Story Number: NNS140213-16Release Date: 2/13/2014 6:51:00 PM
By Lt. j.g. Andriana Genualdi, USS Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Sailors celebrated African American/Black History Month Feb. 13 with guest speakers, a video presentation and a cake cutting organized by Lincoln's Diversity Council.
The celebration, held on board the Floating Accommodation Facility (FAF), tied in this year's theme of "Civil Rights in America" with the Navy's history and the ship's namesake, President Abraham Lincoln.
"The goal of Black History Month is to expose the larger community to the rich heritage, culture, and history of African Americans," said Master Chief Avionics Technician Jean-Martial Previllon, one of the guest speakers. "And, in doing so, eliminate some of the barriers that divide us as a nation."
Chief Quartermaster Eric Scott spoke of African Americans' contributions to the military during President Lincoln's term in office. Frederick Douglas was a strong force for recruiting, equal pay and access to promotions for African Americans during the Civil War.
"As a result of these efforts the Navy not only paid equal wages, but offered more pay for entry level positions than the Army," said Scott.
Hospitalman 1st Class Rosalyn Martin, the lone female of the group, highlighted female African American Sailors who have made significant contributions to today's Navy.
"Master Chief Aviation Maintenance Administrationman April Beldo was the first female to become a Command Master Chief aboard an Aircraft Carrier, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70)," said Martin. "Beldo went on to become the first African American Force Master Chief, now stationed at Naval Education and Training Command."
The final guest speaker was Cmdr. Jerome Morris, Lincoln's weapons officer. Morris spoke of his own success story.
"Twenty-nine years ago I joined the Navy as an undesignated Airman," said Morris. "And, with the help of some great mentors and hard work I'm standing here today as a Commander."
Morris highlighted the success of African Americans in the Navy's officer corps. From the "Golden Thirteen," the Navy's first officers commissioned in February 1944 to Adm. Joseph Reason, the first African American to become a four-star admiral.
"The opportunity for African Americans to serve and excel in today's Navy is promising and bright," said Morris. "We have 17 African American officers and nine Master Chiefs currently serving aboard USS Abraham Lincoln."
Lincoln's Executive Officer Capt. Randall Peck reflected on the pillars and values that naval personnel embody.
"We are here today because of the opportunities and promotion of excellence across the board for all of our personnel," said Peck.
Lincoln's Commanding Officer, Capt. Karl Thomas, spoke about the abundance of national landmarks in the area and the rich opportunity that the crew has to learn about the nation's history.
"We are a great Navy because we don't let anything bound or restrict our people, we allow the best and brightest to promote," said Thomas.
Lincoln is currently undergoing a refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) at Newport News Shipbuilding, a division of Huntington-Ingalls Industries in Newport News.
Lincoln is the fifth ship of the Nimitz-class to undergo an RCOH, a major life-cycle milestone. Once RCOH is complete, Lincoln will be one of the most modern and technologically advanced Nimitz-class aircraft carriers in the fleet and will continue to be a vital part of the nation's defense.
For more news from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), visit www.navy.mil/local/cvn72/.