In Europe, honoring Dr. King's dream of tolerance
January 14, 2004
DARMSTADT, Germany — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream, and it has come to pass, according to Sgt. 1st Class Shanna Travis, the 233rd Base Support Battalion equal opportunity adviser. But, she said, that’s not to say Americans still don’t have a long way to go.
Now there are new dreams to reach.
“The American society accomplished what Dr. King envisioned,” Travis said. “Now, we have to only keep learning and make it better.”
Nearly 40 years ago, King delivered a speech asking for tolerance, and demanded an end to injustice and racism.
“Many people have the common misconception that Dr. King was only about blacks. Actually, he was focused on betterment of the American society. He wanted all people to get along; he wanted diversity, and for everyone to be equal,” Travis said.
On Aug. 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, the black civil rights movement leader said, “Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.”
The nation heard, and within the year poll taxes were abolished by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution, which opened the door to poor black voters in the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was also passed, which prohibited racial discrimination in employment and education and outlawed racial segregation in public facilities.
Change did not come quickly or completely. King was killed on April 4, 1968, by a sniper’s bullet while standing on a motel balcony in Memphis, Tenn. James Earl Ray confessed to the killing and was imprisoned, but later proclaimed his innocence.
It took 15 years after King’s death to create the Martin Luther King Jr. federal holiday, which has the motto “Remember! Celebrate! Act! A day on, not a day off.”
Travis, a black who has been in the military for 13 years, said she has experienced prejudice, but it wasn’t because of the color of her skin. It was gender bias. She said she believes King helped pave the way for equal rights for women as well, which is why she has learned to hold her ground against sexism.
“I ask ‘What is it about me that makes you think you could treat me the way you do?’ Usually, just that simple question puts a stop to this type of behavior,” Travis said. “I used to be passive, and then I came to the conclusion that people can do only what I allow them to do to me. I never let it slide.”
For the past two years Travis, who is an executive administrative assistant in the Army, has worked as an EO representative, organizing ethnic observances for the Darmstadt and Babenhausen communities.
Last year for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, she organized a re-enactment of key points of the civil rights movement, including the March on Washington. Travis said that because we celebrate King’s birthday, she decided this year to throw a party. It will be complete with cake and punch.
Travis said she has learned so much from the ethnic observances she puts together year-round that they have given her more insight into American cultures.
“It’s amazing how much people actually have in common and we just don’t realize it,” Travis said. “Learning about one another’s backgrounds builds acceptance and understanding. When we learn together it really pushes toward what Dr. King envisioned.”
Now, Travis has dreams, too. She hopes one day to live in a society that will celebrate all cultures, including white Americans.
“There are so many cultures wrapped up in what’s considered Caucasian in America. It’s important to celebrate them, too. These observances are a tool for understanding. Just because they are the majority doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be celebrated.”
The schedule ...
A list of celebrations planned in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.:
Heidelberg, Germany: First Personnel Command will have a breakfast featuring a guest speaker at the Village Pavilion on Patrick Henry Village from 7 a.m. to 8:45 a.m.
Mannheim, Germany: There will be a theatrical production, “Dimensions of a Complete Life,” at 10:30 a.m. in the Schuh Theater.
Bamberg, Germany: The chapel will have a keynote speaker, Col. Victoria H. Diego-Allard, and a free ethnic food buffet from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Darmstadt, Germany: A birthday party will be held with punch and cake, free food, along with a choir and keynote speaker, from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. in the chapel basement.
Grafenwöhr, Germany: Camp Tunisia will have a wreath-laying ceremony, guest speaker and a “Let Freedom Ring March” beginning just past the 409th Base Support Battalion dining facility at 10:30 a.m.
Kitzingen, Germany: The 417th Base Support Battalion, 98th Area Support Group, 1st Infantry Division and 69th Air Defense Artillery Brigade will celebrate at the Marshall Heights School Age Services in Building T-341 from 5 to 8 p.m. There will be a guest speaker, celebration march, a community potluck dinner and food sampling.
Mannheim: High school students are invited to participate in a lunchtime trivia competition from 11:15 to 11:45 a.m. in the hallway near the multipurpose room. Prizes will be awarded to the student with the highest number of correct responses.
Schweinfurt, Germany: The Ledward Community Chapel will feature Pastor W.K. Jones and the Full Gospel Christian Center dance and drama team from 11 a.m. to noon.
Wiesbaden, Germany: The 221st Base Support Battalion will have Lt. Col. Patrick D. Sargent, commander of the 421st Medical Evacuation Battalion, speak at the Wiesbaden Army Airfield dining facility at 12:05 p.m., along with Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech recital, chapel choir music, slide shows and cake.
Tuesday, Jan. 20
Ansbach, Germany: There will be a candlelight march to the chapel beginning at the Katterbach flagpole in front of 4th Brigade Headquarters starting at 4:30 p.m., followed by gospel music and a guest speaker at the chapel.
No events were released by U.S. Air Forces in Europe.