Troy Vaughn is one of the most incredible people you will ever meet, and his work and his words are inspirational at every turn. He is the CEO of Los Angeles Mission, one of the largest non-profits fighting homelessness in the nation and at the forefront of the housing crisis in Los Angeles. He is also the Senior Pastor of Restoration Family Worship Center in Inglewood, CA. After serving in the Marine Corps and encountering tragedy back home he found himself at a low point in life. He was homeless himself and after giving his life to Christ became a successful businessman and minister. Now he is sharing his gifts and his wisdom with the world. UrbanFaith editor Allen Reynolds sat down with Pastor Troy Vaughn to discuss his work, his mission, and how we can be impactful in our community as believers. The full interview is above. More about Troy and his Good Morning America interview are below.
After many years in the Marine Corps, I received the worst news of my life. My father passed away from a drug overdose — and my life shattered into pieces. I started using controlled substances and later cocaine to cope with the emotional trauma. My father’s addiction soon became mine as well. And my life continued to spin out of control until I hit rock bottom. I found myself living on Skid Row and had no hope…
That was until God spoke to me. He told me to leave my cardboard box home and get help. I went through an intense, year-long rehabilitation program to rebuild my life. It gave me the tools for long-term sobriety that truly saved my life.
This experience lit a fire inside of me. Since the day I left that program, I vowed to do everything I could to help others living on Skid Row experiencing the same ills I had overcome.
First, I founded Christ-Centered Ministries to help men and women transition from recovery programs to healthy, stable environments. Then, I became the Pastor at Inglewood Community Church to further help victims and survivors of addiction and homelessness. And for the last 20 years, I have held a range of roles for several non-profits across Los Angeles to fight for better solutions for those on the path of recovery.
Historian Vicki Crawford was one of the first scholars to focus on women’s roles in the civil rights movement. Her 1993 book, “Trailblazers and Torchbearers,” dives into the stories of female leaders whose legacies have often been overshadowed.
Today she is the director of the Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection, where she oversees the archive of his sermons, speeches, writings and other materials. Here, she explains the contributions of women who influenced King and helped to fuel some of the most significant campaigns of the civil rights era, but whose contributions are not nearly as well known.
An activist in her own right
Coretta Scott King is often remembered as a devoted wife and mother, yet she was also a committed activist in her own right. She was deeply involved with social justice causes before she met and married Martin Luther King Jr., and long after his death.
Scott King served with civil rights groups throughout her time as a student at Antioch College and the New England Conservatory of Music. Shortly after she and King married in 1953, the couple returned to the South, where they lent their support to local and regional organizations such as the NAACP and the Montgomery Improvement Association.
They also supported the Women’s Political Council, an organization founded by female African American professors at Alabama State University that facilitated voter education and registration, and also protested discrimination on city buses. These local leadership efforts paved the way for widespread support of Rosa Parks’ resistance to segregation on public busing.
Following her husband’s assassination in 1968, Scott King devoted her life to institutionalizing his philosophy and practice of nonviolence. She established the King Center for Nonviolent Social Change, led a march of sanitation workers in Memphis and joined efforts to organize the Poor People’s Campaign. A longtime advocate of workers rights, she also supported a 1969 hospital workers’ strike in South Carolina, delivering stirring speeches against the treatment of African American staff.
Scott King’s commitment to nonviolence went beyond civil rights at home. During the 1960s, she became involved in peace and anti-war efforts such as the Women’s Strike for Peace and opposed the escalating war in Vietnam. By the 1980s, she had joined protests against South African apartheid, and before her death in 2006, she spoke out in favor of LGBT rights – capping a lifetime of activism against injustice and inequalities.
Women and the March
While Scott King’s support and ideas were particularly influential, many other women played essential roles in the success of the civil rights movement.
As the 60th anniversary of the march approaches, it is critical to recognize the activism of women from all walks of life who helped to strategize and organize one of the country’s most massive political demonstrations of the 20th century. Yet historical accounts overwhelmingly highlight the march’s male leadership. With the exception of Daisy Bates, an activist who read a short tribute, no women were invited to deliver formal speeches.
