PORTSMOUTH, Va. (NNS) -- Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s Diversity Committee hosted a Black History Month event that celebrated the achievements and music of African Americans, Feb. 27.
The 2019 National African American/Black History Month’s theme, according to the Defense Equal Opportunity Management Institute (DEOMI), is “Black Migrations,” with an emphasis on the movement of people of African descent to new places and new social realities from the 20th century until now.
“This is a very important celebration month for black history and for all us to get together, learn a little bit about each other's cultures and backgrounds, as well as celebrate black history together,” said Capt. Carolyn Rice, NMCP’s executive officer.
“When we decided to do this event and have it a celebration of African American history, our first thoughts were every culture has music as an integral part of their culture,” said Lt.Cmdr. Vernon Mackie, NMCP’s diversity officer. “Talk to anybody and they'll say, wherever they're from, there's certain music that reminds them of where they are from and who they are.”
“In African-American culture, it’s especially significant - dating back from slavery times - where slaves sang spirituals to help them cope with the oppression and tribulations,” Mackie added. “It's impossible to talk about the African American culture experience without talking about the church and how it was probably the first institution where slaves were permitted to congregate, and a lot of the musicians that we see, even now, they get their musical training first in the black church.”
Following his comments, several gospel songs were sang by members of the staff, to include: Angela Williams and “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” a song often referred to as the ‘Black National Anthem’ and originally performed by 500 school children in 1900 to celebrate Abraham Lincoln’s birthday; Krystal Hill and a ‘Queen of Gospel’ Mahalia Jackson’s song “Trouble of the World;” Janet James and “Center of My Joy;” and Amos Morgan singing "Just Another Day that the Lord Has Kept Me."
“The month-long celebration puts accomplishments and milestones into focus,” said Culinary Specialist 2nd Class Deshauna Jones, Diversity Committee member. “The historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926 earmarked the second week of February as Negro History Week because it covers the birthdays of Fredrick Douglas on February 14 and Abraham Lincoln on February 12.” During the rest of the ceremony, a slide-show featured a black history timeline of contributions and accomplishments of African Americans.
The ceremony ended with Hospital Corpsman 3rd Class Justice Gideon performing a dance from his native country of Ghana. Following the performance, Gideon spoke about his migration from Africa to the United States and, ultimately, the United States Navy, and he asked the audience, “How do you know who you are, if you don’t know where you’re from.”
As the U. S. Navy's oldest, continuously-operating military hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally acclaimed, state of the art medical center, including its ten branch health and TRICARE Prime clinics, serves the Hampton Roads area, and additionally offers premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsmen for future roles in healing and wellness.
For more news from Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, visit www.navy.mil/local/NMCP/.