NAACP Award brings Army winner full circle
July 27, 2011
ARLINGTON, Va. (Army News Service, July 26, 2011) -- Master Sgt. Mark Jordan, an Equal Opportunity advisor currently stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany, received the NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award July 26, 2011, and he believes his trip to Los Angeles has brought his life full circle.
The 102d Annual National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Training Conference and Exposition where Jordan received his award at the Los Angeles Convention Center had as its theme, “Affirming America’s Promise.”
At the Military Awards Dinner the award was presented to military servicemembers who distinguished themselves by promoting the tenets of civil/human rights, race relations, and/or public service. The period of performance for this award was from July 2009 through May 2011.
For Jordan, it’s a story about 40 years in the making and fulfilling a promise his mother made.
“I have been trying to locate my father since he left us when I was about five,” Jordan said. “I have never heard from him and never knew him, but my mother tried locating him for us.”
This fact, though, has not prevented him from finding value in others and reaching out in his role as EO advisor.
“I started in the EO program as an Equal Opportunity representative while stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. My original plan was to get promotion points and continue to work on getting promoted. While attending the EO Leaders Course, I connected in a very positive way with the program,” Jordan said.
This future master sergeant, born and raised in Chicago, always had a passion to help others.
“From the early age of 12, I knew I would preach the gospel and follow in the footsteps of Rev. Billy Graham and Jesse Jackson,” he said.
This youngster’s connection with Jackson and his passion for people would later come full circle, too.
“My brothers and many of my friends would call me Little Jesse, so one day we all decided to meet Jesse Jackson at his Operation Push headquarters on the south side of Chicago. I didn’t meet him then,” Jordan said.
But he did meet him later. In the narrative for the award, Jordan’s EO program manager, Lt. Col. Mary K. Crusan wrote, “One of Master Sergeant Jordan’s greatest accomplishments was serving as the project officer for the 2010 African American/Black History Month Observance in which he featured the civil rights pioneer Reverend Jesse Jackson.
“An event of this magnitude had never before been accomplished in U.S. Army Europe and Master Sergeant Jordan raised both the bar and awareness by inviting the entire USAREUR community to the event. Master Sergeant Jordan served as the lead for the entire event and was an invited guest along with Reverend Jackson to the Consulate General Edward M. Alford’s residence for a black tie event,” Crusan wrote.
“The dinner,” Jordan remembered, “included some of the most influential bankers, lawyers, businessmen and politicians in Germany. There were many topics of discussion and I was amazed at the knowledge of Rev. Jackson.
“He didn’t miss a beat with answers about the financial markets, banking industry, poverty, and even diversity. He had a way of making each person feel like they were the most important person at that moment and at that time. No airs, no pride, just love,” Jordan said.
'REACH ONE, TEACH ONE'
To get to his current position meant commitment, but Jordan’s love for getting involved comes from his mother.
“My mother used to always say, ‘if a task once begun, do it well until it’s done. If it’s a task great or small, do it well or not at all.’ I used to hate hearing her say that but it has become my way of thinking and motivation to do things. She helped make me to be the man that I am today,” Jordan said.
Jordan, who uses what he calls his ‘reach one, teach one’ approach, says that if he can reach one person, they will pay it forward to reach another and so on.
“After falling in love with the EO program, my target was becoming an Equal Opportunity Advisor. I worked with an EOA that provided me with all the tools to become one myself. This process took seven years. I had to work on getting promoted to the authorized rank of an EOA and more important, I had to work with my branch manager who later allowed me to get into the EO program,” Jordan said.
Jordan’s pride in service and his sense of accomplishment when teaching children is what drives him, he said.
“I love to see the light bulb come on when addressing people and providing concepts and ideas that are new. I feel that people know the information, it’s just a matter of pulling it out of them,” he said.
He had a chance to enlighten 150 Grafenwoehr Elementary School students when he served as the keynote speaker.
“He held a captive audience by recounting the struggle of the Little Rock Nine and how our country is better today because of their resiliency. Each child understood the importance of race relations and the need for eliminating prejudice,” said Crusan.
The Little Rock Nine were the students chosen to attend an all-white school after Arkansas was told to desegregate schools in 1958.
“On the first day of school, the students were met with resistance, threats, brutality and the rifles of American Soldiers. Governor Orval Faubus opposed desegregation and activated the National Guard to stop the students from attending. The mayor of Little Rock contacted the president who instructed the National Guard to protect the students. Their adversity showed that you can rise above any challenge or negativity,” Jordan said.
Besides assisting the USAREUR Public Affairs Office in producing numerous diversity TV and radio commercials, he has also written, produced and directed a play, “Modern Day Crucifixion,” through the Wiesbaden Community Chapel.
“The play has been my lifework,” said Jordan. “I started writing a script in 2003 about the historical aspect of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection. This event is seen through the lens of today’s eyes and mindset. I asked the question that if this event happened today, what would it look like? I answered it with Jesus dying by lethal injection,” Jordan said.
His small scale idea turned into a major production in 2010, with a multi-age cast of multicultural participants, along with various denominational groups.
“His innovative and creative involvement (produced a play that was) well-acknowledged and he received numerous accolades from community residents and leaders,” said Crunas.
Jordan, though, feels most proud of coming full circle in his life. His mother, though she tried to find Jordan’s father, died in 2000 while visiting her son.
“She arrived at my house on a Thursday and was having complications. We rushed her to the hospital where she was admitted into ICU and passed away on the following Tuesday,” Jordan said.
He later found out that his father is now in the final stages of life and has been calling out for his children.
“The one person who visits him in the hospital, his niece, had never heard of the names that he was calling for. She finally found out that he had five children that he left in 1972. She vowed to find his children for him and was able to locate my sister who in turn contacted me and let me know about his condition and that he lives in San Francisco, California.”
“It is so amazing that the award that I received from the NAACP was given in Los Angeles, California. I called my long-lost relative and told her that I will visit my father while I am in California. I can say that I am closing the chapter to a book that I've never read. I don't know what to feel or what to expect. Nevertheless, I will finally get to see a man I have never known and I have been looking for since I was a child. I also plan to forgive him for what he did. I hold no animosity or ill will toward him and I think it is important that he receives the forgiveness that he may or may not be looking for. I turned 44 on July 1 this year and I never thought this day would come,” Jordan said.
“Master Sergeant Mark Jordan,” Crusan said in her narrative of Jordan’s accomplishments, “is the embodiment of strength and symbolizes all that the NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award represents. His countless contributions and dedication to both military and civilian communities concerning equal opportunity, affirmative action, race relations and human rights are indicators that he's a leader working toward change.
“Through community involvement and personal example, Master Sergeant Jordan increased race and ethnic group awareness and promoted dignity and respect of every American,” she said.
The mission of NAACP is to enhance the employment, education, and civil rights of African Americans. The annual conference provides exhibit space for government agencies and private businesses to reach the community, a forum for speakers on topics of interest, and a job fair to inform the community about employment opportunities.
The 2011 NAACP Roy Wilkins Renown Service Award honors military members and Department of Defense civilian employees, men and women, who supported overseas contingency operations and demonstrated role-model qualities and the core values of their respective military service.