Turner Station residents gathered at Union Baptist Church on Main Street for the community’s 26th Black History Celebration.
For 26 nonconsecutive years the Turner Station Heritage Foundation Committee has honored several community members with a distinguished theme year-in and year-out.
This year’s theme was dubbed the “Unsung Heroes and Heroines” to acknowledge several locals and figures in the neighborhood who served in the United States military.
This year’s Black History Celebration saw four honorees given the space to talk about their time serving the country, while also paying tribute to their families and community.
Vietnam veteran Beulah Lee discussed the effects of the war had on Dundalk, Edgemere and Turner Station. She described to the seismic jump from being “children of these communities,” but soon after graduation from high school “some were swept into the battlefield.”
“Survival was a daily test through any means necessary approved by the government,” Lee said.
Lee pointed to the disproportional number of Black servicemen who had fought on the frontlines of the battlefields.
According to the African American Veteran Museum, over 300,000 Black Americans served in Vietnam.
“The frontline included soldiers who were trained to only rely on their five senses — smell, taste, hearing, sight and touch, and locating the enemy in the dark,” Lee said. “They were called tunnel rats.”
Though Black Americans made up about 12 percent of the country’s population, Black soldiers were 16.3 percent of the armed forces, as well as up to 25 percent of people enlisted in the Army, but only 2 percent of officers across all branches.
It was around this time when the war in Vietnam coincided with the ongoing civil rights movement in the United States, where Lee testified the inequalities between American soldiers in the southeastern jungles.
As Black veterans returned to the states, Lee recalls seeing some begging on the streets of Baltimore.
“They bravely fought in this war,” Lee said. “Even saving lives of those who were taught and practiced racism — imagine fighting a war within a war.”
Lee described how black wristbands were worn throughout the war zones in Vietnam to signal solidarity between Black soldiers, while also representing a silent protest.
Turner Station resident Linwood Jackson explained his time serving in the Vietnam War to the congregation at Union Baptist Church.
Jackson was 19 years old when he went to Vietnam, and said that his younger life was stolen from him.
“They reduced us to being like animals,” Jackson said.
Jackson, however, expressed the need to preserve the history of Turner Station as well as shedding light on the accomplishments being made today.
He implored the one lesson he learned during his time fighting overseas: when you don’t have a seat at the table, you might be on the menu.
“We got to take our history and put it in the right perspective,” Jackson said. “This community should not be melting away because the people understood how we got here.”
A community marked by its historic figures is now fighting to preserve its history and identity.
“I will fight to the end to defend what belongs to people,” Lee said.
At this point in the celebration, family members of the late-Buffalo soldier Arthur Kermit Hancock memorialized their relative and his role as a father and grandfather.
Arthur Hancock’s son, Michael, was his caregiver where he explained how he had began taking care of his father after the matriarch of the family had died.
“We take so much granted,” Michael said. “Just getting up in the morning and putting your feet on the floor — we take so much for granted.”
Arthur Hancock had bravely fought in the liberation of Italy during World War II, where he severely injured his foot.
Michael described his father’s hard exterior and never sharing an inkling of his time in the military.
“It changed him,” Michael said. “He never talked about it.”
It wasn’t until Arthur had fallen ill, when the Buffalo soldier dispensed nuggets of his time fighting in World War II.
Arthur Hancock’s oldest grandchild, April, remembered the many time she accompanied her grandfather to reunions and “everything that had to deal with the Buffalo soldiers.”
“I remember being able to just listen to some of these stories,” April said. “Of course, back then, I didn’t understand what was going on but I listened to some of them and what heard they went they went through.”
She recalled how her grandfather told her how “life is going to be different for everyone and every generation is going to be different, but never forget where you came from.”
Bishop Calvin Burgess, a fellow Buffalo soldier, sat centered before the alter, as he described the pain in hearing other soldiers’ testimonies.
“It is very difficult to speak,” Burgess said. “As I have sit here this evening and listening to the various people who fought — those who spoke about Vietnam, Korea, the Buffalo soldiers — you have opened up a wound, a very deep wound.”
Burgess continued to speak while pausing through every other word, as the pain he felt hearing the hardships of his fellow men and women go through appeared to strike a nerve.
He further explained the pain in not only being a soldier but also being mistreated by those fighting for the same country as he did.
Burgess pointed to the hypocrisy of being “an Army of One,” yet racially discriminating against fellow soldiers at the same time.
“And yet, being a Black soldier at the time is difficult — it’s difficult because when you’re in combat and you’re in Iraq fighting a war and a white commanding officer says to the Blacks, ‘You have take your shower five miles away,’ and yet you’re supposed to be an Army of One,” Burgess said.
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