Hit the Road Sam

Communities Speak Out Against Army's Hip Hop Recruitment

What is interesting is that the "Take It To The Streets" campaign is the brainchild of an African American-owned PR firm; Col. Nickerson, an African American; and a magazine appealing to the hip-hop generation. According to Margaret Kargbo of Walls Communications, the firm that brokered the collaboration between the Army and The Source, as well as the Army’s sponsorship of the All-American Bowl, the Army has other campaigns in the works for 2004, with or without the involvement of the magazine. The Source’s Tracii McGregor, vice president of content and communications, says she was only aware of the collaboration during the "Campus Combat" campaign in October and offered no comment about pending endorsements. The Source has run several full-page U.S. Army ads for more than a year.

Kargbo insists that though "Everything is still tentative between the Army and The Source for this year," the Army has teamed up with the National Newspaper Publishers Association (a group representing most of the nation's black newspapers) and is in the midst of circulating a traveling photo exhibit. The exhibit chronicles the history of African Americans' "proud past" in the armed forces as well as other historical events like the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court decision and the 1965 Selma march. The exhibit has been to Howard University, the Fulton Government Center in Atlanta, and the St. Louis Historical Society.

Ironically, a good chunk of that "proud past" includes rigidly segregated units with white officers as superiors, even after President Truman implemented an executive order in 1948 calling for the immediate integration of the armed forces. In fact, integration didn’t occur until the U.S. was engaged in the Korean War and needed to maximize its manpower. During most of the Vietnam War, blacks were killed and injured at rates notably higher than whites.

The lopsided numbers, especially for Latinos, will only increase if the army reaches its goals. The Army Times reports that officials want to boost Latino numbers from the 9.5 percent to as high as 22 percent by 2006.

According to Army Brigadier General Bernardo C. Negrete, however, such is not the case. "We’ve made significant improvement by going after Hispanics in a manner we’ve never done before," said Negrete in a 2001 Army Times article. "We’re giving our recruiters goals to meet in order to bring the Hispanic population in the Army on par with the general population in the country." 'Nuff said.

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