NAFEO Nominates the Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA, for the White House Champion of Change Award

On behalf of the nation’s 106 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and more than 80 Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), it is my privilege and high honor to nominate Reverend Dr. Howard-John Wesley, Pastor of the Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA, Ms. Vance F. Davis, founder of the Alfred Street Baptist Church HBCU Festival, now the largest HBCU college information and enrollment fair in the nation, and the Alfred Street Baptist Church Family, for the coveted White House Champion of Change for College Opportunity Award.

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Rev. Dr. Howard-John Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church have unparalleled children, youth, and education ministries.  During the last twelve years alone, Alfred Street Baptist Church has grown its education ministries and service entities into a national model, comprehensive pipeline for preparing, inspiring and connecting students and families with college and opportunity, many of whom might not otherwise have prepared for college in elementary and secondary school or not even dreamed that college would be possible if they or their children were prepared for and did aspire to attain a college certificate or degree.

The focused, strategic, hard work, sacrificial giving and love of Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA, is moving thousands of both traditional and non-traditional students though college preparation, entry, retention, and completion. Today, they have the nation’s largest and most effective HBCU College Festival. Annually they bring to one location, more than seventy HBCUs, PBIs and other equal educational opportunity institutions. They attract students and families from Maine to Miami; Charleston to Chicago. They provide on-cite interview and enrollment opportunities for thousands of students, annually, as well as financial literacy and a wide range of other seminars important for college preparation, application, persistence and graduation. They offer these tremendous services at no cost to students and families.

Alfred Street Baptist Church has also become the financial and prayer lifeline for many, many HBCUs and institutions that are championing HBCUs, education excellence, access and success; and those assisting traditionally underrepresented students to pay for and thrive in college. They invite HBCU presidents to address the congregation annually and provide a gift to the college or university of the speaker reflective of tremendous sacrificial giving by the congregants, thoughtful executive leadership and prayerful decisions from the governing body that has opted for the least of these in its decision making. By supporting education preparation, access and success at unparalleled levels Alfred Street also evidences its understanding of the centrality of HBCUs to steering America away from these uncertain times, and getting the nation and world back on track offering the tools and skills necessary to prepare students to promote peace at home and abroad; secure our communities and our homeland; meet pressing global and community health care needs; fight injustice with the power of ideas; close the achievement gap; and open doors of opportunity to those who are ill-served by many of the systems in our communities and the nation.

When Alfred Street made a $1M donation to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture– the first and only faith-based organization to date to do so, it evidenced a commitment to open, free, accessible, global education and to telling to the world the stories of the anchor institutions in the African American Community—the Black Family, Black Church, Black Entrepreneurs, and Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

As Alfred Street continues to respond to its calling to ‘feed the hungry, clothe, the naked, minister to and set at liberty those who are bound, heal the infirm and educate the ignorant, through 80 active ministries.  Its Feed the 5000 Project is another exemplar among faith-based feeding programs.

While supporting HBCUs and their traditional base at tremendous levels at all times, during Katrina, the Great Recession, the Parent Plus Loan challenge, and this time of state disengagement from higher education, Alfred Street has redoubled it financial, frontline and prayer support for HBCUs and their stakeholders.

Dr. Howard-Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church are sewing seeds of wisdom as the cornerstone of transformation, salvation and liberation, and have developed and are growing a remarkable pipeline of diverse students and families, especially students and families of color and those of fewer financial means, into and through college and career moving the nation strategically closer to realizing the 2020 goal.

In addition to the above referenced strategic, sacrificial actions and outcomes of Pastor Howard-Wesley and Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria in the education arena, are many others to spread the work in communities in every corner of America and across the globe about the Twenty-first Century HBCUs that are graduating disproportionate percentages of African American students in STEM, teaching professions, health professions and other growth and high need disciplines. They are also supporting and touting this richly diverse group of colleges and universities for holding fast to their missions and underpinning contemporary teachings in the arts, humanities, sciences, technology, engineering, agriculture, law, medicine, sociology, business and finance, with the teachings about education liberation and salvation.

NAFEO, the nation’s only national membership and advocacy association for the 106 HBCUs and more than 80 PBIs, is a privileged, humbled and ever grateful beneficiary of the love, largesse, organized advocacy, social media and marketing network of Alfred Street Baptist Church. We have expressed our gratitude in words that are wanting, and modest gestures, both of which are woefully inadequate for  the trailblazing Alfred Street is doing in expanding education access and success, especially for traditionally under-served and under-represented students and families.

I urge and encourage you to read the below highlights of what Reverend Dr. Howard- John Wesley and the Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA are doing in northern Virginia and around the nation to supplement their faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, as is directed in 2 Peter 1:5 ESV/49; to teach and exemplify the teaching that the protection of wisdom is like the protection of money, and the advantage of knowledge is that wisdom preserves the life of him who has it. Ecclesiastes 7:12 ECV/587; to engrain in everyone who is touched by the tentacles of the church that they must “keep hold of instruction and not let go, “for she is your life.” Proverbs 4:13 ESV/304; to share with people in the margins  as did King Solomon, “Happy is the man [and woman] who find…wisdom…and gain…understanding” for education and wisdom are the principal ingredients for improving the quality of life for all people, but especially those who are traditionally under-served, under-resourced and living in the margins of life. See, Proverbs 4: 5-9. If you read the below highlights and find, as I know, that Reverend Dr. John-Wesley Howard and the Alfred Street Baptist Church Family are the prototype Faith Family envisioned by President Obama in establishing the White House Champion of Change for College Opportunity Award I urge you to award The Reverend Dr. John-Wesley Howard and the Alfred Street Baptist Church Family, the 2016 White House Champion of Change for College Opportunity Award.

