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Sgt. Eric Schmidt colors with Caasi Wynn, Briana Eure, Alexis Varber and her sister Kiana Varner at the youth center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Saturday during Heritage Day, a celebration of black history.
Sgt. Eric Schmidt colors with Caasi Wynn, Briana Eure, Alexis Varber and her sister Kiana Varner at the youth center at Yokota Air Base, Japan, on Saturday during Heritage Day, a celebration of black history. (Christopher B. Stoltz / S&S)

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — More than 100 people turned out Saturday at the Taiyo Recreation Center for Heritage Day, a centerpiece of Yokota’s Black History Month celebration.

The official theme of this year’s observance is “Celebrating the African American/Black Community.”

“It’s a tribute to fraternal, social and civic organizations,” said Maj. Brenda Waters of the 374th Medical Group, a lead organizer of activities at Yokota this month, along with Master Sgt. Sharon Williams.

“We’re holding Heritage Day so people have more awareness of African-American culture,” said Waters. “When we arrive in Japan, we learn about their culture because you don’t want to offend anyone when you go off base.

“It’s the same thing within our country. America is made out of so many different cultures. We need to learn them all to make sure we understand each other and get along better.”

Bases in Japan, Okinawa, South Korea and Guam are holding events throughout the month to observe black history.

Saturday’s event at Yokota featured activities for children, cultural exhibits and information booths about health and wellness.

The Tokyo branch of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority also used the occasion to present its annual Historically Black Colleges and Universities Fair. Several alumni, including educators and physicians from the base, took the stage to offer their experiences. Among them were Col. Renita Alexander, 374th Mission Support Group deputy commander, and Lt. Col. Vickie Moore, 374th Medical Group deputy commander.

More than 30 schools sent packages with information about scholarships, financial aid and application procedures.

Visitors were greeted in the lobby by a “Hall of Fame” library display, books and tapes on famous blacks who made significant contributions to the nation.

Inside the auditorium, arrangements were devoted to African-American inventors, servicemembers and those achieving greatness in sports, such as Michael Jordan, Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods. People even could test their golf skills on a putting carpet.

Dedicated activities for children included educational movies, coloring books and a dental table set up by the medical group to teach proper brushing techniques.

The base’s Health and Wellness Center offered tips about fitness, obesity, diabetes and dealing with substance abuse. Beauty products also were on display.

The Yokota Caribbean Club, which provided refreshments and added music to the setting, had its own display of islanders who have figured prominently in black history.

All of the displays used Saturday will be scattered among the base schools and library for the remainder of the month, Waters said. The Heritage Day event was believed to be the first held at Yokota.

“We’re trying to set the standard,” she said. “We want to educate the public about African-American culture.

“Even though we’re all Americans, we’re still different. We come from different parts of America. It’s important to understand people’s idiosyncrasies and why they do things the way they do.”

Still to come: Traditional Caribbean and African-American foods may be sampled from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the Yokota commissary. Organizers expect a big turnout.

“You can probably hop from table to table and get an entire meal,” Waters said.

Upcoming events

Following is a list of Black History Month events scheduled at Japan and Guam military bases as of Feb. 3:

Japan

Camp Zama

Feb. 16: Community celebration featuring the U.S. Army Japan Band, 3:30 to 4 p.m. at the Community Cultural Center. Also at CCC, “Reaching Out to Youth: A Strategy for Excellence,” 3:30 to 4:30 p.m.Atsugi Naval Air Facility

Feb. 17: The Flagship “Black History Month” act is comedian Bruce Bruce, 7 p.m. at Club Trilogy.Yokota Air Base

Feb. 8: Medical Group Heritage LunchFeb. 9: Heritage Lunch at Dining FacilityFeb. 16: African American/Black History Luncheon at E-Club, 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.Feb. 17: Jazz Night, Poetry Reading and Art Display at E-Club, 7-11 p.m.Feb. 25: Gospel Jamboree at Traditional Chapel, 4 p.m.Feb. 26: Sunday soul food brunch at the O-Club.Feb. 28: Closing Event at the O-Club, 3:30 p.m.Yokosuka Naval Base

Feb. 24: Black History Dinner Show featuring music tributes to Aretha Franklin, Ray Charles and Tina Turner, 5-9 p.m., Alliance Club Ballroom, $12.85 per person.Sasebo Naval Base

Call Black History Month Committee organizers Chief Petty Officer Richardo Thomas at DSN 252-5763, or Chief Petty Officer James O’Neal at DSN 252-231 for information as events develop.Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni

Feb. 23: Poetry readings, a blues and jazz singer, a step dance performance and an original African display from West Africa, at Club Iwakuni Ballroom, time to be advised. Call Master Sgt. Diane Rowe at DSN 253-4186 for more information.Camp Fuji

No events planned.

Misawa Air Base

Feb. 7: An essay-writing contest for Black History Month starts. African American Association members to visit Sollars and Cummings elementary schools on Feb. 7 and 14 to read stories about diversity.Feb. 9 and Feb. 16: Lunch and movies, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Tohoku Enlisted Club sports bar during the first three Thursdays of February. Movies are documentaries, biographies and others that highlight important individuals and events. Scheduled, time permitting, are “Cooley High, 1975” and “Death of a Prophet, The Last Day in the Life of Malcolm X” on Friday; “4 Little Girls” and “Freedom Song” on Feb. 16.Feb. 11: The Evolution of Dance — African American Heritage Ball will demonstrate how dance developed from the 1950s to the present. Starts at 6 p.m. in the Tohoku Enlisted Club. Cost is $15 for dinner.Feb. 18: Gospel music festival, starts at 3 p.m. in the base chapel.Feb: 26: Black History Month essay contest winners to be announced at a closing banquet starting at 6 p.m. at the Tohoku Enlisted Club.Guam

Andersen Air Force Base

Feb. 18: Food drive.Feb. 23: Luncheon at the Oceanview Conference Center.Naval Base Guam

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