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Edwards speaks on cultural awareness, racial reconciliation

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by Claude Nikondeha – 

After a recent meeting of the National Multi-Cultural Committee, Commissioner David Edwards, former Western Territory leader, shared thoughts on Cultural Awareness and Racial Reconciliation Week, held January 17-23, 2005, and sought to answer the question: Are we getting closer to accomplishing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous dream?

Edwards helped the committee formulate the recommendation that the Sunday prior to Martin Luther King, Jr. Day be designated “Cultural Awareness and Reconciliation Sunday” for all Army ministries in the U.S. After being reviewed at a commissioners’ conference, the recommendation was approved.

Edwards was new to the committee this year, having been asked by Western Territorial leadership to represent the territory. The National Multi-Cultural Committee comprises the four territorial multi-cultural directors along with representatives from each territory.

In past years, Cultural Awareness and Racial Reconciliation Week has been celebrated across the country, but the committee determined that incorporating Cultural Awareness and Reconciliation Sunday bulletins, posters and materials into the Every Sunday Bulletin program would increase awareness of this important observance.

Edwards stated: “I would hope that during this week of celebration there would be events to help people really celebrate cultural awareness and racial reconciliation throughout the territory. It would be more than just a slogan or a theme, more than just another sound bite. It takes time, money and effort but people will only begin to take us seriously on these issues when they see us prepared to put resources towards these efforts.”

The book of Ephesians provides the theme for this year’s Cultural Awareness and Reconciliation Sunday.

Edwards explained: “ This letter of Paul to the Ephesians emphasizes the truth that all believers are united in Christ. Regardless of ethnicity, nationality or gender, we are all one in Christ Jesus. He also draws attention to the fact that we are no longer strangers or foreigners to God but we have all been reconciled to him through the blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The effect of such reconciliation is to set the pattern for people, who would normally and naturally be divided, to become reconciled to each other. It is this issue of reconciliation and its possibilities that should instruct us and engage our thoughts during this time of reflection. It is also worth noting that it is Paul, a descendant of Abraham, who advocates this position and opens up new possibilities for
those who, unlike himself, were not members of a privileged group.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is naturally a focus for the Army’s week of reconciliation, with the hope that we never forget his legacy as we continue to advocate for equality. We must ask ourselves: Are we getting closer to accomplishing King’s dream? Edwards cautions that while we share the African heritage, those who have not been part of the African-American struggle must hesitate to comment on whether or not King’s dream has been realized. He commented: “What I would suggest to those who are better acquainted with that struggle is to evaluate the conditions that exist today and compare them with what it was like at the time King made his now famous speech. How far have we come and how much farther do we have to go towards accomplishing that dream? Recent remarks by Dr. Bill Cosby triggered a storm of controversy both in and outside the African-American community, suggesting that we have indeed come a long way and could be getting much closer to fulfilling that dream.”

Edwards has discovered from experience that: “People show us respect when we demonstrate courage and character in facing up to the issues that affect us. Unfortunately if we want people to judge us by the content of our character rather than by the color of our skin, we have to earn their respect. And while it might not matter to us what they think, it matters to us that we think well of ourselves, that we are not afraid to ask ourselves the hard questions and answer them. I think that discussion is an indication of how far we have come and how much closer we are to accomplishing that dream.”

Commissioners David and Doreen Edwards retired from active service in 2002 and live in Ocala, Florida, where they attend the local corps. During his time as territorial leader, Edwards was instrumental in establishing the territorial department of Cross-Cultural Ministries and encouraged full participation of all Army units in Cultural Awareness and Racial Reconciliation week.


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