More than 400 Soldiers, civilians, students and dignitaries celebrated the Team APG African-American/Black History Month Observance at the Myer Auditorium Feb. 22, hosted by the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command.
APG Senior Commander Maj. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford provided opening remarks and introduced the guest speaker. Crawford said the observance is a time to celebrate diversity and recognize the many contributions and accomplishments of African-American men and women, past and present.
“By keeping their stories alive, we better understand ourselves, and we better understand, more importantly, one another,” he said.
The guest speaker was David Wilson, the president of Morgan State University, a historically black institution in Baltimore, Maryland.
Founding of HBCUs
In keeping with the 2017 theme, “The Crisis in Black Education,” Wilson discussed the importance and impact of historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs.
“As a student of American higher education history, I think that if it were not for these unique institutions called HBCUs that the crisis that we are talking about in black education would be an epidemic,” he said.
The first African-American school of higher learning was the Institute for Colored Youth, established in 1837, and now known as Cheyney University of Pennsylvania. Most HBCUs were established after the Civil War, with the assistance of religious denominations and philanthropists, Wilson said.
These institutions of higher learning, he said, were formed at a time when many former black slaves could not read or write. Wilson called the founders of HBCUs “visionaries,” who realized education was the key to success and progress.
“They had to dream of what they never ever had, what they were never able to taste and what was so [unyieldingly] forbidden for them, that is the training of their minds not just their hands,” he said. “They had to at the time cling to a higher calling.”
According to Wilson, these men and women demonstrated tremendous courage.
“Only the bravest during this period of our history had the courage to advocate for higher education for African-Americans,” he said. “And ladies and gentlemen here at Aberdeen Proving Ground, we must never, ever, ever, ever forget that.”
There are 105 HBCUs still in existence today, and they continue to play an “incredible role” in educating the African-American community, Wilson said.
“They [HBCUs] are single-handily responsible for building the black middle class in America,” he said.
According to Wilson, these “hidden treasures” have educated many military leaders and activists like Martin Luther King Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington.
Wilson added that Morgan State University, an HBCU founded in 1867, awards more bachelor’s degrees to African-American students than any campus in Maryland.
The observance also featured the national anthem, sung by Judith Jones from the U.S. Army Test and Evaluation Command, and an invocation by Chaplain Col. Peter Mueller, with CECOM, along with performances by Danielle Muse, a Morgan State University music major, and the Team APG Togetherness Band.
To conclude the program, Renesah Robinson, of CECOM, sang “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” often referred to as the “Black American National Anthem.” After the program, guests enjoyed a complimentary food tasting in the auditorium lobby provided by First Sergeant’s Grill.
Several attendees said they enjoyed the program.
“The president of Morgan State University, he really inspired me. I want to be an engineer,” said Cadet Sierrah Williams, 17, with Freestate ChalleNGe Academy.
CECOM civilian Mohammad Hossain called Wilson’s speech “beautiful.”
I definitely want to share [the history of HBCUs] with my kids. I have a 7-year-old son,” he said.