How does the work you do connect with the community?
My calling as a Pastor is to demonstrate to people that they are loved and to address their concerns within the community. The issues that people struggle with are sometimes the result of their own actions and I try to help them accept the positives and change directions.
How long have you been doing your work in the Harambee community?
It’s been almost 11 years.
Have you seen the neighborhood change in that time?
Yes, there’s been a noticeable reduction in drug use and crime along Keefe Avenue. We purchased the vacant properties adjacent to the church, and collaborated with Darryl Johnson at Riverworks to rehabilitate one of the properties into a community outreach ministry. The purpose of the outreach ministry is to serve our Congregates and community that may be struggling with various socio-economic issues.
How did you get into this work?
I was born in Mississippi where my grandfather was a Baptist preacher. I’ve always loved connecting with people and I have a passion for my community. In school, history was my favorite subject. History provides an opportunity to see where we came from and how we got to where we are today. A very important history book is The Holy Bible.
What is the most challenging issue facing Milwaukee?
Unemployment and racism are certainly challenges here. National data has identified Milwaukee as the most segregated city in the country, particularly on Sundays where people of different races clearly worship “separately”. I always try to look at both sides of any situation to find solutions. Involvement in this issue on my part includes facilitating job and health education fairs, workshops, and seminars.
What is your approach to planning a project?
I begin by researching the past and current conditions to get an understanding of where we are. Whether I’m helping people cope with a HIV diagnosis or dealing with violence in the community, I begin by looking at what an individual or the people really need most. I don’t focus on in just making things look bigger or better; I try to help by meeting the actual needs and discovering the right collaborations.
How do you feel about the collaborative process?
Collaboration is needed on all levels—local, state, national. There’s simply too much work for one individual or one organization to make progress without collaboration. As the General Baptist State Convention President, I recently completed a 5-year term and was re-elected for next 5 years. I feel confident that I was re-elected because of my ability to work with groups such as the Offices of Mayor Tom Barrett, Health Commissioner Bevan Baker, WI Congresswoman Gwen Moore, WI State Senator Lena Taylor, the Black Health Coalition, Columbia-St. Mary’s (now Ascension) Urban Church Wellness initiative, Milwaukee Area Technical College, and the American Red Cross, just to name a few. It is through the collaborative process that we best serve the people we are called to serve. For example, through my work with the Urban Church Wellness, a state and national coalition that addresses community health concerns, about 7.5 million people are represented nationally.
Have you received any type of formal recognition through your work?
Recently, I was recognized for leadership and service by the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. President – Reverend Dr. Jerry Young. The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. is the parent organization for our state convention – the General Baptist State Convention of WI, Inc. The NBC has 7.5 million members nationally. Through the National Baptist we established the H.O.P.E. (Health Outreach Prevention and Education) Ministry, I oversee region V of the NBC/United States Department of Health and Human Services health initiatives. My service and efforts were also recognized by Congresswoman Gwen Moore and WI State Senator Lena Taylor.
In 2015, I was recognized by Mayor Tom Barrett at the last State of the City address for the work I do with the Strong Baby Sabbath Sanctuary and Columbia St Mary’s.
In your opinion, what is the world’s most solvable problem?
It is difficult to answer this question. Solvable means we can “solve” it. And if we could, it would have been done. The world’s problems are multi-complex, with multiple forms of solutions. John 14:6 says, “Jesus said unto them, I am the way, the truth and the life . . .” GOD is the true answer.