MCLB-ALBANY -- The Albany chapter of Blacks in Government (BIG), along with Marine Corps Loigistics Base-Albany, took some time this week to celebrate the achievements of black Americans.
Albany BIG celebrated Black History Month with a program Wednesday at the theater aboard Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany. The guest speaker at the event was Sharon Smoot, executive director for logistics for Maintenance and Industrial Operations at the Naval Sea Systems Command.
The theme was "African-Americans and the Civil War." In light of that, Smoot took the opportunity to challenge those listening to ensure enough is being done to allow future generations to understand what their ancestors went through for the sake of equality.
"There is just a long, long list of extraordinary leaders," she said. "The things they faced -- I can't imagine what is was like to live through that."
Lee Formwalt, executive director of the Albany Civil Rights Institute, spoke of his personal appreciation for Black History Month.
"I agree that black history has been integrated into new (history) school books, but there are uneducated folks out there who have not seen those new textbooks," he said. "Ideally, we will arrive at the day in which the accomplishments of black history will be fully recognized."
During her remarks, Smoot also addressed the concept of a better tomorrow.
"Everyone has a dream," she said. "I have a dream (in which) the color of one's skin is not a topic of discussion -- when my son can walk into a restaurant and not be judged based on the color of his skin.
"Sometimes we hold onto things that have outlived themselves. Sometimes we hold onto things because of fear. It is human nature to fear change; it takes courage."
She also put out a call to stand up for what one believes in.
"Our country continues to excel in a number of directions. There have been a lot of achievements, but it's not enough," Smoot said. "Some of the things we used to do (to change things) in the past won't work today.
"History has taught me to be brave. I need to step up and serve when called; I need to bring passion to everything I do and do it well. Every moment is an opportunity to teach, and it will happen whether you want it to or not."
Col. Terry Williams, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany, said that Black History Month has special meaning to him.
"It's one of the cultures within the Marine Corps and in the United States. It's important we don't forget what happened," he said. "For me as a black man and an officer of the Marine Corps, it's important to understand all the cultures we have. It takes on a special meaning.
"Every time I tell my story it surprises me because I never thought I would be in the military. I never thought I'd make it this far."