Marines participate in 2004 NAACP Convention
By Staff Sgt. Marc Ayalin
| Marine Corps Recruiting Command | July 15, 2004
The 'City of Brotherly Love' was host to the 95th Annual NAACP Convention July 10-15, here, and the Marines were on hand to showcase the achievements of diversity within the ranks of the United States Marine Corps.
More than 15,000 visitors, NAACP members and exhibitors from across the country filled the Philadelphia convention center to participate in an event-filled week of information sharing, education and celebration with the nation’s oldest civil rights organization. Representatives from Marine Corps Recruiting Command (MCRC) took the opportunity to develop relationships with leaders and influencers in the African-American community.
“Our efforts during this convention helped to generate interest about opportunities for service as well as inform influencers about how diverse and multi-faceted our Corps has become,” said Capt. Marc V. Cole, diversity-marketing officer for MCRC.
In order to leverage recruiting efforts nationwide, the convention allowed Marine recruiters time to meet with participants and explain the benefits of serving in the Marines.
“The military provides diverse cultures a means to level the playing field,” said Roslyn M. Brock, vice-chairman, board of directors for the NAACP.
As participants navigated through a maze of corporate and private vendor booths and information kiosks, the Marines manned an interactive information booth that drew large crowds of people curious to see who could do the most pull-ups.
“It wasn’t easy,” said 15-year-old Marc Jackson from Chicago, Ill. “The pull-ups really called for muscular endurance and pure upper body strength.”
While men and women of all ages took their turn at the pull-up bar, convention participants interested in the Marines took a moment to study a Marine Corps historical display set up at the Armed Forces information pavilion within the convention center. The Marine display consisted of photos and biographies of past and present African-American Marines who made great achievements and paved the way for African-American Marines.
“We are here to share the history and traditions of our service,” said LtCol. Denice T. Williams, an equal opportunity program officer for Manpower Plan and Policies Division (MP). “This is where we have gone, how far we’ve come and what’s available.”
The historical display made an impact on one former military service member who was adamant that serving in the Marine Corps offers equal opportunity.
“I think the military handles diversity better as a whole,” said Greg Vazquez, former Army soldier and a Delaware resident. “I worked on Wall Street for twenty-three years and I had to always constantly prove myself as being better or one step ahead. Whereas when I was in the service, I had more respect for what I accomplished.”
The Montford Point Marines Association also made a lasting impression on NAACP members during a Youth Advisor’s luncheon that honored Captain Ferderick C. Branch, the first African-American officer in the Corps. Branch was presented with an award by the city of Philadelphia for his pioneering efforts in paving the way for blacks serving in the military.
“Because of the Montford Point Marines and the Tuskeegee Airmen, we have opportunities in the military,” said Robert Howard, president and director of the Southeast Section of the NAACP North County San Diego branch #1086.
Local Philadelphians received special guests at their Sunday worship as five Marines from MCRC attended in full dress blue attire. Doris Reddick, a member of the Tindley Temple United Methodist Church, invited the Marines whom she met at the conference.
“I’ve never seen a black female Marine until that day,” Reddick said. “I worry about you guys so much that I wanted them here to pray for them.”
During the worship, the Marines received a blessing from the church pastor that seemed to bring them a sense of goodness.
“I felt real proud to be invited to this church and receive a warm welcome like we did,” said GySgt. Charissa R. Howard, administrative chief for prior service recruiting.
The Marine Corps has participated in the last three NAACP conventions because of the high exposure it offers Marine recruiting efforts while also allowing the Marine Corps the opportunity to keep the African-American community informed. NAACP officials look forward to next year’s convention and are confident in their relationship with the armed services.
“We’ve had a long standing relationship with the military,” Brock said. “I hope that this relationship will continue to grow.”
Marine Corps Recruiting continues to seek out opportunities is to ensure that people across America become aware of the benefits of serving in the Marine Corps.