event, open to all members of the Offutt community, will feature choirs, dance teams and worship. U.S. Air Force graphic by Josh Plueger
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Offutt observes African American History Month

Posted 2/1/2010   Updated 2/2/2010 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. James M. Hodgman
55th Wing Public Affairs

2/1/2010 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- At one time many were bound by shackles and chains and forced into slavery. Over time others fought for civil rights, to serve their country's military and for equal citizenship. This month, Team Offutt recognizes the many accomplishments of blacks throughout history.

African American History Month is observed every February and is one of five congressionally mandated observances. The theme for 2010, "The History of Black Economic Empowerment," recognizes blacks and the National Urban League, a civil rights organization, for their work and success during economically challenging times.

Members of the Offutt community are invited to attend the base's premiere AAHM event, the Gospel Extravaganza, Feb. 28 at 6 p.m., at the Capehart Chapel. The free event is open to everyone in the Offutt community and will feature choirs, dance teams and worship.

Believing in God, or a higher power, is something that has been a part of black life for generations, said Protestant Chaplain (Capt.) Travis M. Allen.

"From the advent of the 'invisible institution' and 'hush harbors,' where enslaved Africans worshipped in secret, to the creation of 'plantation missions,' where the same worshipped under close scrutiny, God was more than a help to (them) and their descendants who knew not the bonds of slavery," Chaplain Allen said.

This belief in a higher power will be celebrated at the Gospel Extravaganza, Chaplain Allen said.

"The extravaganza will be a smorgasbord of the Christian experience," he said. "Baptist, Methodist, Church of God in Christ, Apostolic and non-denominational churches will join the Offutt Protestant Chapel community in worship to celebrate African American History Month."

Master Sgt. Marcella S. Briggs, a surgical services flight chief with the 55th Medical Operations Squadron, said she and her family will attend the extravaganza.

"It's important to recognize the struggles of the African-Americans who came before me, who made it possible for me to vote and serve in the military," Sergeant Briggs said. "They opened a lot of doors for me and other African-Americans to have the freedom to do the things we want."

Thanks to those who served before her, Sergeant Briggs said, a world of opportunities are now available to all blacks, especially those who want to serve in the military.

"The African-Americans who came before us overcame adversity, advanced in rank and proved they could serve their country well," Sergeant Briggs said. "This enabled us to have the same opportunities as everyone else and be positive role models for our children."

Sergeant Briggs also said the theme of black empowerment is a rightful choice for this year's observance.

"Black empowerment is a great theme because more black people today own their own businesses and they're using what they have to establish themselves in the global market place," she said.

Tech. Sgt. Jamie L. McCarrison, non-commissioned officer in charge of the 55th Wing Equal Opportunity Office, and an advisor to the multicultural heritage committee, said African American History Month is about honoring blacks, as well as remembering their past, so America continues moving forward.

"In order to be best prepared for the future, we must have an understanding of where we came from and African American History Month (gives) us the opportunity to honor the accomplishments made by the African-American community," she said.

Blacks have played a significant part in the evolution of the U.S. military, she continued.

"Groups such as the Tuskegee Airmen and the members of the USS Mason are examples of how the African-American community has made positive influences on our nation during war," she said.

African American History Month began in 1925, when Carter G. Woodson, a historian, believed that truth couldn't be denied and that reason would prevail over prejudice. He hoped to raise awareness of black contributions to civilization, and this hope was realized when he, and the organization he founded, the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, introduced Negro History Week.

The event was first celebrated during a week in February 1926, which encompassed the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Support for the observance continued to grow over the years, and according to the AAHM Web site, by the time Mr. Woodson died in 1950; Negro History Week was a central part of black life.

In 1976, the observance was expanded to a month-long celebration. Then President Gerald R. Ford urged Americans to, "seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history."

Since then, each American president has issued AAHM proclamations and the association Mr. Woodson founded, now known as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, promotes the study of black history all year.

For those planning to attend the Gospel Extravaganza, parking is available in the Capehart Chapel parking lot and overflow parking is available at the Ehrling Bergquist Clinic.

For more information about the event, call Offutt's EO office at 294-7963.

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