PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Staff members assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth (NMCP) gathered in the medical center's chapel Feb. 23 for a celebration in recognition of Black History Month.
Coordinated by NMCP's Diversity Committee, the ceremony honored the achievements of black Americans throughout history, along with this year's theme of "Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories."
"This celebration presents a tremendous opportunity to focus on and highlight the contributions of black Americans, including those past and present, who have served and continue to serve our country," said retired Lt. Cmdr. Leslie C. Scott, the event's guest speaker and NMCP staff member who served 30 years as an enlisted Sailor and a commissioned officer.
Scott spoke further about significant black Americans in naval history, referencing Samuel Gravely, the first African American to become a flag officer, and Wesley Brown, the first African-American graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
"We owe it to ourselves, and those who will follow in our footsteps, to learn about those black Americans who have made history, who served against the odds and laid the foundation for the diverse world we live in today," Scott said.
Capt. Darin Via, NMCP commanding officer, also spoke at the ceremony about the important presence of black Americans in the Navy.
"I've had a true and distinguished privilege of working with some of the best African American leaders, not only in Navy Medicine, but in the United States Navy," said Via. "But those are the easy things to talk about. What's difficult is turning on news that is filled with events rooted in race, ethnicity and religion, frankly everything the Diversity Committee stands against."
Currently, 18 percent of active-duty enlisted Sailors, 8 percent of active-duty officers, and 5 percent of flag officers are black, according to the Defense Manpower Data Center.
During the event, NMCP's Full Gospel Singers performed "Lift Every Voice and Sing," a song written in 1899 and was designated the Black National Anthem by the NAACP in 1919.
More information on the many milestones achieved by black Sailors and the history of the African-American Navy experience can be found at the Naval History and Heritage Command webpage at http://www.history.navy.mil/browse-by-topic/diversity/african-americans.html.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit http://www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.