Unity First Direct, Inc.
P.O. Box 80837
Springfield, MA 01138
By: Charles Blatcher, III Chairman – National Coalition of Black Veteran Organizations
We are commemorating Veterans Day in Louisville with the Colonel Charles Young maquette in the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage. As we “Salute” all Veterans, we are placing special emphasis on the legendary Buffalo Soldier. The Colonel is also being celebrated for the occasion in California.
We have joined the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage and the Louisville Chapter of NABVETS in recognizing and honoring its “Native Son” on the special day. The institution will present its completed Colonel Charles Young Flag Memorial to the Veterans and dignitaries invited to attend. The Center will also present plans to develop the Media /Art Wing to the complex that will carry the Colonel’s name. We’ve been advocating for greater visibility for the Man, his history and that of Black service personnel in general for over four decades. We are pleased to see all the activities taking place in different parts of the country. We count it as a success to our years of stressing the importance of the Colonel and the subject of the history. Reflecting back to the beginning of the advocacy there was the “March for Recognition. It was a 500 plus mile walk in 1978 from Oakland, California to Sacramento via Los Angeles. We have sponsored numerous activities since then. Among which includes the more recent restoration of his birth cabin in Mays Lick, Kentucky. Worked with State and Local representatives in having the highway running pass the property designated the Colonel Charles Young Memorial Highway. We unofficially designated the route leading from Mays Lick to Wilberforce, Ohio as the “Colonel Charles Young Corridor.” The name has been adopted . The route passes through Ripley, Ohio where he was raised. We accepted an Honorary Doctorate Degree for Colonel Young from Wilberforce University where he once taught. In the past, we hosted ceremonies at his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. We solved the mystery of where Ada Young, the Colonel’s wife was buried. She is interned in the grave with the Colonel. However, she was not recognized on the Headstone. The family has since added her name. We still hold the objective of one day seeing a statue of the Colonel in a Park or overlooking a Boulevard in Washington, DC.
I have been asked “Why” is Colonel Young worthy of the attention we continue to focus on him? He is worthy by virtues of his own deeds. His accomplishments are numerous including: From slavery becoming the third Black graduate of the United States Military Academy, first Black Military Attaché’ to a foreign government, the first Black Superintendent of a National Park. He was the highest rank Black Officer in the Armed Forces for majority of his career. He was a Soldier’s Soldier and Friend to many. Colonel Charles Young is an icon. He symbolizes the honor and dedication of Black Americans in the defense of this nation representing the Spanish American and World War 1 era. On June 22, 1917 Lieutenant Colonel Charles Young was promoted to full Colonel. The promotion came with the notification of his forced medical retirement from the Army. He appealed to the War Department and after waiting for a year for a reply, on June 6, 1918 he rode on horseback and walked 497 miles from Wilberforce, Ohio to Washington, DC to prove his fitness to be returned to active duty. He was returned to active duty on November 6, 1918. The War ended five days later with the signing of the Armistice. By keeping him out of the War, it denied him the opportunity of advancement to the rank of Brigadier General. His history is a reminder of our Nation’s unfinished task of rendering historical justice where the injustice is so obvious -such as the case with Colonel Young. More light should be shined on the entire subject of Black Military History. It is important that all Americans understand the commonalty of our vested interest in building and defending this nation, especially our youth. It should be taught in public education as a part of American History. Many familiar with the Colonel’s history believe he deserves the honorary rank of Brigadier General in the United States Army. The Colonel’s history should be featured or highlighted on every occasion that presents itself.
We look forward to commemorating the day in Louisville reviewing the Flag Memorial and the tour of the purposed designated Colonel Charles Young Media/Arts Center Wing. This is a very exciting and important project for Louisville and the State of Kentucky. It’s a potential resource for education and job skill training. Naming the wing after the Colonel is a most fitting honor. Aside from being an outstanding Soldier, Educator and Diplomat, Colonel Young was a renaissance man. He was an excellent poet; a play-write, we recently turned over a play he wrote titled; Toussaint L’ Overture: A Negro History Drama to Aukram Burton, executive director of the Center for review by the Media/Art Wing Advisory Council. We have asked the Advisory to review the possibility of the work being staged at some future date. We are appreciative of the National Afro American Museum in Wilberforce, Ohio for providing the manuscript. Colonel Young was a composer. Thanks to composer James Gardiner of Pajama Studio in Oakland we have heard one of the Colonel’s compositions. Gardiner played the sheet music of “There’s A Service Flag in the Window.” The Colonel was an accomplished composer and musician. Above all, he was a Teacher and beloved Friend to many.
Having the Colonel Charles Young Veterans Flag Memorial and a Media/Art Center Wing of the Kentucky Center for Africa American Heritage named in his honor is fitting to the character, interest and talents of the Man. The Colonel lived and served in many places, but he was only born in one, Kentucky. We are committed to making the Media/Arts Center a reality. The estimated cost is 3.5 million dollars.
We invited all in the area to join us on Veterans Day. The address of the Center is 1701 West Muhammad Ali Blvd. The program will begin at 1:30pm following the Veterans Day Parade. If not, please take a moment to tell the Veterans in your family and friends you appreciate their service.
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