• Zulema Herrera Herrera

Memorial Day Speech By Veteran Cut Off When He Spoke On The Contributions By Black Americans

Updated: Jun 5

By Zulema Herrera

During a Memorial Day ceremony on Monday in Hudson, Ohio, a U.S Army veteran's mic was lowered when he began discussing the history of Black people and their part in the creation of the holiday. What was initially assumed to be an audio malfunction, is now being further investigated based on suspicions of intentional censorship by event coordinators.

Barnard Kemter, retired Army Lt. Col., was speaking about the freed enslaved Black people who honored soldiers around the time of the Civil War; during which his mic was turned off. Despite this, he kept talking and according to the Akron Beacon Journal, said he was previously advised to remove parts of his speech about Black Americans by an event organizer.

Cindy Suchan, president of the Hudson American Legion Auxiliary and Jim Garrison of the American Legion Lee-Bishop Post are suspected to have turned down the audio. Suchan said in an interview with the Akron Beacon Journal that organizers wanted it excluded because it was not relevant to their program, which was centered on honoring Hudson veterans. The American Legion of Ohio announced Thursday they will begin a more thorough investigation of this incident.

"Regardless of the investigation’s outcome, the national headquarters is very clear that The American Legion deplores racism and reveres the Constitution," said National Commander James W. "Bill" Oxford in the American Legion press release "We salute LTC Kemter’s service and his moving remarks about the history of Memorial Day and the important role played by Black Americans in honoring our fallen heroes."

As stated by an article by Time magazine, Memorial Day has had countless claims by community members and towns of its origin. However, unfortunately, the origin that has been unrecognized in history is the one about the 10,000 (mostly recently freed enslaved people) residents who paraded in tribute of the fallen soldiers. This occurred May 1, 1865, and based on the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author David W Blight, it was called "The First Decoration Day."

This incident is amongst the many instances where Black contributions are silenced or obscured. Holidays like Juneteenth, the day enslaved people were emancipated, have allowed the opportunity for Black Americans and the rest of the community to celebrate their past. Questioning who we recognize on holidays, or the absence of prominent events and historical figures that center people of color has been increasingly put to the forefront; allowing for their presence to never be forgotten.

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