MECHANICSBURG, Penn. (NNS) -- Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) conducted an African American Heritage Month program for its military and civilian personnel Feb. 15 in Mechanicsburg, Penn.
Highlighting the event was guest speaker Professor F. Keith Bingham, university archivist at Cheyney University, Penn., and the Cheyney University Choir, directed by Marques L.A. Garrett. Cheyney University, founded in 1837, is the oldest African-American school of higher education in the United States.
Karen Fenstermacher, deputy commander for Corporate Operations, began the program by emphasizing the importance of recognizing, and celebrating, the "vast contributions of African Americans to our nation's history and identity."
"From resolute Revolutionary War soldiers fighting for liberty to the hardworking students of today reaching for horizons their ancestors could only have imagined, African Americans have strengthened our nation by leading reforms, overcoming obstacles and breaking down barriers," Fenstermacher said.
She added that knowledge is our nation's strongest tool against injustice, and it is everyone's responsibility to "empower every child in American with a world-class education from cradle to career," she said. "We must continue to build on our nation's foundation of freedom, and ensure equal opportunity, economic security, and civil rights for all Americans."
Bingham centered his comments on the efforts and contributions that Carter Godwin Woodson provided as an African-American historian, author and teacher, and the founder of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History.
"What Carter G. Woodson first envisioned in 1926 as a "Negro History Week" has expanded in significance as people of all races have come to realize, as Woodson did, that 'ethnic' prejudice is the result of ignorance," Bingham explained. "As Woodson once said, we should emphasize not Negro history, but the Negro in history. What we need is not a history of selected races or nations, but the history of a world void of national bias, race hate and religious prejudice."
He explained that Woodson – born Dec. 19, 1875 – first worked as a coal miner when he was a teenager to help support his family when they first moved to West Virginia. He did not enter high school until he was 20, but completed the four-year course in one and half years. That, however, was but the beginning of Woodson's quest for knowledge and understanding of African-American heritage. He completed a doctorate program in history at Harvard University, taught at several schools, colleges and universities both in the United States and in the Philippines, and later accepted an appointment to the History facility at Howard University.
Woodson never married, but as Bingham explained, he would say that he was wedded to his work.
"In 1915, Woodson founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History in Chicago. The association's mission remains to promote historical research and writing, to publish historical manuscripts and material related to African American people, and to promote harmony among the races by interpreting one to the other," he said.
After Bingham's comments, the Cheyney University Choir performed several songs.
Fenstermacher presented a plaque to Bingham and Garrett for their presentations, and in closing, she stressed the importance of always moving forward.
"In honor of their courage and contributions, let us resolve to carry forward together the promise of America for our children," she said.
NAVSUP's primary mission is to provide U.S. naval forces with quality supplies and services. With headquarters in Mechanicsburg, Penn., and employing a diverse, worldwide workforce of more than 22,500 military and civilian personnel, NAVSUP oversees logistics programs in the areas of supply operations, conventional ordnance, contracting, resale, fuel, transportation, and security assistance. In addition, NAVSUP is responsible for quality of life issues for our naval forces, including food service, postal services, Navy Exchanges, and movement of household goods.
For more news from Naval Supply Systems Command, visit www.navy.mil/local/navsup/.