USS NEW ORLEANS, At Sea - Sailors and Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) deployed aboard amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD 18) celebrated Black History Month with a celebration hosted by the ship's diversity committee, Feb. 18.
In keeping with the nationwide theme of this year's observance, the focus of the celebration was "Black Women in American History and Culture."
During the ceremony, Sailors and Marines spoke about influential black women like Oprah Winfrey and Harriet Tubman.
"We can all learn something from Harriet Tubman," said Lt. Cmdr. Bryant Robertson, guest speaker. "She did things void of self; she didn't do things for recognition; and she did things that were just the right things people had to do."
"What we go through every day is nothing what she went through," added Robertson. "What she did in her life is astounding, from saving hundreds of slaves, to being a spy in the Army during the Civil War. It was selfless, impactful. And it had to be done."
Yeoman 1st Class Kenneth Bradley, master of ceremonies for the event, spoke about the importance of rap music and hip-hop in the black community.
"There's a negative stigma as it pertains to hip-hop and when it comes to rap in part because of the commercialized rap that's played on the radio and in part because of the derogatory language that's used," he said. "Hip-hop is so much more. It's a culture. It's a form of expression, and there are many elements to it."
Bradley also recited a poem he wrote titled "Forever Queen," detailing how the black woman serves as a "pillar" in the black community.
In addition to Bradley's poem, other Sailors and Marines recited their poems during the event.
Today, more than 123,000 active duty, Reserve and civilian members of the Navy Total Force identify themselves as African American.
New Orleans and embarked Marines assigned to the 11th Marine MEU are deployed as part of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, supporting maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility.