Leroy Barber has dedicated more than 20 years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism, and living what Dr. King called “the beloved community.”
Leroy starts projects that shape society; in 1989, burdened by the plight of Philadelphia’s homeless, he and his wife Donna founded Restoration Ministries, to serve homeless families and children living on the streets. In 1994 he became Director of Internship Programs at Cornerstone Christian Academy. Leroy was licensed and ordained at Mt Zion Baptist Church where he served as Youth Director with Donna, and also served as Associate Minister of Evangelism. In 1997, he joined FCS Urban Ministries, working with Atlanta Youth Project to serve as the founding Executive Director of Atlanta Youth Academies, a private elementary school providing quality Christian education for low-income families in the inner city. Leroy also helped found DOOR Atlanta, Community Life Church, South Atlanta Marketplace, and Community Grounds Coffee shop in Atlanta, as well as Green My Hood and The Voices Project.
Leroy is currently the Global Executive Director of Word Made Flesh, an international organization that works among the most vulnerable of the world's poor. Rev. Barber is on the boards of Mission Year and the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA). He is the author of New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, and Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World and was also chosen as a contributor to Tending to Eden, and the groundbreaking book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks About Christianity and Why It Matters. His third book, Red, Yellow, Black and White: Who’s More Precious In His Sight?, will be published this fall.
Leroy has been married to Donna for the past 28 years and together they have three adult children — Jessica, Joshua, and Joel, and two adopted children — Asha and Jonathan.
Posts By This Author
There are so many people that have gone before me, people that have sacrificed their lives in pursuit of justice and equality. Because of this, I feel a deep sense of commitment to honor them by standing for some of the same things that they did. I am in complete awe of two things that connect deeply for me. The first is the cross and how Jesus gave his life for us all. The second is my ancestors who somehow understood Jesus’ sacrifice and passed it onto me through intense persecution.
I can’t say that I know persecution like my parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents knew. I have been back to southern Alabama many times for family reunions and visited slave graveyards where relatives are buried. This compels me to be and do more with my life. I can’t say I understand why Jesus would choose to become human, walk this earth as a human being, and then die at the hands of his own creations to save those who were crucifying him. However, I do know it pushes me to be and do more with my life. I feel like I would let them down somehow if I didn’t take responsibility for addressing injustice with my life.
My life is not my own. I am the product of sacrifice. I am here because of those who saw beyond themselves and thought personal sacrifice was worth giving up to allow justice to take hold. I am here because Jesus modeled something completely illogical on the cross and then some of my ancestors took that example seriously and repeated it. I have no real right to the life I live. My only recourse is to continue the tradition handed to me in the same way.
Go Long, for Life
In football, if the defensive players have no fear of your going long, they stack up against you and the shorter plays become incredibly hard and frustrating. It's as if the defense can predict what you're going to do and outnumber you.
Many people live their lives, and some nonprofits run their organizations, this way —never going for the long ball.
Raising Black Boys in America: An Interview With Leroy Barber
Howard Thurman says three things, in Jesus and the Disinherited: One — God is on the side of the oppressed and the poor. Know that God is on your side. Two — Dishonesty takes you out of the conversation. And if you live an honest life, if you have integrity, you can sit at the table. In areas of race, people look for holes in your character as excuses for you not to be at the table. Three — Hate is useless. Don’t let hate sink into your soul, because hate will destroy you. And respond with love even if it’s hard. So I try to teach my boys that, and raise them that way.
In Celebration of Freedom
No stones were thrown, even though these leaders thought they had the law on their side. Not one stone was thrown. Jesus turned the moment from pious religious rules to self awareness of grace, and each person with a stone dropped it and walked away. I think maybe because they realized life is all grace. Then that grace standing in front of this woman is given to her. The system failed, but life was given.
(Not) Just Another Day
For as long as I can remember, Father’s Day has been a challenge for me. You see, like many other children I know, I have deep painful scars when it comes to the topic of fatherhood. My dad really hurt me the day he left — which, quite frankly, was one of the lesser hurts he caused to my mom, in my opinion. Physical abuse, infidelity, gambling away our meals: the list goes on and on. I put this out there not because these things in my life are unresolved or unforgiven, but to open up a conversation.
Unfortunately my story is way too common these days, and I am a bit tired of its demon-like possession of black children and families.
The Voices Project: Offering Perspective to Places of Power
To voice is to give utterance or expression to; declare; proclaim: to voice one's discontent.
There is a question that is usually on the hearts and minds of many if not most people who are living and working in missions or active for justice when they attend events. There is an elephant in the room, a funny feeling in our stomach. The question is, where are the people of color?
"Leroy, where are the black people?"
