Men of Morehouse Honor African American Soldiers and Connect with Belgium Youth During Nations Builders Trip

Date Released: May 28, 2017

By ADD SEYMOUR JR.

National Builders Memorial Day Story

Eight men of Morehouse touring Belgium recently went on a pilgrimage to meet the descendants and honor the memories of the soldiers known as the “Wereth 11,” the only African American unit to receive a monument in Europe for their bravery in battle against the Nazis.

The segregated unit fought courageously to provide artillery support during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium. When the 11 men got separated from the rest of their comrades in the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion in December 1944, a Belgium family gave them refuge.  Nazi fighters soon found the black soldiers and tortured and killed them.

Their valor was never forgotten in Belgium as it is the site of the only monument honoring African American soldiers in Europe.

Now, 73 years after the soldiers’ death, at the behest of the U.S. Embassy, Morehouse scholars visited the site of the monument to learn more about the sacrifice of the Wereth 11, and to meet some of their descendants, along with descendants of those who gave the brave black Americans safety.  One student even found out that one of the soldiers was a distant relative.

The Morehouse scholars then honored the memory of the fallen soldiers in a moving ceremony that included the College song. Each student studied and portrayed one of the soldiers.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the place,” said Kevin Booker ’90, associate dean of Student Life.

“It was very eye-opening and very important for us to get that story out,” said third-year history major Jarod Harper of Atlanta.

That was just one of the highlights of a 10-day trip to Belgium that the Morehouse students took as part of the Nations Builders program.  The students served as American ambassadors, particularly to young people in a Belgium, where the chief option for fighting oppression and marginalization is joining an extremist terrorist organization like Isis.

The Morehouse students’ main goal was to connect with their peers in Belgium and show them that, as African Americans, they also deal with oppression and marginalization, but find ways to overcome it.

“A lot of the people that the Morehouse students engaged were in the valley of decision choosing whether they get involved in violent extremism or whether to just stick it out,” said Mason West, founder and director of Nations Builders.

West’s organization, which promotes social justice among young people worldwide, worked with the U.S. Embassy in Belgium to develop a way to give youth in the European country alternative ways to deal with marginalization instead of joining terrorist organizations.  West thought it would be perfect to get other young people who suffer the same issues in America to talk about their situation and positive decisions that can be made to make things better in their country. 

And with his son, Malcolm, being a Morehouse freshman this past year, West knew Morehouse was the place for young men to talk about positive actions despite daily battles against societal ills like racial discrimination.

“Just like some of our young people who make decisions to leave a positive experience or get involved in gangs, over there it’s the same thing,” he said. Only “it’s just not gangs, it’s terrorist organizations. 

“So, a lot of the Morehouse guys’ engagement was showing these young people what America is, and that even in America there are people who suffer oppression and have tough lives, but they still can do well,” West said. “They were able to communicate that to all who were engaged. They probably don’t know it, but they probably saved some lives,” West said.

West worked with Booker and Julius Coles of the Andrew Young Center for Global Leadership, along with Morehouse professors Sam Livingston, Frederick Knight and Stephane Dunn, to prepare the students throughout the school year for the trip.  West met weekly with the students who prepared to become ambassadors.

The cultural exchange began when a group of young people from Belgium visited Morehouse during Founder’s Week to learn about Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil and human rights movement and Morehouse College.

Then in May, Booker and the Morehouse students visited Belgium. They spoke to students, some African Americans.  They visited impoverished areas of Brussels to play basketball, soccer and just to talk with other young people.  They spent a lot of time in one particular Brussels neighborhood, Monlenbeek.

Morehouse senior Frank Lawrence, a psychology major from Chicago, Ill, said it was an experience that he will never forget. “Honestly, we were just talking and having a conversation, but just as men of Morehouse, black men The Morehouse scholars told politicians and community leaders about historically black colleges and universities, their impact, and why a Morehouse College is so important and impactful. 

“The expectations the U.S. Embassy had was accomplished far beyond their expectations,” West said.


Last Modified: June 8, 2017, 13:06 PM, by: Synera Shelton

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