Center for Minority Veterans (CMV)
The Voice | Issue 2 - Fiscal Year 2020
2020 Black History Month: African Americans and the Vote
Not everything that is faced can be changed. But nothing can be changed until it is faced. ~~James A. Baldwin
The 2020 Black History Month celebration theme is “African American and the Vote.” In terms of the theme, in 1870 when the 15th Amendment was ratified, African Americans did not have the protection to vote until President Lyndon Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This year America celebrated the sesquicentennial and centennial of the 15th and 19th Amendments to the Constitution respectively. Although our African American ancestors could not participate in the voting process without retribution, they laid the foundation so that all Americans can participate in the inalienable right of citizenship…the right to vote.
The Center for Minority Veterans is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with internal and external partners and stakeholders across the Federal Government to show homage to our African American ancestors. Further, CMV appreciates the support from the VA leadership at Central Office and across the VA Enterprise as we commemorated “Black History Month.”
Upon reflection, when I juxtapose the memories of “Black History Month” as a youth and adult in the context of African Americans major achievements in professions, inventions and health care, words cannot convey my gratitude and appreciation for the sacrifices that were made by our African American ancestors so that African Americans could exercise their right to vote which is a vital element of our American citizenship.
As a youth, I celebrated “Black History Week” and during this era, we celebrated the local and national African American heroes that contributed to the diaspora and fabric of African American culture and community. One of my favorite local/national heroes that is still an inspiration to me to date, is General Daniel “Chappie” James Jr. In 1975, he became the first African American to reach the rank of four-star general in the armed forces. Unfortunately, my hero, General James, died too early from heart disease!
As an adult, I realized that when I reflect on the “Black History Month” it appears that we discuss, acknowledge and provided solutions on the lack of equitable health care in the African American community less frequently than is needed. However, there are guiding principles on this issue and it can be found in the Kerner Commission Report.
In 1968, the Kerner Commission Report lists gains in Black American’s social welfare; and in 1985, the report of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health (Heckler-Malone) identified the continuing existence of health disparities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- African Americans ages 35-64 years are 50% more likely to have high blood pressure than whites.
- African Americans ages 18-49 are 2 times more likely to die from heart disease than whites.
- The death rate for African Americans decreased 25% from 1999 to 2015.”
In order to support the health care needs of the African America community, it is incumbent upon the leaders in and out of government to support the elimination of negative social determinants and health care disparities. The Center for Minority Veterans is currently a contributing member on the “VA Health Equity Coalition Team.” Moreover, I am confident that the VA Health Care Equity Coalition Team, is currently supporting the vision of the world health care consortium in order to end health care disparities by 2030.
Further, I was honored to participate in the commemorative “2020 Black History Month” events at VA. During these “Black History Month” commemorative events, I shared my perspective on the theme “African American and the Vote.” My presentation perspective demonstrated the cerebral strategies that our African American ancestors implemented during the interim phases of their journey to obtain the right to vote. As we know, unfortunately, these strategies were not manifested until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Despite the obstructive laws (i.e. Black Codes and Jim Crow laws) that were implemented across the nation to prohibit African Americans from voting, our African American ancestors used various strategies to prepare for the opportunity to vote. Some of the strategies were:
- African Americans served at their churches and capitalized on the ecumenical community educational programs, to teach each other to read;
- African Americans capitalized on the Morrill Act that was passed by U.S. Congress in 1862 and 1890. This law allowed the creation of land grant universities and Historical Black Colleges and Universities respectively.
The outcomes of these laws allowed for African Americans to become educated which allowed them to become major contributors to the fabric and infrastructure of United States of America.
In 2020 and beyond, Americans will experience the benefits of citizenship and will continue to acknowledge and commemorate African Americans and all Americans for their contributions to America. In 1863, the document that was the catalyst and symbol for freedom and citizenship for all is the Emancipation Proclamation, which was signed by President Abraham Lincoln.
The Emancipation Proclamation is the symbol and essence of freedom that proclaimed, “that all persons despite their race and ethnicity should live free in America.” And, it contributed to the ratification of the 13th, 15th and 19th Amendments. This historical document is a symbol of freedom in America.
In 1947, Ms. Sally Fickland, the oldest living slave in the country at that time, was photographed looking at the Emancipation Proclamation. Viewing the photograph, at that moment, I can only imagine the sentiment and gratitude she must have felt for her freedom! That photograph encapsulates the essence of being an American…freedom.
The national theme for Black History Month 2020 was “African Americans and the Vote”. This was significant in that the year 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave African American men the right to vote; the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment which gave women including African American women, the right to vote; and the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 which strengthened the protections that allowed African Americans the ability to vote.
I was personally honored to speak at the Department of Justice (Office of Justice Programs) and at VA’s Board of Veterans Appeals commemorating these milestones. Former CMV Executive Director Barbara Ward joined me for the Department of Justice presentation.
At both events I underscored the significance of these milestones and how even today, voting is an essential component of citizenship. I also noted the right to vote should not be taken lightly, because people throughout history fought and died for that right. It was gratifying to see Black History month celebrated not only at the Headquarters, but throughout VA. Also significant was the fact VA leadership participated in these celebrations.
As we look forward to other upcoming commemorations (Women’s History Month, Asian American/Pacific Islander Month, Hispanic Heritage month and Native American History Month) let’s all remember that our diversity as Americans is what makes us the greatest country in the world. As the Great Seal of the United States points out, “E Pluribus Unum” – “Out of many, one”!