Women were among the key organizers of the march, however, and helped recruit thousands of participants. Dorothy Height, president of the National Council of Negro Women, was often the lone woman at the table of leaders representing national organizations. Anna Arnold Hedgeman, who also served on the planning committee, was another strong advocate for labor issues, anti-poverty efforts and women’s rights.
Photographs of the march show women attended in large numbers, yet few historical accounts adequately credit women for their leadership and support. Civil rights activist, lawyer and Episcopalian priest Pauli Murray, among others, called for a gathering of women to address this and other instances of discrimination a few days later.
Hidden in plain view
African American women led and served in all the major campaigns, working as field secretaries, attorneys, plaintiffs, organizers and educators, to name just a few roles. So why did early historical accounts of the movement neglect their stories?
There were women propelling national civil rights organizations and among King’s closest advisers. Septima Clark, for example, was a seasoned educator whose strong organizing skills played a consequential role in voter registration, literacy training and citizenship education. Dorothy Cotton was a member of the inner circle of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, of which King was president, and was involved in literacy training and teaching nonviolent resistance.
Yet women’s organizing during the 1950s and 1960s is most evident at local and regional levels, particularly in some of the most perilous communities across the deep South. Since the 1930s, Amelia Boynton Robinson of Dallas County, Alabama, and her family had been fighting for voting rights, laying the groundwork for the struggle to end voter suppression that continues to the present. She was also key in planning the 50-mile Selma-to-Montgomery march in 1965. Images of the violence that marchers endured – particularly on the day that came to be known as Bloody Sunday – shocked the nation and eventually contributed to the passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965.
Or take Mississippi, where there would not have been a sustained movement without women’s activism. Some names have become well known, like Fannie Lou Hamer, but others deserve to be.
Two rural activists, Victoria Gray and Annie Devine, joined Hamer as representatives to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a parallel political party that challenged the state’s all-white representatives at the 1964 Democratic Convention. A year later, the three women represented the party in a challenge to block the state’s congressmen from taking their seats, given ongoing disenfranchisement of Black voters. Though the congressional challenge failed, the activism was a symbolic victory, serving note to the nation that Black Mississippians were no longer willing to accept centuries-old oppression.
Many African American women were out-front organizers for civil rights. But it is no less important to remember those who assumed less visible, but indispensable, roles behind the scenes, sustaining the movement over time.
In 2020 at the height of the pandemic there was a national push to support the movement for black lives in the United States of America. After years of challenges, rejection, confrontation and dismissal people from high powered CEOs to rural school teachers wanted to support Black Lives Matter. Combining with the #metoo movement there was a push to talk about the senseless killings of Black women. The country suddenly wanted to remember black women’s lives mattered after Breonna Taylor’s life was taken.
Faitth Brooks was doing antiracist and women’s flourishing work in the aftermath. And after years of reflecting she came to a truth, we need to remember black women now, not only when they have been killed. She tells her story and creates space for other black women to be uplifted in her new book Remember Me Now: A Journey Back to Myself and a Love Letter to Black Women. UrbanFaith sat down with Faitth to talk about her journey, her new book, and her thoughts on how we can join in remembering black women now. More about the book is below, the full interview is above.
When Breonna Taylor was killed, her police report was virtually blank. Feeling as if she was suffocating in the initial silence and lack of public outcry, anti-racism educator and activist Faitth Brooks wondered, “Would the world care about and remember me if I was killed?”In Remember Me Now, Faitth grapples with the answer, charting the story of her activist grandparents and ancestors, as well as chronicling her own journey as the first-generation suburbs kid who becomes an activist and organizer herself. Part manifesto, part love letter to Black women, Remember Me Now shows us how we learn to celebrate the fullness of ourselves—a holy, defiant, and necessary move in a world determined to silence us.Filled with transporting stories, poems, and letters to sisters of all walks of life, Remember Me Now is a transformational read that calls Black women to be their own activists. It’s a reminder to all that Black women matter, and our lives, voices, and stories are worth everything.
