Story & photos by Greg Jones
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs Office
On Feb. 27, 1964, a landmark civil rights bill was making its way to the senate for debate. This bill was a major victory in the struggle for civil rights for black Americans. Now, 50 years later, service members, civilians and their families in the Stuttgart military community gathered to celebrate Black History month by commemorating this monumental achievement of the American people.
The Black History Month celebration held Feb. 27 in the Kelley Theatre focused on the half-century anniversary of that bill, called for by President Kennedy just months before his assassination.
The celebration, hosted by the U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart and U.S. Africa Command, featured a performance by the Stuttgart Gospel Choir, a spoken word performance by Sgt. Eric Wiley, assigned to the Headquarters Support Company, 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne),and a keynote address by Army Brig. Gen. Bruce T. Crawford, U.S. European Command’s J6 director, who focused on the significance of the anniversary of the historical event.
“In order to produce the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it took vision, it took perseverance, and it took the personal courage of many to stand up,” Crawford said. “This courageous act became a pillar to the foundation of what we now know and call the American Dream.”
A cake cutting followed the musical performance and keynote address, and a ‘living’ museum presentation by the Böblingen Elementary/Middle School drama class rounded out the activities.
The ‘living’ museum featured a sampling of African-American cuisine coordinated with specific periods or events in the struggle for equal rights for African Americans. Each period featured certain foods, and for each period, the BEMS drama class prepared a short performance by one or two students outlining significant events during that period.
The food included fried chicken, ribs, cornbread and other contemporary African-American cuisine, but also featured more historical fare such as chicken, rice and beans; and rice dishes that trace back to the African subcontinent.
While the food, presentations and keynote address were all part of a great celebration, the real joy for some audience members was in the musical performance, which quite literally had people dancing in the aisles.
“It was all really good,” said Army Capt. Desmond Gittens, assigned to USAG Stuttgart. “There wasn’t anything that wasn’t well done, but what I really enjoyed was the singing.”
Black History Month is celebrated across the nation throughout February and highlights the diverse culture of African Americans and their accomplishments throughout the years. This year marks 50 years since the historic Civil Rights Act of 1964, which was being passed by Congress in February and March of that year. Finally enacted July 2, the act served as a major victory in the struggle for equal rights of people of all races.