Veterans hope event can expand the military’s unity and open-mindedness to campus

Unity and open-mindedness were the main points veterans wanted to spread to university students with the African Americans in the Armed Forces event.

Although the majority of those attending the event were veterans themselves, LaQwen Nichols, an Army veteran and organizer of the event, said she thought it was a good turnout for the first installment of the event. She said she had wanted more of the student body to come out but thought there was good support from fellow veterans.

Co-organizer Essie Craft, a Marine Corps veteran, said the event was a way of showing that throughout history, people have been fighting together equally and united for the same ideas.

He said the first movie shown at the event, "Miracle at St. Anna," showed many stories including a black platoon that was fighting for a pre-Civil Rights America because they felt so strongly that their country would change and allow them to become citizens.

“To be a citizen is something we think of as fundamental, but it’s not fundamental for everyone,” he said.

Craft, a junior psychology major, said he made a collage of African Americans in every American war from the Civil War to current day, including one man who is considered one of the original fighters at the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812.

He said he made the collage to show that “positivity can come from a community that is associated with negativity.”

Some other veterans in attendance were Stesha Colby, a Marine Corps veteran, and Brian Throneberry, an Air Force veteran.

Colby, a senior sociology major, said there were times when she felt discrimination during her time in the military, but it was never to the extent portrayed in various movies about African Americans in the military.

“The ideas that a few of my superiors had that I couldn’t do my job just because I was different,” she said. “The same ideas that [African Americans] couldn’t do their jobs because they were different.”

Colby said she hopes the event can bring a sense of open-mindedness to the campus as well as an appreciation for what people had to endure in order for the military and America to be where they are today.

Throneberry, a junior economics major, said he never experienced or saw any discrimination because those going through Basic Training for the Air Force quickly understood that segregation and discrimination would not be tolerated.

Nichols said she hopes the events can open a discussion about “hush” topics such as race and broaden the discussion to include all minorities.

“I feel like instead of trying to make it a barrier between people, we should actually try to discuss it and tear down the barriers together,” she said.

Nichols and Craft put on the event after April Brown, chair of the Veterans Services Task Force, asked them to put on an event for Black History Month. Nichols said she hopes the event can continue past February.

“The armed forces will never go away, so we might as well learn as much as we can about it,” Nichols said.