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First Black woman to command Carthage American Legion

Updated: May. 7, 2021 at 3:00 PM EDT
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CARTHAGE, N.Y. (WWNY) - There’s a new commander in town and her name is Janice Gravely. On Saturday, she’ll be sworn in as head of the Carthage American Legion - the first Black person and woman to receive that honor in the post’s 101-year history.

“Nothing is given to you. You have to earn it,” said Gravely.

The wall in Carthage American Legion Post 789 is covered with faces of commanders of the past.

On Saturday, Gravely’s face will join them.

“In small-town Carthage, population less than 3,200, where most people have lived here all their lives, the fact that they’re entrusting me as the commander, it’s just beyond words,” she said.

Janice Gravely will be the first Black person and woman to head the post.

“It epitomizes Martin Luther King’s dream, that people judge you based on the content on your character not on the color of your skin,” she said.

But Gravely says it has never been about color or gender. It’s about brother and sisterhood.

“It’s not about being Black, White, woman, it’s about what you contribute to the organization, what you’re willing to do, and people recognize that and they will reward you accordingly,” she said.

Gravely served in the Army for 28 years working in cyber defense. After retiring in 2018, she joined the legion. Gravely has worked as a historian and is in the process of writing a book about the legion’s past members.

With her new title, she plans to organize community events for the legion to host as COVID restrictions ease.

“Things to let the community know that we are not just a place for people that want to drink. We do do things to support the community,” she said.

Just as she has done for the past four years, she’ll continue, but now, with a new title next to her name.

“We are brothers and sisters in arms, and it’s awesome to be a part of this,” she said.

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