Tuskegee Airmen Leslie Edwards visits Christ Community Church

February 19th, 2013

 
Christ Community Church of Cincinnati had the unique privilege on February 3, 2013 of a visit by Tuskegee Airman, Mr. Leslie Edwards. Mr. Edwards was born on August 9, 1924 in Memphis Tennessee. His father died when he was five years old. He learned at a very early age the benefits of hard work and providing for one’s family.
In the military he rose to the rank of staff sergeant and Flight Chief and his unit had one of the best records in the military because his planes were always “mission ready”. He was part of a team handpicked by Commander Benjamin O. Davis Jr. to maintain planes that would be used in night flight operations to train navigators.
While stationed in Seymour, IN, Mr. Edwards witnessed firsthand the “so-called” Mutiny at Freemen Field on April 9, 1945. African American officers tried to enter the white’s only officers club and many were arrested. The officers knew they could have faced a court martial or even the firing squad for disobeying an order in war time. Mr. Edwards insist it was not a rebellious act, but done by African American officers to stress the importance of a fully integrated military. Mr. Edwards said, “Sometimes you just have to do the right thing.”
Mr. Edwards was critical of the movies about the Tuskegee Airmen, even the latest, Red Tails, by George Lucas. He referred to them as the “Hollywood” version of the story and full of inaccuracies. A few of the inaccuracies he mentioned were:

  • The Tuskegee Airmen did not receive inferior aircraft and equipment but were provided the best the Air Force had to offer. Commander “BO” (Benjamin O. Davis) demanded the best equipment and training for his men as well as demanding the best from his men.
  •  It is inaccurate to say the Tuskegee bomber escorts did not lose bombers. They did have the highest return rating but “no one went up against the highly trained Nazi pilots in superior equipment and returned with no loses.” They witnessed many young white bomber crews plunge to their death.
  • The movies fail to mention the number of white military and congressional leaders and people like first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who fought for full integration of the military or President Harry Truman who wiped out segregation in the Armed Forces by Executive Order in 1948.
  • There is no mention of the many awards and citations the Tuskegee Airmen received including the Legion of Merit, Silver Star, Bronze Star, Purple Heart and Distinguished Flying Cross. In 2006 they were awarded the distinguished Congressional Gold Medal. Mr. Edwards brought his medal for the audience to see.

Mr. Edwards has an extraordinary regard for the truth and letting the truth tell the story. He encouraged the audience to watch the documentary Double Victory, which is a more accurate portrayal of story of the Tuskegee Airmen. It is due to be aired on television in the near future.
A major theme Mr. Edwards stressed is that humanity is better together, with our diversity, than we are separately. He referred to segregation as an “evil” of our past that has hurt everyone in our nation. Several times his eyes welled with tears as he spoke of the hurt caused to both blacks and whites.
Mr. Edwards had some strong words for the youth; work hard and take advantage of the opportunities you have. Even though he dropped out of school to help his family financially, he was determined as a young man that he would work hard and provide for his family. The only government assistance he has ever received, that “I didn’t earn”, was a small bonus check received from the state of Ohio upon exiting the military.
After military service, he continued his education earning a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce at Salmon Chase College. He worked many years at Kahn’s Meat Producers and later in his career became a federal government meat inspector for about three years in Dayton, Ohio. He returned to Cincinnati as an Ohio State Meat Supervisor and is credited with helping improve the quality of the meat packing business in the state of Ohio.
Mr. Edwards attended the recent inauguration of President Barak Obama. Of the thousands of Tuskegee Airmen who served as pilots, mechanics and ground crews, 187 were present. Most were in wheel chairs escorted by their daughters. Mr. Edwards was one of the few that were able to walk out under their own strength. They were recognized as a significant part of history that led to an African American being elected as President of the United States.
Mr. Edwards’s dedication to his family, country and humanity in general was truly inspirational. After the service he was anxious to return home to his ailing wife. The Edwards will celebrate their 70th anniversary February 24, 2013.
After spending time on the phone and our brief time together at services, I can truly say that I have met a great American hero.

 

 

George Hart
Pastor – Christ Community Church


THE OFFICE OF RECONCILIATION AND MEDIATION BRIEF UPDATE

February 4th, 2013

 

 

The Office of Reconciliation and Mediation (ORM) and its 28 chapter leaders continues to reach out to churches both inside and outside our fellowship. Recently we’ve held workshops in  Portland, Vancouver and Phoenix with a specially lively group discussion in Beaumont, California. The nature of our work forces us to be interdenominational as well as international, real plus.