FaitthBrooks is a writer, speaker, social worker, activist, and co-host of theMelanated Faithpodcast. As an activist, she engages with nonprofits to find sustainable solutions to systemic issues, in addition to acting as a strategist and consultant for brands and influencers. Her nonprofit work has included serving as director of programs and innovation for Be the Bridge and as director of women’s empowerment for Legacy Collective. Faitth is passionate about leveraging her speaking and social media platforms to enliven collective liberation centered on the sisterhood of Black women.
Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III is one of the most prolific prophetic voices of our generation. He is the Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, IL and his new book Dancing in the Darkness gives practical wisdom to face the darkness in our lives with prophetic hope. UrbanFaith editor Allen Reynolds sat down with his fellow HBCU and Yale alumnus, the one and only Rev. Moss to discuss his new book Dancing in the Darkness: Spiritual Lessons for Thriving in Turbulent Times. You can find the book everywhere books are sold and more about the book is below.
Rev. Moss serves as Senior Pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ which was the home church of President Barack and Michelle Obama. He has won multiple awards for his short film Otis’ Dream about his grandfather’s fight to vote in the United States. His parents were on the front line of the Civil Rights Movement, and he has been at the forefront of the fight for justice and civil rights in the 21st century. He calls himself a blues man committed to uniting love and justice in the tradition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. More about the book is below.
Once again, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. first observed in the 1960s, it is midnight in America—a dark time of division and anxiety, with threats of violence looming in the shadows. In 2008, the Trinity United Church in Chicago received threats when one of its parishioners, Senator Barack Obama, ran for president. “We’re going to kill you” rang in Reverend Otis Moss’s ears when he suddenly heard a noise in the middle of the night. He grabbed a baseball bat to confront the intruder in his home. When he opened the door to his daughter’s room, he found that the source of the noise was his own little girl, dancing. She was simply practicing for her ballet recital.
In that moment, Pastor Moss saw that the real intruder was within him. Caught in a cycle of worry and anger, he had allowed the darkness inside. But seeing his daughter evoked Psalm 30: “You have turned my mourning into dancing.” He set out to write the sermon that became this inspiring and transformative book.
Dancing in the Darkness is a life-affirming guide to the practical, political, and spiritual challenges of our day. Drawing on the teachings of Dr. King, Howard Thurman, sacred scripture, southern wisdom, global spiritual traditions, Black culture, and his own personal experiences, Dr. Moss instructs you on how to practice spiritual resistance by combining justice and love. This collection helps us tap the spiritual reserves we all possess but too often overlook, so we can slay our personal demon, confront our civic challenges, and reach our highest goals.
Jemele Hill became known as a popular journalist in sports, but she is now one of the clearest voices in the country for social justice. She is a woman of faith and at the same time a fierce critic who asks questions and fights for the marginalized.
UrbanFaith contributor Maina Mwaura sat down with Jamele Hill to talk about her new memoir Uphill where she tells her own story with the depth and clarity she has used to tell other people’s stories for decades. The full interview is above, more about the book is below.
Jemele Hill’s world came crashing down when she called President Trump a “white supremacist”; the White House wanted her fired from ESPN, and she was deluged with death threats. But Hill had faced tougher adversaries growing up in Detroit than a tweeting president. Beneath the exterior of one of the most recognizable journalists in America was a need—a calling—to break her family’s cycle of intergenerational trauma.
Born in the middle of a lively routine Friday night Monopoly game to a teen mother and a heroin-addicted father, Hill constantly adjusted to the harsh realities of not only her own childhood but the inherited generational pain of her mother and grandmother. Her escape was writing.
Hill’s mother was less than impressed with the brassy and bold free expression of her diary, but Hill never stopped discovering and amplifying her voice. Through hard work and a constant willingness to learn, Hill rose from newspaper reporter to columnist to new heights as the coanchor for ESPN’s revered SportsCenter. Soon, she earned respect and support for her fearless opinions and unshakable confidence, as well as a reputation as a trusted journalist who speaks her mind with truth and conviction.
