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IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Release No: 086-03
February 26, 2003

DOD HOSTS 2003 AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY MONTH ACTIVITIES

Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness Charles S. Abell will host a two-day exposition and luncheon in observance of African American History Month in Jackson, Miss. beginning today and concluding Thursday, Feb. 27, 2003. The activities will be held on the campus of Tougaloo College, one of our Nation's historically black colleges and universities.

This exposition and luncheon represent continuing initiatives within the Defense Department to achieve greater impact across a broad spectrum. The goals of these events are to observe African American History Month and increase access to information and opportunities in DoD to middle, high school and college students; college administrators, faculty and staff; and business, community and government organizations. Additionally, it is intended to promote civilian employment and military service opportunities with the Department of Defense and provide networking opportunities through formal and informal interactions.

"We want the Defense Department to be both an employer of choice and a good business partner for the African American community," said Abell. "These events not only celebrate this nations' African American heritage, but also provides information on civilian and military careers in DoD to this important community, " he said.

Currently, more than 275, 000 African Americans serve on active duty, comprising 19.9 percent of the military force. The Defense Department hopes to grow these numbers while at the same time highlighting opportunities to serve as a civilian employee.

Tougaloo College was chosen as the location for the Defense Department's observance as it is one of 118 historically black colleges and universities across this nation that symbolizes excellence in education. Presidential executive orders call for federal government participation in support of strengthening and maintaining the infrastructure of these educational institutions by providing and increasing business opportunities and access to federal information.

The 2003 national theme for the observance is "The Souls of Black Folk: Centennial Reflections." Throughout our Nation's history, hundreds of thousands of African Americans have served their nation in uniform, including 86 who have been awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest award for valor.

African American History Month is celebrated each year by presidential proclamation. In addition to the Tougaloo activities, the Department of Defense will mark the event with observances at military installations and ships at sea worldwide.