Black History Month: USASMA celebration takes journey back in history

Student reenactors from Sergeants Major Course, Class 64, stand in unison and sing, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the conclusion of their play, “A Voice from the Past for the Future,” during Black History Month observance at the USASMA Cooper Lecture Center Feb. 13.  Photo by David Crozier, USASMA.

Student reenactors from Sergeants Major Course, Class 64, stand in unison and sing, “Lift Every Voice and Sing” at the conclusion of their play, “A Voice from the Past for the Future,” during Black History Month observance at the USASMA Cooper Lecture Center Feb. 13.
Photo by David Crozier, USASMA.

By David Crozier, USASMA:

Attendees at this year’s U.S. Army Sergeants Major Academy, Black History Month celebration and observance were taken on a journey into history Feb. 13 as members of Class 64 put on a play that not only traced history, but also urged the audience to make a difference for the future.

“We welcome you to our play, a voice from the past for the future. During this play, you will hear the words of famous civil rights leaders who impacted not only our generation, their generation, but hundreds of generations yet to come,” said Master Sgt. Trinnette Robinson a Class 64 student.

Robinson continued, “Although all of these leaders are no longer here with us, their words will still ring true in our souls and can inspire us to move forward in our destiny for greatness. Sit back, relax and take a journey to the past as we show you how to face each day with courage, hope and determination.”

The first to tell her story was Isabella Baumfree, better known as Sojourner Truth. Truth talked about being born a slave and how she later became an abolitionist and women’s rights activist in the mid- 1800s. She was followed by Frederick Douglas, an African-American social reformer, orator, writer and statesman, who became a leader of the abolitionist movement, gaining note for his dazzling oratory and incisive antislavery writing.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles “Chuck” Taylor, salutes the attendees after giving his presentation of civil rights as seen by a Buffalo Soldier during the USASMA Black History Month celebration Feb. 13 at the academy’s Cooper Lecture Center. Taylor was the guest presenter for the observance. Photo by Master Sgt. Jody D. Volz.

Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles “Chuck” Taylor, salutes the attendees after giving his presentation of civil rights as seen by a Buffalo Soldier during the USASMA Black History Month celebration Feb. 13 at the academy’s Cooper Lecture Center. Taylor was the guest presenter for the observance. Photo by Master Sgt. Jody D. Volz.

Harriet Tubman, who was also born a slave, told her story of escaping from slavery and making 19 missions to rescue slaves using the Underground Railroad. She also informed the attendees of her service during the Civil War, working for the Union Army as a cook and a nurse, then later as an armed scout and spy. Tubman also noted that she was the first woman to lead an armed expedition in the war.

“Freedom is worth fighting for. You can’t achieve nothing if you don’t reach for it,” Tubman said. “Freedom was my dream. What is your dream?”

Tubman was followed by Ida B. Wells-Barnett who’s story began with her being removed from a Chesapeake, Ohio and Southwestern Railroad train for refusing to give up her seat and move to a smoking car. She later sued the railroad and won her lawsuit.

“Injustice performed by any man to another man is wrong,” she said. “What injustice are you accepting? I believe that today that the greatest injustice is performed to us by us ourselves. We don’t seize opportunities that are made available to us. Instead, we simply sit around complaining. That my friend – is injustice. Maximize what is available to you and change what you can.”

Wells was followed by George Washington Carver, a scientist, botanist, educator and inventor who told the crowd, “A man who never fails is a man who never tries.”

Carver was followed by the stories of Mary McLeod-Bethune, an American educator and civil rights leader best known for starting a school for African-American students in Daytona Beach, Fla., which eventually became Bethune-Cookman University and Rosa Parks with a reenactment of her refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Ala.

Both historical accounts were followed by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who told the crowd, “When you know your purpose in life, you are willing to weather the storms no matter what comes.”

“Don’t let their sacrifices be in vain. Don’t let their struggles be in vain,” Robinson said. “Stop accepting mediocrity, start the way for a better tomorrow, start your way for a better attitude. Start your way for a better education. Stop saying what you can’t do and start doing what you can do.”

Sergeants Major Course, Class 64 students, reenact the story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Ala., during the Feb. 13 Black History Month observance at the USASMA Cooper Lecture Center. Photo by Master Sgt. Jody D. Volz / Class 64.

Sergeants Major Course, Class 64 students, reenact the story of Rosa Parks and her refusal to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery, Ala., during the Feb. 13 Black History Month observance at the USASMA Cooper Lecture Center. Photo by Master Sgt. Jody D. Volz / Class 64.

Class 64 ended their play asking everyone to stand up and join them in singing, “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”

Upon completion of the play, attendees were treated to another history lesson, this time from retired Command Sgt. Maj. Charles “Chuck” Taylor, who, dressed in a Buffalo Soldier uniform, took the crowd on a journey of civil rights from as early as the 1600s. He outlined the history of African-American Soldiers through the Civil War, World Wars I and II and beyond, noting the efforts of the Tuskegee Airmen, the Red Ball Express and the 719th Tank Battalion under Gen. George S. Patton.

He ended his presentation imploring those present to keep up the fight for civil rights. “Soldiers, all of us, we are not there yet. The documents written in the 1700s have given us the avenue to take advantage of the steps that need to be taken to get those civil rights,” he said. “We need to demand our civil rights.”

Command Sgt. Maj. Gary W. Coleman Jr., director of the sergeants major course, thanked all for attending and participating, and ended the celebration with a quote from famed actor Morgan Freeman, who said, “Black history is American history.”

“I am proud to be an American and I am proud to be a part of this presentation today,” Coleman said.

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