JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas –
Brooke Army Medical Center held a Black History Month observance Feb. 21 in the Medical Mall.
Rev. Dr. Robert Jemerson, retired Air Force chaplain, was the guest speaker for the event. The dance group “Acts of Kindness” also performed for the audience.
“Today is a tremendous day to recognize those who have gone before us and have left a legacy for us to follow,” said Col. Traci Crawford, BAMC deputy commanding officer.
This year’s theme, “Success always leaves footprints,” a quote from Booker T. Washington, was emphasized throughout the observance.
Crawford spoke about Washington’s life, highlighting how he traveled hundreds of miles to Hampton Institute, one of a handful of black universities, to receive his education and went on to start the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama.
The Tuskegee Institute later became the center for African American aviation during World War II. The Tuskegee Airmen overcame segregation and prejudice to become one of the most highly respected fighter groups of World War II, paving the way for full integration of the United States military.
“In spite of adversity, African Americans have played a significant role in U.S. military history over the past 300 years,” Crawford said.
The reverend spoke about two prominent African Americans in U.S. history, referring to several Bible scriptures to illustrate his points. He also talked about his career in the U.S. Air Force being the first American Baptist Seminarian commissioned into the Air Force Chaplaincy Candidate Program.
Jemerson first spoke about boxer Jack Johnson, the first African American world heavyweight champion, whose reign lasted from 1908 to 1915.
Johnson fought Tommy Burns on Dec. 26, 1908 in Sydney, Australia, winning the match in 14 rounds to become the first black heavyweight champion. There was an immediate cry from whites for a “great white hope” who could wrest the title from Johnson.
“By refusing to let a racist society dictate his life Johnson transcended the sport to demonstrate that success always leaves footprints,” Jemerson said.
Jemerson also spoke about Harriet Tubman, the famous conductor of the Underground Railroad. In a decade, she guided over 300 slaves to freedom. During the Civil War, Tubman served as a nurse, cook, laundress, spy and scout.
In closing, Jemerson offered some sage words of advice. “You have the opportunity to be successful wherever God has planted you,” he said. “Dream big knowing that your footprints will lead others to success.”