MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. -- Nearly 50 years have passed since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr’s ‘I have a dream’ speech, but the impact of racial equality and the end of discrimination are still heard aboard Camp Johnson.
Feb. 1 marked the start to African-American History Month throughout the United States. Students and leaders, along with members of the Montford Point Marine Association, attended this year’s opening ceremony to honor the achievements and sacrifice of African-Americans.
One hundred fifty years have passed since President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and 65 years since President Franklin Roosevelt issued executive order 8802. African-American Marines are the proof segregation ended in the United States and equal treatment for all Americans succeeded.
Staff Sgt. Deon Whitner, master of ceremonies and chair person for the Camp Johnson African-American history planning committee, introduced the memorable performances at the ceremony, but also spoke of the courage African-Americans showed over the years.
“During the 1950s and 60s all people of color: blacks, Hispanics and Asians were discriminated against. Both overtly and covertly,” said Whitner. “It wasn’t until the march on Washington, D.C., and King’s ‘I have a dream’ speech that change began to take place.”
The song ‘Lift Every Voice and Sing,’ commonly referred as a symbol for African-American struggle in the United States, was sung at this year’s ceremony by Pfc. Dino Johnson, a student at the ground supply school. His memorable performance was followed by the reading of King’s speech by Pfc. Calvin Stigall, also a student at the ground supply school.
Originally an infantry officer, retired Col. Grover Lewis was invited as the guest speaker for the ceremony. Lewis stated the world is not at all the same as it used to be, and change will continue to shape society for years to come.
“Two chief social forces have been at work from generation to generation, culture and reform,” said Lewis “It’s through these two forces that have molded mankind, and I believe is the theme of this year’s ceremony.”
Culture is conservative and maintains dynasties; emancipation was a change in culture, stated Lewis. He added reform is head strong, and before the march on Washington, D.C., King was speaking towards reform.
No matter what race or background people come from, everyone can attribute change in society to the struggle and triumphs of African-Americans and honoring the struggle is what all Americans can do during the month of February.