Onleilove (pronounced Onlylove) Chika Alston, Founder of Prophetic Whirlwind was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. Currently, she is the executive director at PICO-Faith in New York, where she leads a multiracial and multifaith organizing federation of 70+ congregations representing 80,000 New Yorkers who are working to Build the Beloved City — where all of God’s children can live in dignity. Onleilove is also a community organizer, speaker, and writer.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Human Development with a minor in African-American studies from Penn State University, she completed a year of service with AmeriCorps Public Allies New York. In 2011, she received her Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University School of Social Work, respectively.
Her writing has been featured in Sojourners magazine, Huff Post Religion, The Black Commentator, and NPR’s On Being blog, as well as in other print and online publications. Having experienced poverty and homelessness, she has developed a compassion for people fueled by her passion for justice, and knows that the gospel is truly “good news to the poor.” Onleilove serves on Mayor Bill de Blasio's Clergy Advisory Council, the board of directors for Sojourners and ALIGN, as a Commissioner for the Poor People’s Campaign and on the advisory boards for the Women’s Organizing Network and The Micah Institute. She has completed The Beatitudes Society Senior Fellowship, The Collegeville Institute Fellowship and the FPWA Faith and Justice Fellows Program. A womanist Onleilove writes and lectures on the implicit bias of colorism and its impact on African-American women; leading A Women’s Theology of Liberation and Live Free W.O.M.B. (Women Organizing Out of Mass Incarceration and Brutality) for the PICO Network. In 2016 Onleilove testified before the United Nations Working Group for People of African Descent Testimony on Mass Incarceration’s Impact on Black Women & Girls.
She has been a featured speaker and workshop facilitator at CCDA, Dartmouth College, Why Christian, Sojourners' Summit, The 2015 African Hebrew Conference in Israel, and The Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference among other conferences, congregations, and organizations.
For her writing and activism work, Onleilove has received the Public Allies New York Local Alumni Award, The Lost Angels Society Survivor Award, The Bennett Fellowship for Social Justice from Auburn Seminary, the National Association of Social Workers-NYC Scholarship for Social Justice, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Minority Coalition Young Adult Award, and the 2011 Evangelical Press Association’s Student Writer of the Year First Place Award for her Sojourners cover story: “Dethroning King Coal: Christians defend a way of life, and the earth, in Appalachia.”
Her travels and work have taken her to Scotland, England, Switzerland, Israel, Ghana, and Togo.
Onleilove has five siblings and a large extended family. She worships at Beth-El The House of Yahweh where she co-leads the Missions and Evangelism Team and is an active member of Inner City Light House. For everything she has accomplished Chika says To Yah Be the Glory!
Posts By This Author
A Caution in Pursuing the Common Good
Whenever I hear the term Common Good I think of Thomas Paine’s infamous pamphlet Common Sense,which challenged the British government and the royal monarchy, but did not challenge the institution of slavery. As an African-American woman I enter the Common Good conversation cautiously because I know that in our society we have a habit of taking what is good for Western hegemony and making it the standard for everyone else.
As we pursue the Common Good, let us remember what was once considered common and good during earlier points in American history: chattel slavery, indigenous genocide, and institutionalized sexism. To truly come to a Common Good, we need to honor a diversity of voices and challenge our assumptions about what is common and what is good. Our default is to take what is good for our culture, gender, or community and make it the common standard for all. I have experienced being invited into organizations that were aiming to do good in the world, but an expectation existed that I would be silent about my unique concerns as an African woman. I know that denying my reality can never be good for my spiritual, physical, or social well being.
Connecting the Dots
Hurricane Sandy vividly demonstrated the relationship between climate change, poverty, and immigration.
Let the Little Children Come: Why Childcare is a Faith Issue
As the Faith Based Organizer for the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies (FPWA) — a citywide coalition of more than 300 member agencies and faith institutions — I have the privilege of working with a diverse group of faith leaders. Last spring we were thrust into an important struggle for childcare and after school funding led by the Campaign for Children (C4C), a citywide coalition of organizations advocating for childcare and after school funding. Some may wonder why clergy would be concerned about this issue, but for the clergy I work with, the reason is clear: budgets are moral documents, and what is funded reflects our values. Our clergy know that children are the greatest in God’s kingdom and our investment (or lack thereof) in them will have consequences for our future.
In New York City obtaining quality education is a serious struggle for parents of all classes. This struggle includes waiting lists that upperclass parents place their unborn children on, intelligence test for 5 year olds, interviews and hustling from one open house to another. Finding childcare is a daunting task, especially for low-income parents. As a child in New York City I knew how important it was to not end up at my “zone school,” which are schools for children who could not get in anywhere else. Growing up in one of the 12 poorest communities in New York City, my zone schools were the worst. From junior high on I had to take buses and trains to get an education. The process of finding childcare is one of the clearest depictions of the greatest lie that controls New York City: “that some people are worth more than others” (NYFJ Faith Rooted Organizing Core Lie Exercise March 2011).
From Homeless to Hope: Sydia Simmons
At 14 years old, Sydia Simmons was kicked out into the streets of New York City by her alcoholic mother, but today she is a wife, mother, and founder of the Lost Angels Society.
The purpose of the Lost Angels Society is to provide a safe space for homeless teens. Sydia knows firsthand the difficulty of being homeless, especially in New York City, and because she has overcome through her faith she wants to give back.
On Dec. 16, 2012 Sydia hosted the Lost Angels Society Benefit to give homeless youth a Christmas celebration. This benefit was supported by actress Uma Thurman, superstar singer Usher, and many others.
Sydia truly has compassion and a passion for homeless youth, and an important message for the Church. Isaiah 61: 3-4 states: “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. They will rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated; they will renew the ruined cities that have been devastated for generations.” Sydia truly fits the description above because she is rebuilding the lives of teens devastated by homelessness.
Why the Church is the Best Place for a Pussy Riot
On Aug. 17, three members of the Russian feminist punk band/performance art group Pussy Riot received the verdict in the criminal case against them: Guilty of "hooliganism" motivated by "religious hatred." Each was sentenced to two years in prison.
As a faith-based community organizer, I spend a great majority of my time trying to get political issues into the church so that the gospel can be relevant to the reality of those on and off the pews.
Therefore, I believe the best place for a “pussy riot” is the church. Although this may seem sacrilegious, here's why:
1. When the church ignores social and political issues it silently blesses injustice. (See slavery, the Holocaust, lynching, and child sexual abuse.) Testimony Time is a set time in many Black Churches when congregants can speak of their pains and triumphs and how God brought them through.
Testimony time is democratic and a time of raw honesty. I call what Pussy Riot did protestifying because they protested by testifying about the political conditions of their country.
Voices from Human Circles of Protection: New York City
“The problems of homelessness and poverty are not self-inflicted, they are the result of priorities of our society and those priorities are not centered on people but on gathering more wealth for a small number of people. Many of us [homeless people] – despite the stereotypes – drew deeply on our faith and the fact that we’re all children of God and organized ourselves. We’re homeless, not helpless. That’s why our call is to work with us and not for us.”
— Willie Baptist, Scholar-in-Residence The Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary
Join a Circle of Protection on Nov. 16: Standing For and With the Poor
The New York City Human Circle will be replicated throughout across the nation, when faith leaders host Human Circles as members of the Sojourners National Mobilizing Circle, which is bringing together faith and community leaders to organize faith-rooted actions in their communities.
The purpose of these circles is not only to lobby for the poor but also with them.
Pastor Prays for Worker Justice in the Face of Intimidation
New York Domestic Workers Call for Rights
University of Puerto Rico Students Strike
Everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory.