Black History Month is a time to reflect on the exceptional Black leaders, innovators and trailblazers who have helped shape our American history. At Orchard we have the privilege of working with and supporting non-profit Christian leaders who have made significant impact in their communities, some being the first in history to do so. This month we want to highlight their work, because without these Black-led organizations, a significant Christian impact would not be made in our nation’s history. We are indebted to their work and leadership.  

Below are some of the leaders making history: 

Byron Johnson – Vision 9:38

Byron Johnson received a call to full-time ministry work in 1990 after hearing stories of the lack of African Americans involved in missionary work. This conviction and calling is what continues to drive his work today as the Founder and Executive Director of Vision 9:38. The mission of Visions 9:38 is to expand the number and the effectiveness of minority missionaries, both foreign and domestic. Byron speaks often as he presents the valid case for diversity on the mission field. His legacy continues on as he disciples and mentors young African American male college students at Morehouse College in Atlanta. His hope and prayer is that God would raise up other African American missionaries to labor in Gods harvest. Vision 9:38 is working with missionaries all over the world, as they have connected with several collegiate ministries such as CRU, Campus Outreach, The Navigators and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. You can learn more about Byron Johnson and his work with Vision 9:38 here.

Josh and Lakisha Clemons – OneRace

The work of OneRace is a movement of reconciliation and relationships. Josh and Lakisha Clemons are leading a group of Gospel-centered servants by believing that God wants a reconciliation movement to address the sins of historic racism and injustice, and to work to unite the Church. The process by which OneRace does this work is simple: prayer, relationships, equipping the Church, and pursing Gods mercy and justice. Josh and Lakisha bring their unique talents of gifted speaking, communications, leadership and evident passions to creating spaces where people of all races can come and learn from one another. Their hearts are for a reconciled body of Christ followers and they’ve been able to do this by hosting over 50 prayer gatherings, connecting with over 100 metro Atlanta church pastors, and leading a group of over 25,000 people in a 2017 event committed to “The Atlanta Covenant to End Racism.” You can learn more about Josh and Lakisha Clemons and the work of OneRace here 

LaTonya Gates – PAWKids

LaTonya Gates is one of the hardest ministry workers we know! As Founder and Executive Director of PAWKids, her heart for serving her community is so big and she does not stop for any obstacle that may stand in her way. Her upfront and personal experience with systemic racism has caused her to see that the changing of these systems has to start at the core: community relationships. Through an engaging after school and summer childrens program, PAWKids programming is designed with the direct input from parents for the holistic development of their children; spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and physically.  With 98% of the PAWKids staff living in the area they serve, there is ongoing resources available to those they serve: monthly speakers engaging on topics from nutrition to life insurance, bi-monthly meals provided by volunteers to help encourage family dinners around the table, local Bible studies for parents, food and personal hygiene distribution, and even a special apartment for displaced family members. The main focus for PAWKids is full exposure to new people, places and things outside of their own community, Grove Park, that helps theirs grow. LaTonya and her team as so passionate about helping the children in their programs thrice. You can learn more about LaTonya Gates and the work that PAWKids is doing here! 

LaTroya Hester – Media Woke

LaTroya Hester has a deep love for all things entertainment and communications. She currently holds the role as director of communications at The Center for Black Health and Equity, a national non-profit concerned with health equity and improving health outcomes for African Americans. She believes that Media Literacy is vital to learning how to be salt in the world (Matthew 5:13) and this is why she is the Founder and Executive Director of Media Woke. Her work helps teach about how media works so that you can apply wisdomin yourentertainment choices and in your everyday discipleship. Media Woke has created resources and guides to help you navigate a life of discipline when it comes to social media. Her work is influencing parents and children alike, helping them model Christ as we all learn to live out our everyday behaviors. LaTroya has taken a passion and love for things that entertain her and has created a unique ministry to help others #staywoke in the media world. She is passionate about educating and provides communications training and assistance to her organization’s community partners.You can learn more about LaTroya Hester and the work of Media Woke here!     

Johnny Brown – Iron2Iron

Johnny Brown is a ministry leader, father, a resident Black Santa Claus and is active in helping estranged fathers reconnect with their children. As Founder and Director of Iron2Iron, he is intentionally training fathers through leadership programs, in-school programming, and one-on-one discipleship. Johnny learned that in the state of Georgia, a father held no legal responsibilities or right to a child, other than being required to pay child support. This deeply affected him and he wanted to help instill the God-given responsibility to help men raise their children with maturity and integrity. His work to serve fathers has been a lifestyle for over 30 years. Iron2Iron host several programs, including the Ironmen’s Training, a ten week training process where males attend a class that meets twice a week to help them begin to assess their past, present, and future. They spend forty hours in class studying maturity in six areas: physical, intellectual, spiritual, social, economical and emotional. They have also incorporated a program that starts with young men, Pawns 2 Kings: This program runs in schools to build young males on a bi-weekly basis to learn character development. You can learn more about Johnny Brown and the work of Iron2Iron here