 

On January 24, ORM’s editor, Neil Earle, interviewed the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s close friend and colleague Dr James Massey at Fuller Seminary’s second annual Black History Month Event. Dr Massey, an accomplished scholar and author of 18 books, is former Dean of Chapel at Tuskegee University and pastored in Detroit, Michigan during the turbulent 1960s.   “They (people) must know that we are one, then the commitment to fix our experiment in democracy will surely follow” he stated.

Dr. Massey

 

Please log on to atimetireconcile.org to find out about upcoming events and ideas for Black History Month from a chapter near you. The map showing Chapter Leaders is on the site. See Glendorachurch.com for a full report on the Massey lecture. You will also find a wealth of ideas.

 

-Curtis

 


ORM Chapter Leader in Kosovo

April 16th, 2012

As I write, I am in Kosovo where I will be doing voluntary work. This time, I will again mainly work with women, often widows. Most of them are struggling with unresolved grief, self-worth and trauma. I will stay until end of May. It is a long stretch that may help the women to do a work in depth in themselves. I will be working with groups in churches, with missionaries, with people in nearby villages, in psycho-social projects in the community and I will also give some training to a group of psychotherapists. I met some of the leaders to prepare the programme. As much as I can, I will give workshops of eight weeks going through the grieving process and choice theory. I would appreciate your prayers for open minds and the Lord’s guidance for the teaching and using the finances appropriately.

As I go back through Switzerland, I will have the opportunity to give two workshops on Choice Theory. Most of the time, these workshops are very challenging as they emphasize the power and control we may use within our relationships with important people in our lives. They also encourage people to look at positive solutions to their problems. I gave this workshop to a group of friends after New Year’s and several experienced a real touch from God. It was great to see the healing work of the Father. In Switzerland also, I have, with some friends, created a charity (Shiloh projects). A friend of mine has offered to help me to create a website for advertisement.

Many blessings for your respective ministries.

With love in Christ.

Evelyne O’Callaghan Burkhard (ORM Chapter Leader for Southern Ireland)


“Deputy Sheriff Hardeman, reporting”

February 22nd, 2012

Texas has 254 counties so Tarrant County may not stand out in your mind unless you are told that Fort Worth is the country seat. Fort Worth is proud of its legacy of cowboys and cattle drives, aerospace and retail stores. Further out in the county comes the University of Texas at Arlington and the home of the American League champion Texas Rangers.

Tarrant County can also lay claim to another highlight this Black History Month and that is the career and accomplishments of Wesley Hardeman, the first African-American deputy sheriff in all of Tarrant County.

That might not seem exceptional were it not for the fact that Sheriff Hardeman, who lived from 1906 to 1966, served as a peace officer during the difficult Jim Crow years in the American Southwest. This was 1955, a time when colored people could not drink from the same water fountains as whites and the law was something Hispanics and blacks were often found studiously avoiding.

But not Wesley Hardeman. He was early into the right side of law enforcement when he opened up his own detective agency before becoming a peace officer. In May, 2007 the 84th state legislature in a proclamation honoring Deputy Sheriff Hardeman paid tribute to his “strong religious faith expressed in countless acts of kindness.” Hardeman was exceptional, it stated, in that “he faced challenges above and beyond those confronting his white counterparts, including discriminatory personnel policies and threats to his family, he discharged his duties with exemplary courage, dignity and professionalism.”

Sheriff Hardeman’s daughter, Bernice McDuffie of Lancaster, California, remembers that her dad was not supposed to arrest white people but he did. She recalls one bad moment when her dad and his partner and her were driving in their police cruiser and two white officers pulled them over, arrogantly shining flashlights in their faces. They wrote a ticket to the partner even thought they knew full well who they were. The man who appointed Mr. Hardeman in 1955, Sheriff Harlon Wright, was later voted out of office by hostile electors at the next election even though local TV had proudly covered Mr. Hardeman’s appointment as deputy.

Deputy Sheriff Hardeman was to win many awards for his skill and abilities and fair-mindedness, something the community evidently appreciated as they made him Grand Marshall at many county functions and invited him to speak in area high schools on good citizenship. Black History Month should remember Wesley Hardeman – a man who weathered the storm thorough faith and family.


Tuskegee Airman Bill Hicks Reminisces about Red Tails

February 1st, 2012


Exciting Happenings

March 28th, 2011

Our friends here at the Office of Reconciliation and Mediation are excited about doors that are opening up to us.  They are opportunities that should enable us to do what we do best – help to build lasting bonds among people of different walks of life.  We now have a weekly radio broadcast in the Dallas/Fort Worth, TX area.  It’s on every Sunday morning from 9:30 – 10:00 on Big Country KCLE 1560 AM.

I’ve also been asked to lead a series of meetings on Church Growth in a Changing World for church pastors in early June.

We have a Chapter Leaders’ Training Conference scheduled for early October.  The public is invited.  More details to appear later.


