COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Defense Supply Center Columbus’ African American History recognition program provided both entertainment and education as Mr. Charles Tennant, Sr. shared his extensive knowledge of history to a packed auditorium during its February 24 Black History Month observance.
During his introduction Navy Rear Admiral John King, DLA Land and Maritime commander, spoke inspiringly of Tennant, particularly highlighting his selfless demonstration of community involvement.
“We’re very delighted to have Mr. Tennant with us here today and our friend and soon to be next door neighbor from the Africentric School,” said King. “You’re my kind of leader and role model and I want to ensure you that DSCC is here for the Africentric School and pledges to help enrich the lives of all of the children who will be educated there.
“This man doesn’t sit around at all. We spent some time together before this event and I can tell you he’s highly focused and motivated. The great thing I noticed in his biography was that he says he’s somewhat of dreamer. I love the fact that he’s both an accomplisher and a dreamer.”
King also acknowledged that there were several DSCC associates in attendance who Tennant mentored. One Defense Finance Accounting Services associate mentioned Tennant’s guidance from more than 20 years ago still guides her actions and influences her decision making.
Jambo! Jambo! Jambo! Tennant said to everyone as he took the stage, explaining that his greeting was a Swahili word for welcome. He also introduced the architect, Kanu Onwukwe of the new Africentric School.
Tennant explained that Kanu visited him earlier during his career and was the spark for bringing his vision of the new school to life. Beginning his presentation with a West African music selection, he explained that music was vital part of the African American culture.
Plunging right into the program’s theme “Hallowed Grounds – Sites of African American Memory” he linked some non-traditional African American history highlights that kept the audience quiet and listening earnestly to every example.
Africa is the only continent where the equator runs directly through the middle and is more than three times larger than the United States he said. Sharing the origins of the Sahara Desert – Tennant pointed out that the Sahara is larger than the United States; is only 30 percent sand contains more water underneath than the entire capacity of the five great lakes in Canada and the US.
While covering a wide period of history Tennant kept the audience entertained by interjecting light humor. He talked about Egyptian history and the tribal conflicts that preceded the country’s unification. Egyptians built a city called Memphis Egypt to signify the country’s united front he said. “It’s where the use of the name Memphis, Tennessee originated. Memphis Egypt was the first civilization that existed in Africa that we know of,” Tennant said.
Tennant also talked about the country of Nubia, the Nubian society and the gender equality that existed within. Men and women shared equal rights and fought on the same battlefields together and gold was as plentiful rocks are in today’s back yards.
“As a teacher of history you seldom see anything referencing African American history, and the examples we do see are mostly negative - it’s time to review the positives,” Tennant urged.
Touching on some lesser known, but equally important African American heroes as examples Tennant cited Bass Reeves, an Arkansas slave who was adopted by several Indian tribes and eventually learned five Indian languages. Sworn in as U.S. Marshall because of his geographic knowledge and tracking skills, Reeves was like a Navy Seal who patrolled Indian territory (modern day Oklahoma) where he captured more than 3,000 fugitives, among them his own son. Reeves was memorialized in Oklahoma after his death where structures were named to honor him. Tennent explained that The Lone Ranger western series was adapted after Reise’s character and life exploits.
In 1854 Elizabeth Jennings Jr.’s protest actions against segregation on the streetcars sparked a court battle where she won the court judgment. Jennings’ actions preceded Rosa Parks’ protests for similar actions in 1955 where she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama.
Tennent also talked about George Washington Carver and referred to him as a genius, while regrettably citing the lack of any prominent reference to Carver’s contributions through discoveries and inventions, some still in use today.
Ending with African music as he began, Tennant transported the audience back to 2009 to commemorate the election of Barack Obama, the first African American President in the history of the United States. King presented Tennant with a token to commemorate his visit to DSCC and thanked him for the wonderful history lesson he shared.
Carter G. Woodson awards were also presented to Land and Maritime Contract Specialist Pam Baker as the Federal awardee and Dr. William McDaniel, a jazz studies professor and Area Head Ohio State University as the Community awardee.
DLA Land and Maritime presents its Annual Carter G. Woodson Award to recognize two individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the African American Community.
The audience joined in a collective rendition of “Lift Every Voice” led by Ms. Xandra Wilson from the Defense Finance Accounting Services to close out the event.