Hundreds Enjoy Informer's African-American Tour

Barrington M. Salmon | 2/22/2012, 12:13 p.m.

Michelle Armstead enjoyed last year's African American Heritage Tour so much that she returned for this year's installment.

Once again, the Montgomery County resident said, the tour - sponsored by The Washington Informer - went well beyond what she expected.

"My expectations were very high and they were exceeded," said Armstead, who was one of 30 Kaiser Permanente employees and 250 area residents who participated in the tour. "I'm always curious to visit places I haven't seen before, especially in my hometown. I liked how well the African-American soldiers performed when they weren't expected to. I can't help but see the irony of treating people like chattel property."

Armstead was referring to a documentary DVD, Fight for Freedom, produced by the The African American Civil War Memorial and Museum, which was screened prior to the group's departure to several sites in the city, including to the museum. The program detailed the bravery, dedication and sacrifices by enslaved Africans and others who despite enjoying freedom joined Union forces to battle those who sought to keep them in chains.

The Feb. 18 tour coincides with the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War. One hundred and fifty years ago, said bus tour owner John Best, America was torn apart by the gravest crisis the country has ever faced.

"This company was started in 1979 with the sole purpose of promoting black history, to impart knowledge and show the dignity and magnificence of our history," Best said of his business, Capital Entertainment Services and Tours.

David Bowers, several mentors and other members of the 100 Black Men of Washington's Saturday Leadership Academy, brought a group of their charges to soak up the day's activities. He spoke of the importance of exposing young people to their history, culture and heritage.

"It's the first time we've done the tour. It was very good, great information, a nice mix - speakers, the tour, walking through the museum," said Bowers, vice president and Washington, D.C. impact market leader for Enterprise Community Partners, Inc. "It was a good day and good fun."

"I appreciate the emphasis of all the speakers of the necessity of people knowing their history and their culture. I was lifted up today with some pretty easy to digest information. I recently watched The Loving Story on HBO. It is a reminder of the legal and cultural barriers African-Americans continue to fight for - equal opportunity and justice. It is a reminder that people have had to give their lives so that America could become what its documents said it could be," Bowers said.

Guests gathered at The Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Center (THEARC) in Southeast for a continental breakfast, to register and watch the museum documentary.

This month, a sub-theme to Black History Month is a focus on black women and their leadership, particularly in politics and in the civic, social and economic life of this country.

D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown, after spending time greeting constituents, posing for pictures and encouraging the young people, reflected on that theme.