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University Helps DoD Celebrate African-American History

By Sheri L. Crowe
Special to American Forces Press Service

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C., Feb. 29, 2008 – Fayetteville State University, the oldest public historically black institution of higher learning in North Carolina, hosted the Defense Department’s 2008 African-American History Month outreach and observance program Feb. 25 and 26.

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Clarence A. Johnson, principal director and director for civilian equal employment opportunity, Defense Department Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, makes remarks Feb. 26, 2008, at the DoD African-American History Month Program that took place at Fayetteville State University. Photo by Sheri L. Crowe
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

This is the sixth year officials have “taken the Pentagon to the people” at historically black colleges and universities throughout the United States to celebrate the accomplishments of African-Americans, both past and present.

By bringing the program to universities, officials also reach out to students to generate an interest in military and civilian career opportunities in the Defense Department, especially those in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

This year’s national African-American History Month theme, “Carter G. Woodson and the Origins of Multiculturalism,” honors an educator who taught his fellow citizens about the traditions and contributions of African-Americans, President Bush said in his 2008 proclamation. The DoD theme for this year was “Reaching Out to Youth: A Strategy for Excellence,” and the hosting university chose “The History of Fayetteville State University” as its theme.

More than 500 people -- including some from other historically black colleges and universities, DoD personnel, and students and faculty members from Cumberland County Schools -- attended this year’s event, which included workshops, leadership symposiums, an exposition, a welcome and recognition reception, and an African-American observance luncheon.

Clarence A. Johnson, DoD’s principal director and director for civilian equal employment opportunity at the Pentagon’s Office of Diversity Management and Equal Opportunity, also was on hand. He said DoD values the diversity of its greatest resource -- the department’s people -- and thanked the top-performing servicemembers selected by their respective branches of service to be the program’s honorees.

“To the awardees, on behalf of the Department of Defense, I congratulate you on your personal commitments, sacrifices, diligence and professionalism,” Johnson said.

He also asked attendees for support in reaching out to the younger generation about the career opportunities available within DoD.

Keynote speakers were Marine Corps Maj. Gen. James L. Williams, commander of 4th Marine Division with headquarters in New Orleans, and Dana T. Blackmore, a distinguished alumnus of Fayetteville State University who graduated in 1996 with a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice.

Williams focused on the importance of practicing good leadership skills and mentoring within an establishment. He also expressed his pride in serving in the Marine Corps and as a commanding general and told the audience members they could match his achievements.

“I stand before you as a major general of the United States Marine Corps. … And you know what? Anybody that wants to be in this uniform can be here” provided they have the motivation, desire and drive that the military services are looking for, he said.

He said self-improvement always is the key to getting to the next level. “If you’re not improving yourself, you’ll get stagnant,” the general said.

Williams encouraged attendees to take a good look at the opportunities presented by the observance. “Today is an opportunity for you to see how we got to where we are,” he said. “You all have an opportunity before you that’s unbelievable.”

Blackmore, a professor at Texas Southern University and the lead attorney at the law offices of Dana T. Blackmore, spoke about the importance of higher education and how it has helped her become successful.

“Anything you want to do you can do with the education,” Blackmore said. “Take your education seriously. … I encourage you to take advantage of all the opportunities afforded to you, … especially those presented to you today.”

As in past years, this year’s program afforded DoD an opportunity to recognize and honor servicemembers of different ethnic backgrounds from across the county for going above and beyond the call of duty while supporting the global war on terrorism.

“It was about coming together as one and celebrating their accomplishments and contributions to their respective services and to society,” said David D. Camps Sr., the university’s director of sponsored research and programs, and the event’s coordinator. “We also had five students from Fayetteville State University that were recognized. They were recognized for not only their grade-point average but for the activities they’re doing on campus, too, and what they’ve contributed to society.”

Camps said another highlight of the program was the many DoD agency exhibits on display in the FSU Student Center.

“Overall, it was a great program, with excellent participation and great information that we put out,” he said. “This was a very successful collaborated event.”

(Sheri L. Crowe is on the staff of the Fort Bragg, N.C., post newspaper, Paraglide.)

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Related Sites:
Web special report: Celebrating African American History

Click photo for screen-resolution imageMarine Corps Maj. Gen. James L. Williams, commander of 4th Marine Division, speaks Feb. 2, 2008, during the Defense Department African-American History Month outreach and observance program at Fayetteville State University, N.C. Photo by Sheri L. Crowe  
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Click photo for screen-resolution imageFayetteville State University students visit Defense Department exhibits at the university’s student center Feb. 26, 2008, during the 2008 DoD African-American History Month Program. Photo by Sheri L. Crowe  
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