From Racism to Gracism

September 20th, 2010

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

Whenever I tell my life story there is a reaction that follows it. Let me explain.

You see, I grew up in Alabama under Governor George Wallace. As a young black high school graduate I left rural Alabama the same year the dogs and water cannons were loosed on the civil rights marchers in Birmingham.

I remember the humiliation of seeing my governor stand in the schoolhouse door blocking a black student’s admission. I was valedictorian of my graduating class of 1963 and was hoping for a scholarship to college, but none was offered.

These early years of premeditated discrimination left a deep, deep impression on me.  But when I talk about them – according to most of my hearers – it’s not the language of disappointment and bitterness that comes across. Indeed a former seminary chaplain says to me on occasion: “You’re kind, loving, and graceful. You’re a gift from the Lord.”

I often think: “Me? I am?” I’m surprised when people say that.

If there is any reason for this it comes from the gracious Spirit of God inside me. This is true because I know the anger and biases I had when I left Alabama and endured until I dealt with it.

How did I deal with it?

One great key to overcoming lingering racism was getting to know lots and lots of white people. In 1964, just after leaving Alabama, I walked into a mixed race congregation of 1500 people, which was quite rare in those days.

I was shocked at what I saw.

The congregation was by no means perfect, but I found myself in social settings with whites – some from the deep South. In church-sponsored speech clubs, choirs, picnics and softball games we rubbed off on each other. I slowly learned that we are truly all God’s children.

Galatians 3:28 was being fulfilled before my eyes: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Even in our mixed race church there was a definite glass ceiling along the color line and this was true of many ministerial assignments. This reminded me again of Alabama. So once again I was tested on this issue of discrimination.

It took a lot of prayer, patience and perseverance because I knew discrimination was wrong in the body of Christ. But then a miracle happened in our fellowship.  At long last, after many prayers, we addressed the issue of racism in our church. What I could not do for myself, the great unseen hand of the merciful God was doing for me. I had committed my life to him as a living sacrifice (Romans 12:1-2) and – true to his promises – God did not let me down.

In fact, when he moved to lift racism from our fellowship we were all stunned – black, white, yellow, red and brown. By this time I was pastoring a mixed congregation and supervising other white pastors and the excitement that swept through our fellowship was mutual.

Of course imperfections remain, but God began his own ministry of reconciliation in our fellowship. He did for us what we could not do for ourselves. The former seminary chaplain said it well: “In order to be effective in a ministry you have to have had the struggle and to achieve the victory. Then you can accomplish the will of the Lord.”

by Curtis May with Neil Earle


Dallas Reconciliation Conference

September 20th, 2010

The much-anticipated ORM Reconciliation Conference took place on Saturday and Sunday, August 7-8, in Dallas, Texas after about fifteen months of planning.  Our special thanks go to the organizers, Chapter Leaders Tom Pickett, Arnold Clauson and Bob Persky.

Photo by Ryan Dute

It was a great experience with excellent participation, transformation and fun!  Following is a sampling of the feedback we received:

“All the speakers were excellent – lots of material for us to digest and apply to our relationships.  Thank you all for the work you went to in order for us to have this      opportunity.”

“I benefited from every session attended.”

“Great speakers and great organization!  Fantastic!”

“I appreciated Curtis May’s description of his upbringing and the way God helped him     come out of the hatred that he experienced.”

On Sunday we ended the morning session with commissioning Pastor Bob Persky of Dallas as a new ORM Chapter Leader.

Photo by Ryan Dute


Teen places second in Black History Month essay/oratorical competition

March 8th, 2010

Krissy Reinagel placed second in the St. Louis County Library’s “Seeking Harmony and Empowerment through Words: A Teen Essay/ Oratorical Competition,” Feb. 26, 2010.  Her essay was based on an interview of Curtis May.  The winner was a high school senior and third place was a high school junior.  Krissy is an 8th grade student.  Among the judges was a Toastmaster President.  The oratorical competition brought teens and their families from all over the city to express their views on Black History in the open and hospitable environment of the library.

Krissy Reinagel, third from left

Krissy Reinagel, fourth from left


Beaumont, CA police’s 9th annual Faith and Justice Summit

May 18th, 2009

100_0426beapol091On March 9, 2009 the Beaumont California Police Department held it’s 9th Annual Faith and Justice Summit. They teamed up with an Inland Empire group called Cops and Clergy. I was asked to conduct a workshop and give the keynote address at the end of the session. The morning keynote address speaker was Riverside County DA Ron Pachecho. Police Chief Coe strongly supported all that took place and the moderator Dr. Jones asked the audience if thay would like for me to come back and give them further training. The audience gave a “yes” applause. They are very serious about fighting gang activity, which is rampant in Riverside County!


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