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February 13, 2018 at 5:01am

JBLM to celebrate culture, diversity Feb. 20

African-Americans have played a huge role in American history, including as service members in times of war from the Civil War on. Currently more than 19 percent of the Army is made up of African-American Soldiers, 17 percent in the Air Force, according to the Department of Defense.

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is honoring the contributions of African-American service members, civilians and family members with a celebration at Carey Theater Feb. 20 at 11:30 a.m. The theme of the 2018 African-American History Month is “African-Americans in Times of War.”

The JBLM event is hosted by the 16th Combat Aviation Brigade and will include a special theatrical performance by Mark Peterson, Living Voices actor. Musical entertainment will be provided by Jules Jones, a rhythm and blues performer.

An educational display also will be part of the event, with information on various African-American service members, including the historic Buffalo Soldiers. The Buffalo Soldiers were African-American Soldiers of the Army’s 10th Cavalry, who not only served on the Western Frontier to protect settlers from Native Americans, but also many later went on to serve and fight with the Union Army during the Civil War.

“We are a culture of many cultures,” said Sgt. 1st Class Eldridge Gilbert, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 16th CAB, of why it’s important to honor African-American History Month and all the various diversity observances throughout the year in America. “No culture is more important than any other, and any time we have an opportunity to celebrate our diversity it’s wonderful.”

Gilbert is from Oakland, Calif., and has known Jones since the two attended elementary school together in Oakland.

In addition to performing backup vocals on other artists’ CDs, Jones released his own album, “Soulmate,” in 2017 and has performed as an opening act for several name acts, including Roberta Flack and rappers, Michael “Mystikal” Taylor and Quincy “San Quin” Brooks IV.

Peterson, an actor with the Seattle-based Living Voices, is a graduate of the University of Idaho, with a master’s degree in theater performance. He was a member of the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival from 2005 to 2007. He also has worked as an assistant director and stage combat instructor for Tacoma Youth Theatre and the Broadway center in Tacoma. He’s been working as an actor in the Seattle area since 2008.

A few of his recent notable performances include portraying Othello with Theatre Artists Olympia and Aaron in “Titus Andronicus,” also with Theatre Artists Olympia.

A celebratory cake will be served at the Carey Theater event.

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