Church: New Shady Grove Baptist Church
Occupation: President of 100 Black Men of Los Angeles; Political Consultant; Inglewood Area Minister's Association
Family: Married to Sandra Black Walker; father of three
Q: How are you enjoying your new post as pastor of New Shady Grove Baptist Church?
A: It’s been quite rewarding. It’s a tremendous opportunity to make an impact on that community. I hope to reach out to young people—young men especially and provide them with an opportunity to find work and reach out to individuals who can help them with family matters, custody issues, and help trying to navigate the system.
I believe it’s very important for a church to make a concerted effort to reach men and that’s what I plan to do.
Q: Have you made any progress in your outreach?
A: We had some internal issues that needed to be dealt with after I got there. First of all we went through a name change and a re-incorporation of the church and now that that's done we can concentrate on outreach and discipleship.
Q: Why do you feel they chose you? What’s your strong suit?
A: I would like to believe that they chose me because I had fresh ideas. Although I had not been a pastor before. I was an associate minister at True Vine Baptist Church in Inglewood under Dr. Austin Willams. Serving under him I learned quite a bit about leadership and church administration—both of which are very important.
I believe my strong suit is church administration. Its not enough to reach out to people you have to have some sense of organizational structure and how it can handle growth, how best to plan for it and what kind of financial controls you need in place.
Q: Why did the church add “New” to its name?
A: The church was operating in an antiquated structure, which needed to be re-visited and updated. And we wanted to be able to reflect to the community that this is a rebirth and a restart.
Q: What’s your preaching style?
A: I have what I consider to be a teaching style. Our service is blended. It’s not just a traditional Baptist church. We offers elements of a traditional Black Baptist church, but is also adapted to meet the needs of the people today.
Q: When did you get the call to preach? What were you doing in that moment?
A: I got the call years ago but it lay dormant. I was sixteen years old. And then I picked it back up years later and moved forward on it.
It’s a unique kind of feeling that you get about being called to pastor. Some people have a call to evangelize; some people have a call to witness to people, but they don't necessarily want to pastor. But being a pastor takes a whole different level of commitment because you’re dealing with the issues that affect other people. I believe God, and even my father, was telling me, at that young age that that it wasn't the time for me because I didn't have the “tenacity” for pastorship. I was not in the position to counsel a couple or people who have been married 20 years. God in his own way made me wait until I had enough experience to apply to helping people who would come to me in their time of need.
I had intended to preach in my 20s but I’m grateful and thankful that I didn't because God prepares everybody in their own time. I had the call but I didn't have the preparation and I’m a firm believer in preparation.
Q: Why did your father discourage you from answering to preach?
A: My father—who was a pastor here in Los Angeles for the AME Zion organization—encouraged me to get my education first and revisit it. So I did. I got my education and then I didn't revisit it quickly enough. In my early 50s I joined True Vine and became licensed and ordained and then I went back to school for my Masters in Divinity and am currently working on my Doctorate degree.
Q: What was it like growing up a preacher’s kid?
A: Because my parents were divorced and I grew up with my mother, a lot of people didn't know my father was a preacher, so it was no big deal. When I lived with him and everybody knew it, then that was different. I didn't realize that I intentionally modified my behavior to reflect that I was a preacher’s kid and raised in a certain style. It did keep me grounded.
Q: How did you become affiliated with the 100 Black Men of Los Angeles?
A: I was invited to join in 2007 and that was right in the middle of me representing Marguerite LaMotte in her second term as school board member. I honestly felt that it was the worse time to join, but that's when I was invited and that's the only way you can join. So despite this campaign I needed to accept and go through the process.
So I got in, got involved with various campaigns and helped plan a fundraiser that helped generate over $100,000 for Barack Obama.
Q: And now you’re president.
A: I joined in 2007 and became president three years later. It was not my intent when I joined but, because the work of the mentoring program and the Young Black Scholars program is so important, and there’s such a need, I just found myself making sure that I was available to make a commitment to the program. People took notice and encouraged me to run.