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March 09, 2012

Observances

African-American women have helped advance American culture

By Rob Schuette, Public Affairs Staff

African-American/Black women have made a difference in advancing American culture, said the guest speakers at Fort McCoy’s Feb. 23 observance of African-American/Black History Month.
PHOTO: Barbara Martin-Stanley sings “If I Can Help Somebody,” during Fort McCoy's Black History Month observance. Photo by Allan Harding
Barbara Martin-Stanley sings “If I Can Help Somebody,” while her husband, Dr. Charles R. Martin-Stanley listens during the African-American/Black History Month observance at Fort McCoy. (Photo by Allan Harding)

A husband-and-wife team from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse (UW-L) presented a Black History program to a Fort McCoy audience focusing on the 2012 theme for the month, “Black Women in American Culture and History.”

Dr. Charles R. Martin-Stanley is an associate dean who provides leadership in the areas of diversity, assessment and enrollment management for the UW-L Liberal Studies College. His spouse, Barbara Martin-Stanley, is a UW-L diversity admissions counselor. The Martin-Stanleys included a brief glance at 10 influential Black women who significantly influenced American culture and history.

Dr. Martin-Stanley said speaking at Fort McCoy provided a chance to share Black history at a larger-scale event than they could host in La Crosse. Master Sgt. Claudia Simpson, installation Equal Opportunity adviser, said the Martin-Stanleys were invited to speak because they brought a new horizon of awareness to the celebration.

African-American women have had a long legacy of service as both caregivers and bread winners, Dr. Martin-Stanley told the Fort McCoy audience.

“Today African-American women support Families, head organizations and fill and hold important roles in the military and government,” he said. “They make (the country) a better place for all of us.”

PHOTO: Attendees enjoyed lunch and listening to Dr. Charles R. Martin-Stanley and his wife, Barbara Martin-Stanley during Fort McCoy's Black History Month observance. Photo by Allan Harding
Attendees enjoyed lunch and listening to Dr. Charles R. Martin-Stanley and his wife, Barbara Martin-Stanley, who both are employees at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, present a program to honor the theme “Black Women in American Culture and History” during Fort McCoy’s African-American/Black History Month observance. (Photo by Allan Harding)

“They stand up against oppression and for social justice,” he said. “They are notable for serving others, and have a story of resilience and perseverance.”

Notable African American women are ordinary people who took extraordinary risks to change the nation for the better, he said.

The 10 women he highlighted worked in a variety of fields, including science, politics, entertainment, education and the military. They made significant contributions to American culture and history and continue to help shape history, he said.

The first person on his list was from the military, Maj. Gen. Marcia Anderson. Anderson was the first female African-American promoted to major general in the Army, and she still serves.

“She demonstrates what a relentless attitude can do for you,” he said. “She hopes to inspire others to be leaders.”

Others highlighted included: Rosa Parks, a Civil Rights activist; Harriet Tubman of the Underground Railroad fame; Sojourner Truth, a former slave who became an abolitionist; Dr. Maya Angelou, a poet, memoirist, novelist, educator, dramatist, producer, actress, historian, filmmaker, and Civil Rights activist; Dr. Alexa Canady, the first African-American female neurosurgeon; Condoleezza Rice, the first African-American female Secretary of State; Dr. Trachette Jackson, who uses mathematical models to portray cancerous tumor growth; Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American female to enter space; and Oprah Winfrey, an entertainer and businesswoman.

“These African American women boldly embraced opportunities that were rejected by others, because those opportunities offered the possibility for social change that would be beneficial to an individual, community, or entire nation,” Dr. Martin-Stanley told the audience. “They lived or are living lives of consequence.”

Barbara Martin-Stanley sang “If I Can Help Somebody,” a favorite of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., to begin and end the presentation.

She also presented an interactive quiz on little-known facts about Black women to inform audience members about the accomplishments of some famous, and sometimes obscure, Black women, who have influenced America’s culture and history.

Dr. Martin-Stanley concluded the presentation by saying, “Our challenge is that everyone — not just these women — can provide service to transform communities and turn around some of society’s greatest problems. One of our greatest mistakes, as individuals, is that we often go through life with our eyes closed and not see the opportunities to help and serve others.”

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