On February 27, 2014, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, participated in the Third Annual Federal Inter-Agency celebration of National African American History Month. This year’s theme was Civil Rights and the contributions African Americans have and continue to make to shape this great nation. The Honorable Assemblywoman Sheila Y. Oliver served as keynote speaker.
Assemblywoman Oliver is the first African American woman to lead a legislative house in New Jersey and the second African American woman in history to lead a legislative house. She discussed past African American leaders and how their ideas can still influence the African American community today. Referencing Gen. Oliver Howard, (who is named after the historical black college, Howard University) and his role in helping to establish the Freemans Bureau of 1865, which provided essential support for newly freed slaves like food, water, clothing, communication with family members, health care, and jobs.
“When I think of the Freeman Bureau, I think about how that was the earliest federal attempt to show the citizens of this country there is a very prominent leadership role federal government must play. I will tell you we need thorough involvement and leadership in order to move us forward with the civil rights agenda, and we can’t do this without our federal government,” said Oliver.
Lt. Col. John A. Knight, deputy commander, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, shared the history of the Army’s integration of minorities in America, becoming one of the first diverse armies in the world.
“The history of the civil rights in the United States is largely the story of free people of color and then African-Americans to define and iterate what rights pertain to citizens in a civil society. We dedicate the 2014 annual history theme to celebrate the anniversary of that turning point in America’s history of civil rights,” said Knight.
Many other government agencies were in attendance, including the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, U.S. General Services Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc. Reginald Slaten, associate regional administrator, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, discussed the importance of the Affordable Care Act and its affects on the African American community.
“African Americans are 55% more likely to be un-insured than white Americans, but it will all change now. Expanding opportunity for coverage and providing no cost screening and quality disease management for patients, can improve health care outcome for African Americans. Through the new health care market place 6.8 million un-insured African Americans have new opportunities to affordably health care coverage,” said Slaten.
The Third Annual Inter-Agency celebration of National African American History Month program was coordinated by a multitude of federal government agencies, in order to highlight the significance of African American History Month.
“This year’s African American history month program celebrating civil rights in America with keynote speaker Honorable Assembly Sheila Y. Oliver, Lt. Col. John Knight and other agency heads was particularly special, because senior leaders spoke about the achievements of African-Americans and the importance of promoting diversity and equality,” said Jean Lau, equal employment opportunity specialist, USACE, New York District.
“Today African Americans are leading our U.S. Army and other entities of our government and showing the way in varies of endeavors of social and commercial industries,” said Knight.