In Jemele Hill’s journey Uphill, she shares the whole story of her work, the women of her family, and her complicated relationship with God in an unapologetic, character-rich, and eloquent memoir
Every two years in the United States of America we have federal, state, and local midterm elections. And every year we hear from politicians or administrative officials about why we should vote for them (or not vote for their opponent). The people elected during midterms become the leaders who manage our communities’ money, advocate for our well being, determine how our justice system works, shape our education systems, provide for our safety, dispose of our waste, maintain our environment, and more. Local and state elections are the most impactful on our day to day lives and yet few of us even know who our representatives, administrators, or public officials are.
Our democracy is at stake. Politicians, media outlets, public figures, scholars, researchers, activists, and others have all sounded the alarm. There are thousands of people across the country working in coordinated ways to undermine our system of elections, take control of our local governments, and advocate for political violence. Many of those who are part of this movement claim to be Christians. There are politicians running and influencers on social media who have convinced millions of Americans to place greater faith in lies and liars than in Christ Himself. They devote their energy toward upholding election lies and won’t trust anyone that doesn’t agree with them. They are unmoved by evidence, only valuing the echoes of affirmation in their social circles.They have created a religion of suspicion and their faith is distrust. Believers must stand in contrast with the false followers of Jesus who are really white Christian nationalists and make sure to vote for leaders who represent justice, equality, value, and care for all people regardless of their background. We cannot support or endorse hate, fear, and violence in the name of our Lord and call it faithfulness. We have learned we cannot be slaves to single issues at the federal level and neglect policies and positions at the local and state levels. We have to vote in midterm elections like this one, or our votes may become truly meaningless in the future. It is only pride that keeps us from seeing that if fascist governments can rise in other other countries that it can happen here if we do not participate.
As a voters we fall easily and deeply into tribalism, the identification and support of leaders we feel like are part of “our group.” Unfortunately when we do not have a president to vote for, most of us don’t vote at all. According to Pew Research Center 62% of people of voting age turned out in the 2020 elections, which was a record breaking number, mostly fueled by the bitter cultural wars in the Presidential race. But consider that means that 38% of people who could vote, did not. In midterm elections the numbers are usually under 50%. Literally the minority of people elect leaders who impact all of our lives. And yet when we don’t vote or care about who to vote fore beyond the top officials, we miss out on a critical piece of our democracy.
West side of the Capitol Building at Capitol Hill in Washington DC. Daily photos in the afternoon, good for late autumn, winter and early spring illustration
We are engaged and fervent whenever we elect the president, even though most of us will never meet them and rarely understand their impact on our day to day lives. A president is a symbolic leader for many of us, representing our collective hopes, aspirations, and ultimate accountability. But a president can make none of the changes we imagine for ourselves and our communities without the cooperation and support of the legislature. The laws passed by legislative bodies are ineffective when the courts don’t enforce them. Our entire government is built on cooperation between branches and accountability through voting, both of which are under greater threat than many of us could imagine. We must vote in midterm elections, otherwise our desires to see flourishing in our communities will remain only dreams. We need to know who our tax assessor is, our city council members, our sheriffs, our judges, our attorney generals, our state representatives, our county officials, our congresspeople, and our governors.
As people of faith we have an even greater responsibility to be informed voters and to vote. The United States of America is not the Kingdom of God. Jesus is the eternal King of the Kingdom and He is not up for election. No leader can serve as proxy for Jesus over our lives or our nation. We are not voting to put Jesus Christ in office. He is already reigning over everything by His own power. But we can absolutely elect leaders who agree with our Christian principles of justice, help for the poor, safety for children, value for all lives, and care for the environment. We must look to our faith to inform what matters in our personal politics, and value other people’s faith or lack of faith enough to care for them too. Jesus taught us to seek justice for those who are different from us. Jesus taught us to hold leaders accountable. Jesus taught us to pay special attention poor people, homeless people, those from different countries, those with disabilities, those with food insecurity, and young people. Jesus taught us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Which means we have to vote for leaders and policies that will positively impact not just us, but members of our community.
We should vote because we need more good in our government. And we should know our leaders from city hall to capitol hill because their decisions impact us at home, work, school, church, in the park, in the street, in the store, and everywhere else in this country.