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SSC-Natick Press Release

U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center-Natick
Public Affairs Office
Kansas Street
Natick, MA 01760-5012

Contact: Public Affairs Office

Date: March 16, 2009
No: 09-05

Guest speaker talks about prophetic citizenship during Black History Month program

On Feb. 25, Command Sgt. Maj. Mittie Smith, U.S. Army Garrison Natick, presents the Rev. Dr. J. Anthony Lloyd, pastor of the Greater Framingham Community Church and guest speaker at Natick Soldier Systems Center (NSSC)'s Black History Month program, an aerial photo of the NSSC in appreciation for his presentation. (Photo by Anita Tobin.)

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NATICK, Mass. -- On Feb. 25, the U.S. Army Soldier Systems Center (SSC) here held an event in Hunter Auditorium which included speakers, song and poetry to celebrate Black History Month.


After a welcome and the Pledge of Allegiance, members of SSC's Black Employment Program Committee and some Soldiers read various versus of "Still I Rise," by Maya Angelou, which has been described as an "inspiring poem about overcoming great obstacles/oppression."


A musical solo was also performed as Sgt. Akya Wilkins sang "Encourage Yourself."


Wilkins said she chose the song because as we look back through history no one told people it was time to vote, they had to encourage themselves. As a Soldier you need to have personal courage to face things you may be afraid of, she continued. We have to encourage ourselves.


The Rev. Dr. J. Anthony Lloyd, pastor of the Greater Framingham Community Church, was the guest speaker for the event. As the theme for 2009's Black History Month was "The Quest for Black Citizenship in the Americas," Lloyd spoke on prophetic citizenship.


He started by using some of President Barack Obama's comments from Inauguration Day. Lloyd commented that in the hype of the moment, whether watching on television or in D.C., some of the words may have been missed.


Repeating the words from that day, Lloyd said:

"Our challenges may be new, the instruments with which we meet them may be new, but those values upon which our success depends, honesty and hard work, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and patriotism -- these things are old.


These things are true. They have been the quiet force of progress throughout our history.


What is demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility -- a recognition, on the part of every American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation and the world, duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so defining of our character than giving our all to a difficult task.


This is the price and the promise of citizenship."


Lloyd continued, when I speak of prophetic citizenship I hope that people think of the Bible and the prophets. He specifically mentioned Micah and Amos, and their hope of people "acting justly, having mercy, and righteousness."


Recalling the words of Nelson Mandela, Lloyd mentioned that there is "no easy walk to freedom anywhere," and the prophetic idea also needs to include reality.


We had a system in place of racism, of segregation and people who were deprived of freedoms. However, as a community, Americans decided that they would no longer sit and accept this, and they stood and marched and demanded change. People of every color and religion got together and they emerged as one prophetic voice for social change.


"We need to continue to advocate for social justice in our time," Lloyd emphasized.


Voting was also a key part of Lloyd's remarks, and he quoted some words of President Lyndon B. Johnson from when Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act in August of 1965.


"The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised by man for breaking down injustice and destroying the terrible walls which imprison men because they are different from other men."


Lloyd closed his comments by speaking about the Tuskegee Airmen, who were America's first black military airmen. As they were asked to contemplate President Obama's Inauguration, they said, as only Soldiers can, he has a daunting task, but no need to worry, we've got his back.


To the audience, Lloyd challenged everyone to help achieve justice, but cautioned not to worry. "We all got your back."


Command Sgt. Maj. Mittie Smith, U.S. Army Garrison Natick, mentioned that the printed program for the event featured photos of three great people who played a significant part in black history. Rosa Parks, who taught us that sometimes you need to sit down to stand up; Martin Luther King, Jr., who had a dream that "we shall overcome;" and President Barack Obama, who told us, "Yes, we can!"

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