There is no harm in acknowledging the successes of our predecessors while celebrating our own achievements. That is what Monica R. Lawson believes in and she made it known to the audience at her induction ceremony Lawson has made history as the first active-duty Black woman chaplain to be promoted to the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army.
Lawson was conferred her new status at a ceremony held at the U.S. Army Chaplain Center and School which streamed live on Facebook.
The African Methodist Episcopal minister, chief of recruiting and accessions for the U.S. Army Chaplain Corps accepted her new honors in the auditorium of the school at Fort Jackson in South Carolina with a touching speech on the significance of her appointment and why it matters now amid the world’s racial unrest.
“As an African American woman who has always been proud of the skin that I’m in, in this time this is a bright spot in a sea of what seems to be darkness never-ending. In a time when we are faced with political polarization, racial unrest, a pandemic and economic uncertainty, it’s good to have something to celebrate and to take our minds off of what is going on, if for only for a moment,” she said.
According to Lawson, it is very relevant to speak on race and its related issues during her promotion ceremony because it has taken the U.S. Army 245 years before such an honor is being bestowed on an active-duty Black woman. Although this is an accomplishment for her, she cannot help but wonder why it took so long.
“I know many of you are saying ‘What does race, race relations and racism have to do with you being promoted?’” she said. “Well, just in case you didn’t figure it out, it took us 245 years for this moment to happen.”
The Five Points, Alabama native is a product of Spelman College, a historically Black women’s college in Atlanta. She received her Master of Divinity degree from Turner Theological Seminary, the AME Church’s school on the campus of Atlanta’s Interdenominational Theological Center.
She has a wealth of experience in the army’s chaplaincy that qualifies her for her promotion. She served as battalion chaplain at Fort Story, Virginia, and Fort Jackson.
According to Religion News, Lawson has moved around quite a bit. At a point, she was a deputy cadet command chaplain at Fort Knox, Kentucky; a family life chaplain at Fort Bliss; a command chaplain at Fort Bragg, North Carolina; and a deputy Pentagon chaplain.
To appreciate the present, we must give honor to those who paved the way for us today and Lawson paid tribute to her predecessors; regardless of their race, gender or religion, they have all contributed their quota to make her promotion possible one way or another.
Retired Chaplain (Col.) Geraldine Manning, an African-American woman who served as an Army Guard and Reserve chaplain, was previously promoted to colonel but Lawson is the first active-duty chaplain turned colonel.
“Too many times when people write history, we tend to leave out the history of those who made it possible for us to achieve our historic moments,” she said.
“I wanted to allow the world to see that you can make history and still embrace the history of other people. Acknowledging other people’s accomplishments, regardless of race, religion or gender, does not diminish your accomplishments.”
Major General Thomas Solhjem, Army Chief of Chaplains, told Lawson to assume her role with the notion of empowering her subordinates to also succeed. He then attached the eagle insignia to the shoulders of her uniform.
“You’re being recognized today not because you are a Black female,” he said. “But you are being recognized today because you have exhibited to a board of what will soon be your peers and those superior that you have the potential to lead in this United States Army Chaplain Corps.”