VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (NNS) -- Guest speaker and former New York Jets football player Cornell Gordon helped commemorate African American/Black History Month with Sailors and civilians assigned to Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) in Little Creek, Feb. 19.
Established in 1926, President Gerald R. Ford expanded the celebration in 1976 to include the entire month of February. This year throughout the Navy, commands are commemorating African American/Black History month through the theme "Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories."
NECC Multicultural Heritage Committee member Legalman 1st Class Jhaka Gartrell coordinated the event at NECC and discussed the line-up of guests to pay tribute to the accomplishments of African Americans.
"It was wonderful to incorporate the caliber of talent at this year's African American diversity event at NECC," said Gartrell. "Celebrating our rich diversity, education and experiences serves to provide strength to our Navy."
Gordon discussed his football career highlighting his experiences playing collegiate and professional football.
"I was the first black to make all conference in the state of North Carolina and I made it as a quarterback," said Gordon, who said he appreciated being a part of the diversity event at NECC to elaborate on his experiences breaking down barriers.
Arthur G. Affleck III, associate vice president for development at Hampton University, discussed the rich history, heritage and diversity over the past 200 years in the Hampton Roads region. Affleck also praised those who are serving and have served their country.
"I have great reverence for the military and those who have served," said Affleck, who added that our service members understand the nature of sacrifice.
One of the other events during the ceremony was a dance performance by Richard Corbin illustrating the struggle of African Americans. Corbin gave a solo dance performance to the popular Civil Rights-era song "A Change is Gonna Come" by musician Sam Cooke.
African-Americans continue to serve with distinction, now comprising almost 19 percent of our active-duty enlisted force, 8 percent of our active-duty officers and 5 percent of our flag officers.
For more news from Navy Expeditionary Combat Command, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/necc/.