Members of the Baumholder and Kaiserslautern communities gathered to commemorate Black History Month with an observance reflecting the Army’s strength and diversity at Smith Barracks, Feb. 18.
Sgt. 1st Class Carlos Retana, equal opportunity advisor, 10th Army Air, and Missile Command said that events like these are important so that everyone has a chance to experience different cultures.
“The more we know about each other, the better it is for us to understand each other,” Retana said. “It helps us gel as a community; come together and actually understand why we do certain things. Events such as these build the team stronger.”
Retana said he was excited there was strong community support this year to include students from Smith Elementary that performed a play called “The Cow Tail Switch” and two poem readings. Students from the Baumholder Middle School performed an original play highlighting the importance of overcoming struggles.
“I know the community benefited from all the educational portions of the observance,” Retana said. “I’m really glad I got to be a part of it.”
Guest speaker Emmerson Buie Jr., special agent in charge of the Chicago field office and Gulf War veteran, joked that the student’s performance was a hard act to follow.
“Growing up in inner-city Chicago, which was very segregated at the time, I’ve always felt that history was not taught correctly,” Buie said. “We have a very unified history and in our history, it’s not just about blacks, whites, Asians and Hispanics; it’s about Americans. Until we all start believing that, we can not get to that place we want to be which is a more inclusive society and more inclusive country.”
Buie, who has been appointed to several key and senior positions in the FBI since 1999, explained that his job is to protect the civil liberties of everyone, which he takes very seriously.
Buie also discussed the importance of the 14th and 15th amendments that paved the right for U.S. citizens to vote regardless of race, color or religion. He also talked about the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” Buie read. “When I read that passage, which is from the Declaration of Independence, I think of one thing. I think of Freedom.”
Buie said he thinks of freedom as a great outward expression or as a choice or an opinion.
“A choice or an opinion is no more than a vote. That’s what this year’s Black History Month’s topic is. It’s the vote.”
Buie said that there are three things that you need to take if you go to war.
“Take your faith; I think most would agree, you find religion very quick if you don’t have it. Take your flag and take your buddy in a foxhole. Those are the things you hold up close and personal.”
Mr. Buie received a certificate of appreciation from Brig. Gen. Gregory J. Brady, commander of the 10th Army Air and Missile Defense, as a token for visiting the Soldiers. Also in attendance was the Germany Chapter of the Association of Buffalo Soldiers who treated the students to pizza.