Tribute to Eric Leo Edwards: Revered Elder, Mentor, Statesman and FriendRead Now
This week’s Blog is being released just ahead of Mother’s Day. We therefore extend our deep appreciation and love to all mothers for their care and nurturing and for being on the frontline of our lives. We hope that the constraints of COVID 19 will provide opportunities for creative celebrations that would be no less memorable for them on their Special Day.
We have however chosen to dedicate this Blog to Eric Leopold Edwards who died at the age of 95 on April 25, 2020 at his home in Silver Spring, Maryland , USA. He was born in Jamaica and arrived in Washington, D.C. in September 1948 to study at Howard University. The trail he blazed during his more than 70 years of scholarship and advocacy played a key role in winning recognition and respect for the Jamaican and Caribbean communities in the USA and in particular, in the Washington D.C., Virginia, Maryland and the Baltimore metropolitan area. Leo was a font of knowledge. He may have been described as an historical revisionist which is an important, and integral part in seeking to learn the truth, or gain a different perspective on historical events. This orientation was crucial for Leo in presenting an objective, academic, and truth based narrative on historical events which ranged from the breakup of the West Indies Federation, the role of CARICOM, Pan Africanism, reparations, diversity in the USA and globalization. It provided a unique formula for interpreting the role of leadership, especially in the context of a changing world order. It made him highly respected by Caribbean leaders and ambassadors in the USA. And as former Jamaican Ambassador to the USA Richard Bernal recalled in an interview with Vaughan Martin on Caribbeana, on Saturday May 2, an engagement with Leo Edwards was an essential orientation for the Caribbean Ambassadors to the USA.
But his recognition was also international. Nelson Mandela paid his first official visit to the USA in June 1990 after 27 years in prison and before he assumed the Presidency of South Africa. His audience with President Bush and Secretary of State, James Baker was convened despite the fact that Mandela would remain on the Watch List until 2008 when President George W. Bush signed legislation formally lifting restrictions on Mandela and the ANC that had been in place since the mid 1980s. During that visit which included Mandela being hosted at a breakfast session of the Congressional Black Caucus, he requested a meeting with Leo who as President of Trans Africa DC was in the forefront of the struggle to dismantle the Apartheid regime, free Mandela and to remove his name from the Watch list.
Among his notable contributions include: founding Patron of the Washington-based Caribbean American Political Action Committee (C-PAC), founding President of the Council of Caribbean Organizations, Inc.; a founding Member and Secretary of the Jamaica Nationals Development Foundation; and Chairman of TransAfrica D.C. Metropolitan Chapter’s Board of Directors.
Specially Honouring Carmen Edwards
GOFAD joins the multitude of those, whose lives Leo touched, in remembering his enormous legacy. Most of all we extend our condolences and affection to Carmen, his wife, lifelong partner and collaborator at this time of her profound loss and grief. We wish her a Happy Mother’s Day. It is our hope that she and the rest of the family will be comforted by the many glowing tributes to Leo and in remembering the good times they shared during his long and illustrious life. Readers may wish to share their memories of Leo and sympathy with Carmen.
In Leo’s honour, we feature two (2) of the many tributes that have already been disseminated. We have also attached a YouTube interview given by Leo on Caribbean Nation TV which fully illustrates the measure of the man.
Two Tributes as a Pivot
The tribute below paid by Her Excellency Audrey Marks, Jamaican Ambassador to the USA and Permanent Representative to the OAS truly represents his towering contribution and profound impact:
"The late Mr. Edwards leaves a legacy that includes his service as an early president of the Caribbean Students Association at Howard University, from 1949 to 1955 and later in the Caribbean-American Intercultural Organization (CAIO) and the National Coalition on Caribbean Affairs (NCOCA).This has to be a truly difficult a time, especially in the present circumstances restricting us from being able to pay respects in person. Nevertheless, I join with numerous Jamaicans, Caribbean people, and countless others whose lives the great E. Leopold Edwards touched in immeasurable ways, trying to help bear the burden of the loss in this moment of utmost grief.”
See article DIASPORA | Eric Leopold Edwards, 'Jamaican elder statesman' dies in Washington at age 95
Another tribute by Gabriel J. Christian, Esq.Member, Maryland Governor's Commission on Caribbean Affairs 2007-2014, elaborates on Leo’s role as a Leader for Caribbean Diaspora Progress
"History notes that Leo Edwards came to Washington to attend Howard University in the late 1940s. From his student days, he was a stalwart Caribbean nationalist when our British West Indian islands were still colonies. To that end, Leo was an advocate of the independence of the British West Indian colonies, within the construct of the West Indies Federation. Unfortunately, the federation did not last; commenced in 1957 it dissolved in 1962 when Jamaica opted to become independent on its own.
Leo Edwards was born of a generation that saw academic excellence and community service as the norm for those who made up the Caribbean Diaspora in the United States. He excelled on both the academic and community service fronts. He was a firm spokesperson for the uplift of our Caribbean community. Mr. Edwards sought to advance the cause of Jamaica's development, as well as that of the Caribbean and Africa. To those ends, he worked tirelessly all his adult life. In his last years, he struggled out of his home, alongside his beloved wife Carmen Edwards to attend community events. Such was the case last year when I last saw him. Then he was attending the book launch of the memoir of Jamaica's former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson at the Organization of American States Hall of Nations. As usual, he was friendly, jovial, and engaged.
Finally, Leo Edwards was a friend of mine from my days at college in the 1980s, when he freely gave of his advice. Those of us who were fortunate to have known him appreciated the wisdom shared. Though he is gone, the beneficial legacy of Leo Edwards' service to the best needs of our community will not be forgotten. We shall remember him."
Giving thanks for the Inspirational Wisdom
While these two tributes would have provided a broad spectrum of Leo’s attributes, GOFAD extends appreciation to Carib Nations operating out of the University of the District of Columbia, Washington DC for the opportunity to listen to the inspirational wisdom from the man himself. It allows us to remember him as we was. https://youtu.be/42EqTepq9gg
May he Rest In Peace
5/8/2020 05:46:52 pm
I join with others in mourning the loss of a great and gracious West Indian.
5/8/2020 08:12:45 pm
5/9/2020 04:19:46 am
RIP to a great Caribbean-American leader and beloved by all! Great and unique contributions to the Caribbean agenda in Washington!
Mirta ROSES PERIAGO
5/11/2020 12:35:33 pm
I had the honor of meeting this great man and leader and to learn from him very insightful data of the Caribbean Independence history completely unknown to me, as well as about CAREC and UWI. My condolences to his wife, family and friends.
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Edward and Auriol Greene Directors, GOFAD.