An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News : News
NEWS | Feb. 21, 2024

U.S. Army South hosts Black History Month observance

By Staff Sgt. Carlie Stonebraker U.S. Army South Public Affairs

As Soldiers, civilians, and family members gathered into the Blesse Auditorium at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston Feb. 13, the vibrant stains of jazz music filled the air.

Glancing around the auditorium, attendees were met with displays honoring the profound influence of many African American including Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and the late, great Jimi Hendrix during the Black History Month observance hosted by U.S. Army South.

Black History Month covers 28 days (or 29 days in leap year), starting on Feb. 1. During the month, we celebrate and reflect on the rich history of African Americans. February holds particular significance in African American history as it coincides with the birth month of two monumental figures, former President Abraham Lincoln, who issued the Emancipation Proclamation, and the African American abolitionist Frederick Douglass.

This year's theme serves as a powerful reminder of the vastness and richness of African American cultural traditions, encompassing visual arts, music, literature, and cultural movements.

“This year the theme recognizes exactly what I learned so many years ago about the importance of art in culture,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Deitra Alam, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, U.S. Army South, and the guest speaker for the event. “We have so many great American examples of people who broke down racial and cultural barriers by providing a shared experience through various art forms.”

Alam spoke about her time growing up listening to a variety of music with her father such as Kenny Rogers and her father’s favorite, Sam Cooke.

“When he played it, it would bring everyone out onto their porches to listen or even into the yard to dance. All of this while racial tensions were still kind of high in those days,” she reminisced.

As Alam continued, she highlighted James Reese Europe, a decorated World War I veteran, and a pioneering figure in the world of music. Europe brought his passion for music to the battlefield, using it as a source of inspiration and solace for his fellow Soldiers. After the war, Europe continued to break barriers as a composer and bandleader of the Harlem Hellfighters, becoming one of the most influential figures in the early jazz movement.

“Let us seize this opportunity to celebrate the rich tapestry of Black American history and culture, honoring the contributions of those who have served both on the battlefield, and on the world stage,” Alam said.

She urged a renewed commitment to the ideals of equality, diversity, and unity, emphasizing that Black history is integral to the broader narrative of American history.

“I am proud to come from the family I do, and I am proud to be an American, and will forever be grateful to have served this Nation as an American Soldier.” Alam said.