I stand ready to answer any questions you may have and may be reached at (202) 439-4704.

Respectfully Submitted,

Lezli Baskerville[1]
President & CEO

From the Alfred Street Baptist Church of Alexandria, VA, Website:

Reverend Dr. John-Wesley Howard, the gifted, anointed, and dynamic pastor of the historic Alfred Street Baptist Church (ASBC) in Alexandria, Virginia. A courageous, exciting, and visionary leader, Dr. Wesley is a much sought after preacher, teacher, and featured national keynote speaker for various churches, leadership and development programs. He is only the eighth pastor to be installed in the 213-year history of the historic and world-renowned Alfred Street Baptist Church.

Alfred Street Baptist Church is the oldest, largest and most prominent African American church in Northern Virginia. Under Dr. Wesley’s leadership, the church has grown to over 7,000 members with nearly 80 active ministries. As a result, Alfred Street Baptist Church is the first and only faith-based organization to date, to donate $1 million to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Alfred Street as it is affectionately known in the community; currently holds four services, three on Sunday and one on Saturday evenings (the only African American Baptist church in the Washington, DC area to do so). He is most passionate about today’s youth, and is often recognized for his sermons, which promote spiritual, social and intellectual growth amongst young adults.

A plethora of innovative worship services and ideas have been conceptualized and implemented under his direction, such as the Come As You Are (CAYA) worship service. CAYA is designed specifically for young adults, ages 20–30 something which is held on the first Wednesday of every month. A host of innovative spiritual programs, services and study groups have been implemented under Dr. Wesley’s direction such as: the AWANA program; which raises children and youth to know, love and serve Christ, Senior’s Bible study, Men’s Bible study, and Praying with the Pastor, just to name a few.

As a compassionate pastor, he has led ASBC to purchase property adjacent to the church, which kept affordable housing in historical Old Town Alexandria. Under Dr. Wesley’s direction, more emphasis has been placed on domestic violence awareness, community awareness, mentoring programs for youth, human trafficking and after incarceration assistance. Not afraid to take on social and political issues, Dr. Wesley led community protest marches against the New York grand jury’s decision not to indict in the death of Eric Gardner. His sermon, “When the Verdict Hurts,” was acknowledged in Time magazine’s July 29, 2013 cover story, “After Trayvon” as one of the best sermons preached in the United States following the “not guilty” verdict in State of Florida v. George Zimmerman. Three of Dr. Wesley’s sermons, “When the Verdict Hurts,” ”A Rizpah Response,” (along with the black hoodie he donned while preaching this sermon), and “Tell Your Own Story,” will all be archived in the NMAAHC’s faith-based collection.

Reverend Dr. Howard-John Wesley represents the fourth generation of Baptist preachers in his family. He is the son of the late Rev. Dr. Alvin J. Wesley and Dr. Helene J. Wesley. A 1994 magna cum laude graduate of Duke University; he doubled majored in Biomedical and Electrical Engineering. After his first year in medical school, he yielded to God’s call once again and walked away from a medical career to attend seminary in preparation for serving God’s people. He attended the Boston University School of Theology where he was a Martin L. King, Jr. Scholar and a 1997 summa cum laude graduate concentrating on Biblical Studies and African-American religious history. His passion for preaching and learning led him to the Associated Chicago Theological School’s Doctor of Ministry in Preaching Program where he graduated from the Northern Baptist Theological Seminary with his Doctor of Ministry degree in 2003.

For his labor, Dr. Wesley has received numerous awards and accolades including the recent 2016 NAACP Chairman’s Image Award, which celebrates the accomplishments of people of color in the fields of television, music, literature and film and also honors individuals or groups who promote social justice through creative endeavors. Dr. Wesley was inducted into the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia in 2015. He was one of seven to receive the 2014 James Floyd Jenkins Pillar of Faith Award presented by Howard University School of Divinity, in collaboration with the United Church of Christ. Additionally, he was one of the 2013 recipients of The Root 100: A Who’s Who of Black America Award. Dr. Wesley is associated with several organizations including but not limited to: Alexandria NAACP, the Northern Virginia Urban League, the Community Coalition for Haiti, a member of the Board of Directors for the Hopkins House and the Institute for Responsible Citizenship, a member of the Board for the Lott Carey Convention, and a member of the board of the John Leland Center for Theological Studies. He has also served as honorary chairperson for the African American Adoptions, Inc. just to name a few. Dr. Wesley has also hosted the weekly Sunday, Life App Moment with Pastor Wesley, which aired on DCW50/CW Network. The weekly Life App Moment provides practical life applications, leaving one empowered and able to cope with the stresses of everyday living while creating and encouraging a relationship with God. He is often a guest on various MSNBC talk shows discussing relevant social justice issues plaguing society.

A member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., Dr. Wesley is an avid golfer who also enjoys movies, reading, and working out. He is the proud father of two beautiful sons, Howard-John, II and Cooper Reece.

[1] While I enjoy worshiping with the Alfred Street Baptist Church Family of Virginia, and supporting some of its tremendous works, I am a member of the Shiloh Baptist Church of Washington, D.C., which has a potent HBCU Council, working under the able leadership of J. Otis Harris, Jr.

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