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Faith & Clergy

OCCUR and the SF Foundation FAITHS Program Presents One Voice – 2020 FAITHS Leadership Forum & End of the Year Celebration




Leadership, a word often used yet not fully understood. In times of uncertainty and division, leadership is often referenced as the solution to all things. Real leadership is not found from up high, but here on the ground. “If you look a little closer at those who can influence folks to get things done, you’ll find that leadership is all around you.”

This brings me to this invitation for our next forum, “One Voice – 2020 FAITHS Leadership Forum & End of the Year Celebration.” This gathering will bring together some of our most committed and effective community leaders to discuss the meaning of faith, power and equity during these times and how we can continue to thrive in 2021 and beyond.

This will be an opportunity to network and connect with individuals who share a passion for service and community. We will also discuss how we can interweave faith and nonprofit practices and take the steps needed to support marginalized communities to unlock their power and voices to affect change in 2021. Please join us on this momentous occasion.

To view this free leadership forum on Thursday, December 10th from 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m., please RSVP by visiting our website, email or by calling OCCUR at (510) 839-2440.

Charla Montgomery is the managing director of OCCUR.


A Reverend Brings Healing Approach to Domestic Violence Fight

Moore-Orbih, a United Church of Christ pastor, whose career has focused on racial justice and violence against women, hopes to bring a new paradigm to the role, focusing on the intersectionality of factors that can contribute to an abusive relationship, including race and ethnicity, socioeconomic class, gender and sexual orientation, age, ability, and immigrant identity.




Combating domestic violence requires a healing-centered approach which doesn’t always remove an abuser from the household nor criminalizes him, said Dr. Aleese Moore-Orbih, incoming director of the California Partnership to End Domestic Violence (CPEDV). 

“I have never come across a woman who did not want to help her abusive partner. Leaving an abusive relationship is an old paradigm. Women of color want to stay with their partners and want agencies to help the abusive partner break out of their cycle of violence,” said Moore-Orbih in an interview with Ethnic Media Services. “For me, the call has been to help people see one another with all their shortcomings and still love them.”

Moore-Orbih will officially joined the CPEDV team April 19. 

The Partnership, founded nearly 40 years ago, represents over 1,000 survivors, advocates, organizations and allied individuals across California. The organization has successfully advocated for over 200 pieces of legislation on behalf of domestic violence victims and their children, and it brings a racial justice focus to the issue.

Moore-Orbih, a United Church of Christ pastor, whose career has focused on racial justice and violence against women, hopes to bring a new paradigm to the role, focusing on the intersectionality of factors that can contribute to an abusive relationship, including race and ethnicity, socioeconomic class, gender and sexual orientation, age, ability, and immigrant identity. 

The Partnership noted in a press release that she “will raise the visibility of the Partnership’s anti-oppression work, move the public discourse, and support policy and community advocacy toward more effective prevention and intervention solutions.”

“People of color already live in an environment that is hostile towards them. Their survival mechanisms are seen as criminal and violent,” said Moore-Orbih, noting the generational trauma of slavery and Jim Crow laws, the continuous murders of young Black men without cause, poor economic conditions and housing insecurity. 

“It is a system that has traditionally tried to kill people of color, who are brought up with generations of disempowerment. When things are out of control most of the time, you attempt to control it, sometimes with violence,” she said.

For Black and Brown men, masculinity is determined by power. “They have spent a lifetime trying to prove their power to their communities and their partners,” she said, noting that Black men have traditionally been underemployed while Black women are often over-employed.

Women have had to do the delicate dance of bringing in the family’s income, raising their children, and pleasing their men.

“For a woman of color, domestic violence may be fourth or fifth on the list of things they have to deal with,” she said. “I can handle him, but this is all the stuff I cannot handle.”

COVID-19 has added an extra layer of pressure for both survivors and their abusers. “Women doing the cha cha cha all these years are quickly learning the flamenco,” said Moore-Orbih. “But this is nothing new. Our communities have been doing the survival dance for decades.”

Domestic violence has spiked alarmingly as victims are trapped at home with their abusers amid lockdown orders during the COVID pandemic. The New England Journal of Medicine reported last year that one out of every four women in the U.S. and 1 in 10 men are currently facing abuse from a spouse or intimate partner. At the same time, traditional safety nets have largely been shut down. Domestic violence hotlines have seen a drop in calls as many victims cannot find safe spaces from which to make calls. 

Shelters are closed or operating at full capacity, and thereby cannot take on new clients. Black and Brown victims of domestic violence are less likely to call police because of a mistrust of law enforcement or language barriers.

“When COVID broke, we were all struggling trying to figure out how to provide services,”

said Moore-Orbih, adding that the number of people sent to hotels tripled, as survivors had to quarantine for 14 days before they could be sent to a shelter.

“COVID became another layer of pressure for people who were already drowning in anxiety, fear, and trauma. If a person is trying to save you, you can’t see that,” she said.

