Local activist’s new book pulls no punches

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Ron Edwards’ new book, A Seat For Everyone, is his version of a freedom guide that explores a vision for America. Published by Beacon on the Hill Press in early 2008, this paperback is a continuation of his first book from the same publisher in 2002, entitled The Minneapolis Story Through My Eyes.

Edwards is a longtime advocate for civil rights in Minnesota; in fact, he has been on the beat for about 50 years now. He has fought for justice on behalf of Black Minnesotans as the former chairman and vice-chairman of the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission for 16 years; as president of the Minneapolis Urban League for 11 years and a member of its executive committee for 17 years; and as a member of the Police-Community Federal Mediation Group.

Currently, Edwards serves as a member (and former co-chair) of the Police Community Relations Council (PCRC). He is the spokesperson for the Black Police Officers Association; host of Black Focus, a TV talk show on the MTN Network; and author of a biweekly Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder column entitled “Through My Eyes,” just to name a few of his many activities.

The list goes on, and he has the documentation to prove it. Like him or not, anyone who knows Ron Edwards’ calculated style should expect nothing less than a fistful of evidence to back up his fights against everything from citywide corruption and unfair housing practices to racial disparities and police misconduct.

According to Edwards, his enemies — or his “haters,” as he describes them — love to hate him but respect his knowledge and experience. The MSR recently talked with the author (RE) about his new book and what might be next for him.

MSR: What was your motivation for this book?

RE: Well, my inspiration was to leave a legacy and to articulate my ideas and experiences. In many respects, I felt that certainly, after going through hundreds of taped interviews and reflections in 2001, I earned the privilege to tell the stories.

One of the things that you want to leave for your family is a chronicle of what you’ve done and the purpose you served. I have a saying: “You only pass this way once.” If one passes this way and does nothing or serves no purpose in helping your fellow man, then it was a waste of time.

MSR: When your first book, The Minneapolis Story, was released, there were folks who were hesitant to review it, mention it, or recommend it. Some discouraged people from reading your book. Can you tell me about that?

RE: Yeah, well, the only paper that did a review was the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder. What was sad was the role of the so-called Black leadership.

The Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit held a meeting over at the new Minneapolis Urban League. They talked in terms of not reading this man’s book and statements of a disparaging nature indicating that my views were not reflective of anything that was consistent with reality of life in the city.

It did not represent the views of the Coalition of Black Churches/African American Leadership Summit. You know, people like Randy Staten and Bill English. Their contribution was to call for a boycott of the book, whatever that means.

MSR: Did you find out why?

RE: I really don’t know. I was saddened by it, but I wasn’t surprised based on my relationship with many of them. The beauty of it all is that living in a so-called democracy, they have the right to do that. I just kept moving on.

MSR: What would you do different in your past 50 years of civil rights work?

RE: Absolutely nothing.

MSR: Is it true that at one time, when the Minneapolis Black Firefighters had a civil rights issue in this town, they called Ron Edwards before contacting their attorneys?

RE: I’m proud of my relationship with that group. I’m also proud of my contribution, along with a number of concerned folks, that led to the Minneapolis Fire Department today being one of the most diverse departments in the country.

MSR: What do you want people to remember most about you?

RE: My love for the Black community.

MSR: What are you most proud of in terms of civil rights breakthroughs?

RE: The well-documented case in 1979 for the Minneapolis Fire Department (Carter vs. Gallagher).

MSR: You are currently the spokesman for the Black Police Officers?

RE: Yes, I have been for years.

MSR: When these lawsuits against the police department are paid out, do they hurt the taxpayers?

RE: Yes, it affects the City’s bond rating by lowering it, which affects all taxpayers and limits the City’s ability to float bonds.

A Seat For Everyone is smaller than his first book but is still loaded with well-documented information, and both books are must-reads. Edwards pulls no punches about the Urban League, the NAACP, the City of Minneapolis, the Minneapolis Civil Rights Commission, and the current lawsuit filed by the five Minneapolis Black Police Officers, also now known as the Mill City Five.

Ron Edwards’ books can be ordered at www.TheMinneapolis
Story.com, www.beacononthehill.com, or by contacting the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder at 612-827-4021.

Jimmy Stroud welcomes reader responses to jlstroud@spokesman-recorder.com.