So much to celebrate

Published 7:00 pm Saturday, February 7, 2015

It’s time again to celebrate Black History Month. I find it interesting to learn the many contributions of African Americans. I love learning about the people who made America great.

As a naturalized U.S. citizen, of Filipino descent, I must admit I have much more to learn about the United States and its many cultures.

My immigration into America in early 1980s and my military service of 20 years in the United States Navy gave me the opportunity to be exposed to cultural diversity.

Email newsletter signup

Back when I was in naval training in California, and then working at naval hospitals and clinics, I became aware of how diverse America has been.

My exposure to the different cultures represented in the Navy opened my eyes to the beauty and complexity of human diversity. It helped me a lot to be more understanding, respectful and tolerant to everyone I come in contact with. My knowledge of different cultures increased.

Almost every month, we celebrated different cultural programs. We have had cultural shows and presentations, and guest speakers came to talk about their race or roots or historical events of significance. Those programs were informative, enlightening and entertaining to me.

I’m also inspired reading biographies of notable people.

I recall, when my young children were researching a presentation for Black History Month, that I came to know about George Washington Carver.

I became interested in his life story. I consider him a role model worthy of respect and recognition. His struggle and determination to better himself were commendable. His humility and helpfulness are beyond compare. He truly exemplifies what a humanitarian is.

In addition to the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who championed the cause of civil rights and equality, another modern African-American who is worth-remembering is Rosa Louise McCauley, commonly known as Rosa Parks.

I can’t help but admire her for her conviction and resiliency in fighting for  injustice and inequality.

In 2008, I paid her a tribute via my Ilokano poem “Rosa Parks (1913-2005)” and was published in

Speaking of education, Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) founder Booker T. Washington comes to mind. With his encouragement, George Washington Carver taught there and helped the Southern farmers learn to improve the soil through crop rotation.

Another African-American I found interesting was Harriet Tubman, who became the “Moses” of her people. She rescued about 70 blacks and their families from slavery via the Underground Railroad. As an abolitionist, she also fought for women’s suffrage.

As a budding poet, I have read some of the works of noted African-American writers like Maya Angelou, Langston Hughes, Rita Dove, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Lucille Clifton, Alice Walker, Gwendolyn Brooks, Shel Silverstein and others.

Locally, I’ve had the opportunity to watch Suffolk native Nathan Richardson performing at an open mic poetry night at a Chesapeake library. A performance poet and published author, he’s also a marketing consultant for this publication.

To all African Americans who have made significant contributions to America, I thank you.

Chris A. Quilpa, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, lives in Suffolk. Email him at