By Dave Palmer
Los Angeles District
LOS ANGELES, Calif. — In his proclamation for this year's National African American History Month, President Barack Obama stated that the achievements of African American women are not limited to what has been recorded or retold in our history books.
"Their impact is felt in communities where they are quiet heroes who care for their families, in boardrooms where they are leaders of industry, in laboratories where they are discovering new technologies, and in classrooms where they are preparing the next generation for the world they will inherit," said Obama.
For the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Los Angeles District's observance held Feb. 23, the Black Employment Special Emphasis Program committee chose a woman as keynote speaker who exemplifies service to family and community.
Carolynn Martin introduces herself as a mother, grandmother and community activist of 40 years. She is the current president of the Los Angeles View Park Section of the National Council of Negro Women.
"Our founder envisioned an organization of organizations… we have 240 sections worldwide," said Martin. "However, we have 28 affiliate organizations that are part of our organization. The idea was not to re-invent the wheel, we wanted to have a platform so all women's organizations could speak."
NCNW was founded in 1935 by Mary McLeod Bethune a child of slave parents who distinguished herself as an educator and consultant while serving on FDR's Black Cabinet.
"For us at View Park, our signature programs are HIV prevention and education for women and girls and a program that I love, the Phoenix Leadership Academy for girls."
The Phoenix Leadership Academy is a summer program for girls ages 8 to 13. The academy's stated purpose is to develop leadership skills while focusing on prevention of juvenile crime, disease, teen pregnancy and enhancing academic achievement.
Martin handed out a flier for her section's next big event, "Rock the Red Pumps", which is part of the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Campaign on March 10. According to the CDC, the estimated rate of new HIV infections for black women is more than 15 times as high as the rate for white women, and more than three times as high as that of Latina women.
"The funding for HIV prevention, STD prevention, unplanned pregnancy (prevention) is almost nothing in California," said Martin. "Those are the subjects that we talk about and why we do 'Rock the Red Pumps' to attract young women, because you know, a message from a young woman to another young woman might be more effective."
Martin made it clear that volunteers of all races and genders are welcome, stating that their programs have a positive impact on all of society; it's the community working for the community.
On the theme, District Commander Col. Mark Toy said that this year's campaign really resonated with him. He described the person he considered to be the most influential leader of his career… a strong, African American woman.
"For me, that battalion commander who was my best battalion commander was Lt. Col. Yvonne Prettyman-Beck," said Toy. "When you think about what we're doing here in Los Angeles, the motto that we have, 'Building Strong and Taking Care of People', I have to say that idea about taking care of people had its infancy with Lt. Col. Prettyman-Beck and how she treated me. She showed me what right looked like."