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Luncheon celebrates African-American Black History Month

The Honorable Judge Vance Raye, speaks at the 2011 African-American, Black History Month luncheon Feb. 24 at the Recce Point Club. Judge Raye’s message focused on the trials and hardships suffered by African-Americans not only during the Civil War, but throughout history.

The Honorable Judge Vance Raye, speaks at the 2011 African-American, Black History Month luncheon Feb. 24 at the Recce Point Club. Judge Raye’s message focused on the trials and hardships suffered by African-Americans not only during the Civil War, but throughout history.

BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., -- The 2011 African-American Black History Month luncheon was held Feb. 24 at the Community Activities Center.

This year's theme, African-Americans and the Civil War, focused on the trials and hardships faced by slaves and black military members during the mid 1800s.

Judge Vance Raye, presiding judge for the 3rd District Court of Appeals in Sacramento was the guest speaker for the event. He spoke about the contributions of African-Americans throughout military history and why we need to cherish the celebration of this month.

"We take this time to celebrate people who overcame the most abject and intolerable conditions you can imagine to become part of the American mainstream," he said. "We should embrace the opportunity to celebrate this."

The event featured display boards and a slideshow of memorable Civil War African-Americans including Frederick Douglass, Susie King Taylor, Robert Smalls and William H. Carney, the first African-American to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. The contributions of those in the mid 1800s have led to African-Americans having a prominent role in today's military.

"The role African-Americans have played in the history of the military has been very
great and honorable," said the head organizer of the event. "I feel we have made serious contributions in every branch of the service and African- Americans today are treated as equal members in every way in the military. I think they are being graded and judged on their own achievements, and that's a very good thing. The only thing that will hold African-Americans back in their careers and endeavors is themselves."

A Southern-style buffet was served to the more than 150 attendees. Included in the meal was fried chicken and catfish, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, macaroni and cheese, collard greens and pecan pie. While members feasted, they were able to take in brief amounts of history thanks to the slideshow and display boards.

"The event was very nice and educational, and the speaker was very informative," said a master sergeant attending the event. "We need these events to keep people aware of all the different cultures in the Air Force. The Air Force has such a variety of different people it's good to know where people are coming from and what they're dealing with."

Judge Raye also spoke about the military history surrounding African-Americans dating back to the 1600s.

"African-Americans have been a part of this country almost since its inception," he said. "What is remarkable about this history is throughout our time in this country, we helped defend this country both as private citizens and as military members."

The judge cited numerous examples of military history from different time periods including the Civil War when slave groups were guarding the port of Charleston, S.C. African-American soldiers also served during the French and Indian War, at the battle of Lexington-Concord during the Revolutionary War and even helped Ethan Allen and the Green Mountain Boys in 1775.

Judge Raye added these contributions led to the equalization in the military today. The number of African-American soldiers serving continued to increase during each war.

"When I look around the room now it strikes me as an example of how the military is now a motto for what equalizing is all about," said Judge Raye. "I'm glad that everyone is here and so proud to be a part of military history."

Closing comments were made by the 9th Operations Group commander who spoke not about the past as Judge Raye did, but about the present and future.

"We should reflect on our proud heritage, not just African-American Black heritage, but our national heritage, specifically in the military," said the commander. "When you look out here today, we are a part of that heritage and are today's living heritage. Future generations will look back on us and we have a lot to live up to."