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More than 100 Marines and sailors with the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) attended a ceremony in honor of Black History Month on the mess deck of the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Feb. 27.

Photo by Cpl. Michael A. Bianco

31st MEU and ARG celebrate Black History Month at sea

27 Feb 2010 | Cpl.Michael A. Bianco

The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) and Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) celebrated Black History month on the mess deck of the forward deployed amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), Feb. 27.

The ceremony involved more than 20 Marines and sailors working together to inform their audience on their African-American heritage through poems, songs, skits and trivia.

The Department of Defense commemorates the tremendous impact of African-American contributions to the United States and is especially appreciative of those who have served proudly as United States Marines, according to Marine Administration message 054/10.

“Both in the Navy and Marine Corps, tradition is a big part of who we are and we’re here to honor those who came before us,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Matthew Ebarb, master of ceremonies for the event and Zwolle, La. native. “There are a lot of African-Americans who made significant contributions to both the Navy and Marine Corps.”

During the ceremony, servicemembers performed several songs including “Amazing Grace" and the “Black National Anthem.” Skits such as the Rosa Parks story were reenacted and a brief presentation was given on the history of African-Americans in the military and government. The history presentation included men such as Colin Powell and President Barack H. Obama

“I think everyone was able to get a lot of information out of the event, whether it was old or new,” said Staff Sgt. Anthony Bynum, the aviation operations chief with Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265 Reinforced (HMM-265 REIN), 31st MEU and Vernon, Ala native. “This was the perfect opportunity for us to come together and honor those who paved the way for all of us today.”

Cmdr. Laredo Bell, ARG chief engineer and the ceremony’s guest speaker, gave a brief history of his family and spoke on the significance of Black History Month.

“The reason I feel that it is important is because you should always take time to remember history and the past. In the African-American community, our history was lost for many years,” said Bell, a New Haven, Mich. native. “It’s extremely important to have the opportunity to celebrate this occasion. Hopefully, it gives people a better understanding of the culture and diversity that everyone contributed to help form freedom and liberties we celebrate today.”

             African-American history month originated as Negro History week in 1926 through the leadership of historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson. Woodson, founder of the association for the study of African-American life and history, sought to create an observance to recognize and honor the heritage, accomplishments, and contributions made by African-Americans to American society. 

            MARADMIN 054/10 encourages Marines and sailors to take time to recognize and celebrate the dedicated service and contributions of African-Americans to the United States and Marine Corps.  Commanders are advised to conduct programs and promote participation in observance events at their commands and in the local community.