A Gospel Choir concert held at the Post Theater Feb. 19 replaced the usual luncheon format events held to commemorate Black History Month this year. Buffalo Soldier Historian Jerry Petty helped kick off this year’s event as the guest speaker. Petty talked about the importance of sharing the Buffalo Soldier’s history through talks and reenactments.
“I have a lot of trails to follow. I have a lot of stories to tell,” Petty said.
Petty, who donned a Buffalo Soldier uniform for the event, talked about the rich history of the Buffalo Soldiers. He said shortly after African Americans were freed from slavery they had a choice to go where they wanted but several stayed to serve their country and make a living. Though, he said, they did not receive the same acknowledgement or praise, they encountered the same hardships, including starvation.
“As a Buffalo Soldier I am proud to represent those who have come before me,” Petty said. “They were put forward in places that others didn’t want to go.”
Petty said he enjoys retelling and reenacting the story of the Buffalo Soldiers because he considers every event an opportunity to teach a history that is not told in full in school textbooks. He said the uniforms can get hot during the reenactment events, especially with the New Mexico sun, but the effort is made worthwhile when he learns of the people he’s enlightened. Petty’s favorite teaching opportunity comes in talking to kids at schools.
“Whenever we talk to children we’re teaching history, we’re reminding them of history,” Petty said. “The greatest congratulation came from the kids because they will continue history. It feels so good when someone walks up to you and says, ‘hey, you’re that Buffalo Soldier.”
Lt. Corey Taylor provided the opening remarks for the event. During his speech he talked about how Black History Month came to be and the local historical figure who currently commands the installation. Taylor recognized Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham for being the first African American female to take command at WSMR.
“Maj. Gen. Gwen Bingham has been an inspiration to me since I arrived,” Taylor said.
The NMSU Gospel Choir followed the speakers and had the audience tapping their feet midway through the lunchtime concert. Bingham closed the event by presenting Petty and NMSU Gospel Choir Conductor Bobbie Green with a certificate of appreciation and a collage of WSMR.