My heart always sinks, as I know my friends who lead these events want nothing more than to see more diversity. I have had many conversations and even disagreements about what the answers may be to how to "diversify.” A few years ago I went to New York to visit my friend Gabe Lyons who I have known for quite a few years now. I went to Gabe because he is a friend, but also because he’s a person with experience in gathering people together. I had this desire in my heart to bring people of color together, specifically black folks. Gabe and I talked for an afternoon and I left there believing perhaps it was time for me to gather black leaders together.
A Testimony of God's Grace and Love
MARRIAGE IS A wonderful thing. Yet it seems to be taking a hit in our society, and I must say it is taking a hit in my community at rates I am very uncomfortable with as an African American.
My wife, Donna, and I have been working in ministry and missions for a long time, and we see our marriage as a key to our work. We live and work in the city in a mostly black neighborhood, and the percentage of married black couples is extremely low. Modeling a great marriage is something we take seriously and make very public. If we didn’t make our marriage and relationship public, some of the young people we know and work with would not know personally any happily married African-American couples.
It is our intent to live out our lives as a couple and family so others can see its beauty and challenge. Our community has upwards of 90 percent single-parent homes, with few dads present and even fewer marriages. Marriage is one of our greatest “testimonies” of God’s grace and love in our lives. How we love each other and our children is a important part of our work, so we are very intentional about the health of our marriage. This has given us the opportunity to love each other well.
A public manifestation of our marriage means we celebrate one another with friends as much as possible. We announce our date nights and trips we take together, and we publicize special days and anniversaries. We let people know how much we enjoy it being just the two of us, and we even disagree publicly so people know we are individuals and have our own opinions. It is our opinion that black children need to see and interact with healthy black couples.
If Someone Hits You, Hit Them Back
Last year, 506 murders happened in the city of Chicago — the majority of them in black communities. Similar rates of violence swept through places like Philadelphia, Camden, N.J., New Orleans, and the list could go on and on. I have in my life begun to declare myself a pacifist. I have made this change because I think, as a black man, the only recourse for me is to try and stop violence that happens in so many black communities. Turning the other cheek, responding with a gentle answer, forgiving a misunderstanding: these are the paths to recovery in my neighborhood.
The “if someone hits you, hit them back” mentality is destroying black men at an alarming rate. Dads, teach your boys to talk it over, look the other way, or keep walking when things begin to escalate.
An Injustice in Camden
I recently heard that the state of New Jersey plans to evict the Camden Children's Garden from its 14-year-old home.
I don't know if you know much about Camden, N.J., but it's one of the cities in our country that wrestles with a myriad of social issues. There are a number of incredible people there that work tirelessly to improve the living and social conditions. Mission Year has spent a number of years living and working beside neighbors and friends in this city. The people there are very committed to things like improving housing, education, and tackling food desert issues, and they have very little resources with which to work.
Does anybody else feel this weight?
I woke up this morning in tears. I don’t know why today is different, but I do know the weight is for my brothers and sisters who are in pain.
I imagined what the night was like for folks in my neighborhood who had to fend off threats last night.
I imagine the young girl in a car — against her will or against her first choice — with the guy named John, and I lament for her soul.
I imagine the young guy standing out all night selling death so he can have a little life — whether it’s in the form of food, dignity or just to feel like he is meeting some need, somehow.
I imagine the mom lying in the bed next to someone she would rather not touch, but because he pays the bills for her kids to eat and sleep, she puts up with his abuse and doesn’t say anything about the other woman he also lies with around the corner.
Racism, Moral Law and the Penn State Abuse Scandal
I made myself read the Grand Jury report about Sandusky's alleged crimes and it was 23 pages of vile and inhuman behavior not only by the predator but by those who actually saw it, heard of it, or received reports about it across their desk.
Then to also learn that all these children were black deepens my sadness.
I am forced to ask some really hard questions.
Are black people that expendable?
Was the fact that they were black, poor and powerless the reason it was overlooked?
Is football, a school, and personal reputation so important that a 10-year-old black boy being raped in a bathroom can be covered up?
I had an idea that power was corrupt, but this is much more than simply corrupt. It is pure evil.
Black Men and 'Jumping the Broom'
In one of my last blog posts on God's Politics, I had some pretty strong opinions on the negative comments made by Bernard Hopkins about Donovan McNabb implying that McN
Bernard Hopkins, Donovan McNabb, and Debunking the 'Black Card'
What Does it Mean to Have No African American Senators?
Am I Living the American Dream?
Lamenting Churches Labeled by Race
I Met a White Man and He Couldn't Dance
I attended a majority white high school in the late '70s and since that time my life has been one cross-cultural bowl of spaghetti. It tastes good but is really messy, sometimes sauce all over your shirt.