Getting a woman out of her home and into a shelter to build self-esteem and self-reliance is just one small piece, said the reverend. “She is not healed.”

Similarly, Moore-Orbih does not support criminalizing perpetrators who must also be healed via the same holistic approach.

An integrative holistic approach must be brought to both survivor and perpetrator, said Moore-Orbih.  “If we are looking to make people whole again, we must address the psyche, the physical ailments, forced immigration, and slavery.”

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African American News & Issues

Black Ministers on J&J Vaccine Pause: Transparency Needed to Regain Public Trust

“This is alarming,” said the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California. “People were already leery. But we put our name out there to help get people vaccinated. Many of us thought the one-shot J&J vaccine was the best for people in our community.”




Some Black ministers in Southern California say authorities failed to keep them up to speed with developments before halting administration of the J&J vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced the pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine after six women between the ages of 18 and 48 developed blood clots, called cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, during clinical trials.

 One of the women died.

“This is alarming,” said the Rev. K.W. Tulloss, president of the Baptist Ministers Conference of Los Angeles and Southern California. “People were already leery. But we put our name out there to help get people vaccinated. Many of us thought the one-shot J&J vaccine was the best for people in our community.”

Tulloss said the week before the CDC decision to pause the vaccine, the Baptist Minsters Conference hosted a site for the governor’s emergency team and FEMA. Over 2,300 people were vaccinated through the program. 

“No one reached out to us. I had to hear about this on the news,” said Tulloss. “We were left in the dark, blind — not able to share with those concerned what was the next step and how this is happening. It will cause a greater harm for African Americans and our community as a whole. People were not trusting these vaccines. Supervisor Holly Mitchell was the only one who convened a conversation with the ministers to let us know what was going on. She’s the only one we heard from.”

 Many Black public health experts agree that there needs to be more transparency. 

“We’ve got to be fully transparent because when something goes wrong, it looks like we have targeted this particular community, whether it’s Black, Latinx, or the Asian community. When it comes out that something’s wrong with this vaccine it’s going to look malicious, even if it’s not,” said Dr. Kim Rhoads, director of the Office of Community Engagement at the University of California, San Francisco.

The same day the CDC announced the pause, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), announced that it is adhering to the CDC’s advice.

“Today, the CDC and FDA have recommended a temporary pause in the use of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine out of an abundance of caution. Of over 6.8 million doses administered nationally, there have been six reported cases of a rare and severe type of blood clot with symptoms occurring 6 to 13 days after vaccination,” said Dr. Erica Pan, a leading California state epidemiologist. 

“California is following the FDA and CDC’s recommendation and has directed health care providers to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine until we receive further direction from health and safety experts,” Pan continued. 

On Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser, said he expects the federal government to make an announcement about whether it will proceed with or permanently halt the J&J vaccine by the end of this week.

 The J&J vaccine first grabbed national attention when it was hailed as the “one-and-done” shot, the country’s only one-dose vaccine, allocated to some segments of California’s underserved communities, such as the homeless population.

Faith-based leaders working closely with the state to administer vaccines in these communities said the pause is a setback for vaccine equity.

 But last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom sounded confident.

He told Californians that J&J vaccines accounted for only 4% of California’s total supply that week. The governor is among the millions of people who received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

“It will not materially impact our ability to fulfill our expectations and commitment to provide enough vaccines to fully vaccinate all those that seek to get vaccinated, so that we can begin to fully open our economy by June 15,” said Gov. Newsom, referring to the pause.

But Black health experts are stressing that, now more than ever, pharmaceutical companies and research institutions need to be transparent about the vaccine science. They say that is critical to counteracting vaccine hesitancy.

Rhoads, who is also the founder of Umoja Health, a Bay Area community healthcare organization, helped pioneer the pop-up site model currently used by the state as a template for setting up mass vaccine sites in an effort to promote equity in vaccine distribution.

 “I want to emphasize where we as academic institutions keep going wrong is a lack of transparency, we want to paint a rosy picture, we want to convince people to get vaccinated instead of giving people information to make their own decisions,” she said.

 The medical and public health expert emphasized that the state needs to build a relationship with the African American community to establish trust that can grow at a good pace.

“We don’t build relationships, we think of outreach – which is not a relationship,” said Rhoads.

 “If you don’t have a relationship with the community, then you’re not going to have trust,” she said.

 Healthcare policy and advocacy groups hosted virtual discussion forums to address the rising doubts in the Black community nationwide since the FDA and CDC announced the J&J vaccine pause. The California Black Health Network was among the various organizations to lead discussions on vaccine hesitancy and health equity with medical experts including the Surgeon General of California Dr. Nadine Burke Harris.

Burke Harris stressed the importance of vaccines for public safety and encouraged people who received the J&J vaccine to consult healthcare providers to mediate their concerns.

“The reasons why the CDC and the FDA decided to put a pause on the use of the vaccine and issue this health alert is also to help healthcare providers know what to look out for,” she said.

Harris said that the state is dedicated to being more transparent about vaccine efforts to keep the public safe.

