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NAVEUR-NAVAF Celebrates MLK and Black History Month

February 2, 2017 at 12:41 PM UTC
U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet Public Affairs

NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY NAPLES, Italy – Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet’s (CNE-CNA/C6F) Multicultural Heritage Committee held a Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Black History Month celebration for military and civilian personnel at Naval Support Activity Naples, Jan. 20, 2017.

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The event started with a video of King delivering an invocation and songs performed by the Hallelujah Full Gospel Men’s Chorus and Naples Area volunteers before Yeoman 3rd Class Ryan Ball took the stage to read the “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” an open letter written by King in 1963.

"After reading the Birmingham letter, it gave me a fire to educate myself and really learn about my past and everything they have endured,” said Ball, assigned to Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia. “I wanted something realistic that the audience could leave with. The Birmingham letter gives a good visual of what the present is and where we came from in our past.”

The guest speaker for the ceremony was CNE-CNA Fleet Master Chief Raymond D. Kemp Sr. who began by sharing a story of his 10-year-old niece reciting King’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Kemp said he and his brother encouraged her go up there and just do it. “Once you start, nobody is going to stop you. Afterwards a lady came over crying, thanking her because it was so beautiful.”

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Kemp continued by explaining the importance of holding remembrance celebrations such as this one.

“Why do we continue to have diversity celebrations?” asked Kemp. “The reason we continue, in my perspective, is that if we don’t take the time and consider where we came from, how can we truly assess where we are? We can clearly see progress in going from second class citizenship and Jim Crow laws; not being afforded the opportunity for housing, not allowed to vote, and I am talking less than 50 years ago. [To] now, for the past eight years we have had an African American commander in chief.”

Kemp then went on to talk about the ‘crisis in black education,’ the theme for February’s black history month, and how it is still a relevant issue today.

“Throughout the last quarter of the 20th century and continuing today, the crisis in black education has grown significantly in urban neighborhoods where public schools lack resources, endure overcrowding, exhibit a racial achievement gap, and confront policies that fail to deliver substantive opportunities,” said Kemp.  “Yet, African American history is rich in centuries-old efforts of resistance to this crisis.”

Kemp referenced the rise of black colleges and universities after the Civil War and the freedom schools of the 1960’s as examples before emphasizing that addressing the crisis in black education should be “considered one of the most important goals in America’s past, present and future.”

“Today our Navy is a great meritocracy, a place where sustained superior performance equals advancement and recognition, for all of us,” said Kemp. “We wear the same uniforms, we bond through the same training, and no one has the upper hand.”

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CNE-CNA/C6F’s multicultural heritage committee organizes events throughout the year to celebrate diversity.

U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa, headquartered in Naples, Italy, oversees joint and naval operations, often in concert with allied, joint, and interagency partners, in order to advance U.S. national interests, security and stability in Europe and Africa.