NEW YORK (NNS) -- Naval officers stationed at bases across the nation increased awareness about the Navy when they attended the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) centennial celebration held at the New York Hilton July 11-16.
Former Tuskegee Airman Dr. Roscoe C. Brown, Jr. - who once commanded the 100th Fighter Squadron of the 332nd Fighter Group, served in the U.S. Army Air Corps in Europe during World War II and was one of the 15 pilots who shot down the advanced German Me-262 jet fighter - addressed the sea service's representatives during the historic event.
"The Navy has come a long way since Harry S. Truman signed the Executive Order in 1948, which desegregated the military," Brown said. "I am always pleased when I run into African American officers."
Brown, who earned the Congressional Gold Medal, took the opportunity to delve into history during his discussion.
"The NAACP made it possible for the Tuskegee Airmen to fly and break the barriers of segregation in the military. Therefore the 100th anniversary of the NAACP indicates both how far we've gone and how much further we have yet to go."
While at the conference, the naval officers served as judges in the 35th annual Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO), a major youth initiative of the NAACP. Dr. Ronald E. Smiley, director, Electronic Warfare/Combat Systems, director, Avionics Department presented two youth with awards in math and science.
The Navy also hosted a bio-medical workshop and participated in both a science and technology luncheon as well as a career fair. All of these events were geared toward reaching the more than 1,000 college-bound African American youth who attended the event.
The NAACP took time to recognize service members from each of the branches during the Armed Services and Veterans Affairs Awards night. Former NAACP President Kweisi Mfume joined Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Vice Adm. Mel Williams, Jr., and Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy Vice Adm. Jeffrey L. Fowler in presenting Navy Capt. Robert A. Sanders the Roy Wilkins Award. The NAACP established the Roy Wilkins award to recognize measures service members take to procure civil and human rights of African Americans serving in the military.
During the organization's centiennial celebration, President Barack Obama urged the NAACP to "reclaim the strength" to fight educational and economic equality, "the new barriers of our time."
Andrew Young - a former congressman, mayor of Atlanta, United Nations ambassador and civil rights leader - emphasized his commitment to the armed services.
"I made two appointments to the U.S. Naval Academy when I was in Congress," Young said. "One became a general and the other went on to become the Navy's first African American four-star admiral, J. Paul Reason."
The NAACP is the nation's oldest and most influential civil rights organization and is responsible for a number of successful initiatives in the international struggle for justice and equality.
Attendance at events such at the NAACP centennial celebration helps increase awareness among youth of the opportunities available to them in the Navy, particularly for those pursuing an education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
For more news from Chief of Naval Personnel - Diversity Directorate, visit www.navy.mil/local/cnp-diversity/.