“My life is laughter personified, a place where sorrow can visit but not abide.”
Onleilove Chika Alston was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. When she was 10, she felt led to pray and read the Bible though she was not raised in church. Four years later she walked into a local Baptist Church where I had a life-altering conversion experience. This conversion not only saved her soul, but her life from the effects of poverty, foster care and homelessness all of which she experienced by age seven.
Currently, she serves as the Executive Director of PICO-Faith in New York a federation of over 70 congregations representing 80,000 New Yorkers organizing for justice. She is a organizer, speaker, and writer specializing in uncovering the Black roots of the Biblical faith to the end of impacting our communities for justice.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and African-American Studies from Penn State University, she completed a year of service with AmeriCorps Public Allies New York. In 2011, Onleilove received Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University School of Social Work, respectively.
For more than 10 years, she has interned and worked for various nonprofit organizations such as Sojourners (where I was a Beatitudes Society Fellow), NY Faith & Justice, United Workers and FPWA. Her writing has been published in Sojourners Magazine, Your Black World, The Black Commentator, CONSP!RE Magazine, Huff Post Religion and on NPR’s Onbeing blog, as well as in other print and online publications. Onleilove has a passion for creating devotional materials to aid communities in holistic sanctification that leads to spiritual maturity, emotional health, and prophetic justice.
Due to her personal testimony, Onleilove has developed a compassion for people fueled by a passion for justice, and I know that the gospel is truly “good news to the poor.”
For my writing and activism work, I have received the W.A.T.E. Women in Philanthropy Award, The Lost Angels Society Overcomer Award, The Beatitudes Society 2015 Senior Fellowship, The Bennett Fellowship for Social Justice from Auburn Seminary, the National Association of Social Workers-NYC Scholarship for Social Justice, The 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 my Sojourners cover story: “Dethroning King Coal: Christians defend a way of life, and the earth, in Appalachia.”
Onleilove has preached, lectured and given workshops across America as well as in Israel and her work has taken her to Ghana where she supports the Sefwi Jewish community whose ancestors migrated to Ghana from Israel.
Onleilove currently lives in Harlem, and has five siblings and a large extended family in both New York and North Carolina. She worships at Beth-El House of Yahweh in the South Bronx where she co-leads the Missions and Evangelism Team and serves in The Inner City Light House Community Development Initiative. For all of her blessings Onleilove declares To Yah be the glory!