Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Natalia Fraser, assigned to air operations department and committee lead, opened the event by stressing the important of contributions by past and present Black that have created “ripples” within society to inspire change.
“However one does not need to hold a protest or be the first to break a record to inspire change,” she said. “They can be the person sitting next to you.”
Fraser stated that for many within this community that person was Logistics Specialist 1st Class Nojeem Ogungbo. Originally born in Nigeria, he moved to Winston-Salem, North Carolina in 2012 and later joined the U.S. Navy. His inspiring story was what led the committee to ask Ogungbo to be the guest speaker of the event.
“As you all know and can tell, I was not born here and English is not my first language, yet am here today wearing the Navy uniform proud and tall,” he said.
He went on to describe that through his time in the Navy, he had mentors along the way who have helped and encouraged him. Today he has a master’s of business administration, is a doctoral candidate, serves as leading petty officer for his department, runs marathons, and is a soccer and running coach.
After Ogungbo’s speech, NAVSTA Rota Commanding Officer Capt. Teague Suarez provided some remarks on the observance. He encouraged participants to not focus solely on the monumental achievements but reflect on the other story within that achievement.
“We celebrate, as we should, the individual triumphs of the Golden 13, proving they were the equal of any other commissioned officers in the Navy,” he stated. “But we should also recognize the collective tragedy of the thousands of other African American Sailors who never had the chance.”
Afterwards, participants gathered in the Fellowship Hall to view a museum that the committee created to highlight African-American military trailblazers. With dimmed lighting, light music, and large placards detailing the achievements, participants were encouraged to reflect on these contributions and their impact on our current Navy.
For Sailors interested in joining the diversity committee Fraser encourages them to attend the weekly diversity committee meeting held Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. in the Fellowship Hall. Next month, the committee will be honoring and celebrating Women’s History Month.
Located near the Strait of Gibraltar and nestled on the Bay of Cadiz, Naval Station (NAVSTA) Rota serves as the “Gateway to the Mediterranean” and provides U.S. Navy and all NATO forces a strategic hub for operations in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Capable of promptly deploying combat-ready forces through land, air and sea, NAVSTA Rota’s strength is characterized by its capability to enable the warfighter, sustain the fleet and foster the U.S. and Spanish defense partnership.
For more information about NAVSTA Rota, visit https://cnreurafcent.cnic.navy.mil/Installations/NAVSTA-Rota/