By Dwayne E. Campbell, Program Analyst, Hispanic Veterans Liaison
Partnering with the Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) extends the reach and impact of many programs aimed to help minority Veterans make informed decision regarding their Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. The issues facing the minority Veteran community today are many and complex. The VA recognizes that it cannot tackle these issues alone and why it’s important to establishing partnerships with a wide variety of stakeholders.
While CMV is VA’s lead advocate for minority Veterans, we understand we cannot do it alone. CMV is continuously looking for collaborations that help achieve our mission at all levels to include a cross section of Veterans Service Organizations, community based, internal, faith based, and state and local partners. The mission of the VCSOAT is to develop professional highly qualified county service officers who are dedicated to providing outstanding services, education and support to all eligible Veterans, dependents and survivors.
NOTICE: The Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans annual site visit will be rescheduled for June 2020. The site visit will also include a town hall meeting for minority Veterans and those who provide services to minority Veterans. Are you interested in serving on the Advisory Committee on Minority Veterans? Learn how »
On February 11th, The CMV and CWV hosted a luncheon and special screening of the documentary film: Six Triple Eight: No Mail, Low Morale (Executive Producer James. W. Theres of NCA and Producer(s) Edna Cummings and Elizabeth Helm-Frazier) highlighting the accomplishments of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion, the only all-African American women Army unit to deploy overseas during WWII. The event also featured guest speaker Secretary Robert L. Wilkie. Guests of honor included two of the eight known surviving women of the Six Triple Eight - (PFC) Maybelle Campbell and (PFC) Deloris L. Ruddock -both receiving coins from Secretary Wilkie for their service (as pictured).
On February 13th, VA’s Headquarters Chapter of BIG hosted the Black History Month Commemoration “African Americans and the Vote” with Master of Ceremony CMV Deputy Director Dennis May and Senior Host CMV Executive Director Stephen Dillard. Guest Speaker Donnie Cochran, Captain (USN Ret.), the first African American Commander and Flight Leader of the Blue Angels the United States Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron poses with Executive Director Stephen Dillard.
On February 19th, Dennis O. May, CMV Deputy Director, gave a powerful speech about “African Americans and the Vote” at the Department of Justice along with guest speaker, previous CMV Director Barbara A. Ward. From left to right: Laura Colon-Marrero, EEO Director; Dennis O. May, Barbara A. Ward, and Maureen Henneberg, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Office of Justice Programs.
By Bobby McDonald (ACMV member)
Established in 2013, the OCVMFC currently consists of over 100-member service organizations that serve the needs of over 130,000 Orange County Veterans and their families. In 2018, the OCVMFC was recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs as the Community Veteran Engagement Board for Orange County. In 2019 the University of California, Irvine, became OCVMFC's Convener, providing leadership and support to the collaborative mission.
The OCVMFC has quarterly general meetings to update the collaborative group and the community at large, on Veteran’s items of interest.
The Steering Committee Working Group leaders give briefings, status reports, and details of upcoming events or programs of concern in the Veteran community.
Mr. Dillard was asked to be a keynote speaker, with regards to Minority Veterans and his efforts concerning Faith Base undertakings.
His address was part of the OCVMFC mission and strategies to identify and enlighten the OC Veteran environment and enhance the OCVMFC 5-year Strategy to view the needs of Veterans.
By Juanita Mullen, Program Analyst, Native American/Alaska Native Veterans Liaison
Renaming Ceremony in honor of: Chief – Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow and Benjamin Charles Steele at the VA Billings Clinic
Chief Medicine Crow was an accomplished warrior and esteemed historian. He was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. In 1943, he joined the United States Army. While serving as an Army scout during World War II, Chief Medicine Crow fulfilled the four requirements to become a war chief. While fighting against the German forces he led a war party, stole an enemy horse, disarmed an enemy, and touched an enemy without killing him. Later in life, he served as the Crow tribal historian. He received multiple honorary doctorate degrees and spoke at venues across the nation. He was the last Crow War Chief and his passing in April 2016, at the age of 102, was a loss to our Nation. For his lifetime of service to the Crow Nation, the state of Montana and the United States, Chief Medicine Crow was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC), on Spring Creek Lane, will be designated in honor of Chief-Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow (Dakaak Baako).
- April 6-10, 2020 - Tribal Claims Clinic, Great Falls, MT
- April 22-23, 2020 - Philippine Scouts, San Antonio, TX
- June 24-28, 2020 - Japanese American Citizens League National Convention, Las Vegas, NV
- June 25-28, 2020 - OCA 45th Annual Convention, Las Vegas, NV
- July 15-18, 2020 - Filipino American National Historical Society 18th Biennial Conference, Honolulu, Hawaii
- July 23-26, 2020 - Filipino Grand East Coast Event, Williamsburg, VA
- July 26-30, 2020 - NAACP Convention, Boston, MA
- July 30-August 1, 2020 - AGIF National Mid-Year Conference, San Antonio, TX
- August 10-11, 2020 - Pistahan Parade & Festival, San Francisco, CA
- August 24-27, 2020 - Blacks in Government Annual Conference, Tampa, FL
- August 31-September 3, 2020 - National Image 48th National Training Program, San Antonio, TX