 “The key piece is that we want to maintain public confidence in our process, and in the safety and efficacy of our vaccines, and in our ability to be transparent,” said Harris.

According to the CDC, COVID-19 is a novel virus which means that the human body does not have the natural ability to produce antibodies that can fight the virus. Scientific research also shows that people who have tested positive for COVID-19 still need to get vaccinated.   

Recent studies have shown that pregnant women who get vaccinated are the first to birth babies with immunity to COVID-19.

The advocacy work of African American faith-based leaders has led to a statewide partnership between the state and 200 places of worship to boost vaccine equity.

So far, the state has provided close to 40,000 vaccines at the pop-up sites hosted by faith-based organizations. The state plans to provide the pop-up sites with at least 25,000 vaccines to immunize people in underserved communities.

 State officials confirmed that the California Governor’s Vaccine Task Force is working closely with the CDC and FDA to discuss plans to reopen the state by June this year.

“This pandemic disease remains deadly. The way we defeat this disease is to get vaccinated. The sooner we get vaccinated, the sooner we open up our businesses,” said Newsom.

California Black Media’s coverage of COVID-19 is supported by the California Health Care Foundation. 

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Bay Area


Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 476 34th Street Oakland, California is excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, senior pastor was awarded the auspicious Jarena Lee Award.




Historic rendition of Jarena Lee, the first female preacher in the A.M.E. church

  Dr. Rosalyn Brookins. Courtesy of Parks Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Parks Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, located at 476 34th Street Oakland, California is excited to announce that Rev. Dr. Rosalynn Brookins, senior pastor was awarded the auspicious Jarena Lee Award.

Jarena Lee (February 11, 1783 – February 3, 1864) was the first female authorized to preach in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. History shows she was born into a free, Black family. Lee saw the immorality of slavery.  At a time period of segregation and inequity, A.M.E. Church founder Richard Allen gave her the opportunity for her voice to be heard despite the fact that there were no provisions for a female to preach. Rev. Lee showed determination to let her voice be heard and to share the holy word, despite racial and gender issues.  Further, Lee was the first African American woman to have an autobiography published in the United States.

During the 5th Episcopal District A.M.E. Founder’s Day Service, the Award was presented to Brookins by Rev. Carieta Grizzell, president of Women in Ministry and pastor of Murph-Emmanuel Church in Sacramento, Ca.  This esteemed award is the highest commendation that a female minister can receive in the A.M.E. Church.

There are many parallels between  Lee and  Brookins.  They both blazed a path forward through adverse circumstances and applied the lessons they learned to their spirituality.  Their similar experiences as female ministers reinforce their relationship with God.  They maintained a steadfast hope in and a strong love for his divine majesty.  

Brookins is the only Episcopal supervisor of the Women’s Mission Society for the A.M.E. Church to be given a pastoral appointment as senior pastor.

Brookins earned her doctoral degree from Payne Theological Seminary in 2018, making her the first inaugurated female to be conferred with the noted degree.  She was the commencement speaker during the graduation.  Her dissertation was entitled “The Rebirth of the Woman’s Prophetic Voice: Using Liberation Theology to Impact the Local Congregation.” 

In 2018, Brookins presented a pilot program in South Africa and subsequently launched the Global School of the Prophets.  While there are many prophetic schools, this is the only type of school that ministers to both clergy and lay women. Brookins exudes great enthusiasm and passion about teaching and she graciously shares her expertise regarding prophecy.  Her courses provide an overview and structure that encourage individuals to develop, explore and expand their prophetic knowledge and understanding.   

The highly organized and comprehensive curriculum includes coverage of the Introduction and  Origin of the Prophetic; Prophetic Call;  Prophetic Ministry;  Prophetic Terminology; Nine Prophetic Traits, and Prophetic Training and the Church.   Students currently participating in the second cohort of the Global School are from the United States, India, Zimbabwe, Jamaica, Belize and Trinidad. 

Just as Lee showed a drive and commitment to serve,  Brookins has the same qualities.  She is an honorable, steadfast pastor who is obedient to all that God has called her to do.  She is a strong leader, and a visionary who genuinely loves preaching the word of God.  Rev. Brookins’ unconditional love and genuine personality has touched the hearts of many.  Her prophetic ministry, powerful sermons and prayers consistently instill hope and inspiration. 

Lee traveled extensively preaching the word of God.  Rev. Brookins has preached the gospel in multiple pulpits across the country, including Canada, Zambia, India and South Africa. 

Regarding his mother’s receipt of this prestigious award, Sir Wellington Hartford Brookins said “I am extremely proud of the accomplishments of my mother.  She is an example of perseverance and daring determination.  She inspires me to move forward every single day and that’s why this award means so much to her and to me.”

Brookins said she is “humbled that the men and women of God felt I deserved such an award. I am moved that God saw it fitting for me to receive such an honorable award.”

The Jerena Lee Award is an amazing recognition of the contributions of Rev. Brookins to the theological foundations of the church as a whole.

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