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Rev. Dr. James Murphy delivers the keynote address.

Photo by Valerie O'Berry

Quantico celebrates Black History Month at prayer breakfast

18 Feb 2016 | Valerie O'Berry Marine Corps Base Quantico

A celebration of Black History Month was held Feb. 9 at the Clubs at Quantico in the form of a prayer breakfast, which has been held every year since 1999. Opening remarks were given by Col. Joseph Murray, base commander. The morning of celebration also included gospel music, performed by recording artist Minister Keith Armstead; a presentation of the Black History Month Presidential Proclamation and Black History Month theme; awards for the Black History Month essay contest; scripture readings; and a keynote address by Rev. Dr. James Murphy of the Greater Little Zion Baptist Church, Fairfax, Virginia.

The 2016 theme for Black History Month is Hallowed Grounds: Sites of African American Memories. The Association for the Study of African American Life & History chose this theme to bring attention to the centennial celebration of the National Park Service and the more than 25 sites and the Underground Railroad Network to Freedom that are a part of America’s hallowed grounds, including the home of the father of black history, Dr. Carter G. Woodson.

Murphy opened his keynote address by equating the laying of symbolic “stones” by African Americans in history to Joshua 4:8 in which the Israelites gathered stones from the middle of the River Jordan and carried them to their camp where they laid them down as a foundation for their new home. He said that African Americans have also laid stones (through achieving milestones) and that the next generation will ask what these stones mean. “But, more importantly, what do they mean to you?” he said. The generations that follow will want to know the stories that surround African American history and it is up to those that know it and have lived it to tell them, according to Murphy.

“The stone simply represents a specific moment of strength, stability and hope to remind you of a person or an event that makes this moment memorable,” said Murphy.

He went on to say that African Americans have a sense of wanting to forget what the history really is and that African American history has some dark moments.

“We cannot renege on talking about the Middle Passage. We must be willing to tell them about the Atlantic Slave Trade. We must be able to tell them yes, we were dehumanized, reduced to being nothing more than shackled property, but it is a part of my history. We can’t be unwilling to tell about the 1857 Dred Scott decision and other milestones. It’s a building stone,” said Murphy.

“There is something about knowing your history that gives you the dignity and power to stand strong and tall in the face of any level of opposition. We cannot forget that an event happened. Make sure you instruct your children on history and how God has so graciously and mercilessly brought us to where we are today,” said Murphy.

He concluded his address by saying that if African Americans don’t tell their history, someone else will. And, that version of the story may not be the same as if it were told by those who learned the history the right way and passed it on, which is what he urged the audience at the prayer breakfast to do.

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