Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Frost

PHILIPPINE SEA – Sailors from USS John C. Stennis’ (CVN 74) Multi-Cultural Heritage Committee (MCHC) held a ceremony observing Black History Month in the ship’s forecastle, Feb. 20.

Sailors gathered to see performances highlighting the historical contributions of African Americans.

The Association for the Study of African American Life and History selected ‘Hallowed Ground: Sites of African American History’ as this year’s theme. The ceremony featured informational performances about places of significant events.

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Airman Isis Gooden explained how her hometown, St. Helena Island, S.C, is a unique place shaped by African American culture. Gooden also spoke about a progressing culture of acceptance and diversity.

“Black History Month is not solely about the emancipation proclamation, or even the invention of the hot comb,” said Gooden. “For us, it’s about embracing our culture and understanding our history and overcoming adversities in life.”

The MCHC members told stories of personal strife they have overcome and significant African American contributions to society.

Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class Destiny Berthoud, from Atlanta, told the story of her great-grandfather, Rudolph Berthoud. He was a member of the prestigious Tuskegee Airmen, the first all black fighter and bomber units in the United States Army Air Forces.

“Tuskegee Airman Rudolph Berthoud has dually earned a special place in American history,” said Destiny Berthoud. “The Tuskegee Airmen flew and defended their country so well that their allies, as well as their opposition, knew them for their skill. The courage and commitment of the Tuskegee Airmen led to President Truman’s decree to desegregate the U.S. armed forces less than a decade after the end of World War II.”

The observance also included the song “Lift Every Voice” sang by members of Stennis’ Divine Worship and a performance of B. B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” by Stennis musicians.

“I think we all learned a lot today,” said Yeoman 3rd Class Delfine Stennis, from Nashville, Tenn., a member of the audience. “It was really a great performance.”

President Harry S. Truman issued an executive order to integrate the armed forces in 1948; the last all-black military units were abolished September 1954.
Providing a ready force supporting security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific, Stennis is operating as part of the Great Green Fleet on a regularly scheduled 7th Fleet deployment.
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