Adjunct Assistant Professor

Onleilove Alston

Professor Onleilove Chika Alston, MDiv, MSW was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn and has over 13-years of community organizing and advocacy experience and over 17-years of experience in the non-profit sector. She has developed and lead community organizing campaigns and philanthropic efforts in New York City, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and West Africa. Currently she serves as The NYC Office of Civic Engagement TRIE Neighborhood Coordinator (TNC) for the neighborhoods of Morningside Heights and Hamilton Heights where she is convening a diverse coalition of organizations focused on developing a community led and informed participatory budgeting process. 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. She is currently a Doctor of Ministry Candidate at The Samuel DeWitt Proctor School of Theology of Virginia Union University (STVU) where she is focusing on Global Leadership and Institutional Reform and researching African and African American Jewish concepts of Justice and Tikkun Olam and how this knowledge can strengthen African American community organizing efforts.

Professor Alston considers herself an intersectional Pan African Social Worker who often organizes with African American, Pan African, and West African organizations. In 2019 she was appointed as the Faith-Based coordinator for the Global African Business Association (GABA) a global network of African and diaspora business and political professionals in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Angola, and the United States. Currently, Onleilove is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Arts and Sciences in Criminal Justice for Hope International University, an Adjunct Professor of Community Organizing for The Voices School of Liberation & Transformation (formerly Klins College), an Adjunct Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work and New York Theological Seminary’s Master of Divinity Programs at Sing Sing and Bedford Hills correctional facilities where she teaches African Contributions to The Abrahamic Faith Traditions. She has also guest lectured on community organizing at CUNY City College and Dartmouth College.

She is one of the first African American women to visit Jews in West Africa where she studied, learned from these communities at their invitation for 8-years. This resulted in her book: Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering the Black Biblical Destiny focused on African and African American Jewish communities, justice, and communal healing. In 2018 she launched #OperationJoseph a philanthropic campaign inviting African Americans to send support to African Jewish communities which to date has sent support to over 40 African Jewish synagogues, NGOs, and orphanages in fifteen nations.

In 2015, she was appointed as the youngest member of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Inaugural Clergy Advisory Council and in 2020 she was appointed to Mayor Eric Adams Faith Transition Committee. In 2016, Onleilove testified before the United Nations Working Group for People of African Descent on Mass Incarceration’s Impact on Black Women & Girls. Onleilove served as the second executive director of PICO-Faith in New York, where she led a multiracial and multifaith organizing federation of 70+ congregations representing 80,000 New Yorkers. In 2018, she founded Her Wisdom LLC, a consulting firm, where she advises non-profits, NGOs, political campaigns and companies on women’s leadership, faith-based organizing and what she has coined intersectional diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Her writing has been featured in Sojourners Magazine, HuffPost Religion, The Black Commentator and NPR’s OnBeing blog, as well as in other print and online publications. Onleilove has been a featured speaker and workshop facilitator at CCDA, The Sojourners Summit and The Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference among other conferences and organizations. Onleilove has a great love for African traditional fashion and owns Chika’s Closet which employs Nigerian women as tailors and brings “Afro Glamour home” while promoting Pan African women’s economic empowerment.

Onleilove’s community organizing, and social work career is rooted in her family’s personal experience with poverty, foster care and homelessness in New York City. She believes as her community organizing mentor Willie Baptist of the Poor People’s Campaign taught her: “those closest to the issues should be at the forefront of solving them.”

In her spare time, she loves to travel and enjoy the arts. Onleilove has 5 siblings and a large extended family and lives in Harlem, New York.

Highlights

  • Brought over $750 million of Hurricane Sandy Rebuild funds for the NYC Sandy Jobs Program.
  • Founded A Women’s Theology of Liberation to develop the national, state, and local training on how women of faith can organize through a gender lens rooted in feminist, womanist, and Latina liberation theologies for The Faith in Action Network.
  • Organized and Led the Faith over Fear Civic Engagement Campaign to mobilize 90+ congregations and 30+ faith institutions to develop a progressive policy platform and voter engagement strategy, reaching over 20,000 New York voters of faith.
  • Led New York’s largest faith justice organization representing 100 multi-faith and multi-racial congregations representing 80,000 families.
  • Research Interest

    The Implicit Bias of Colorism and Its Impact on The Criminalization of Black Women and Girls
    The History of Poverty & Community Organizing in East New York, Brooklyn
    African and African American Jewish Communities & Concepts of Tikkun Olam & Justice
    Reconciliation and Healing Between African and African Diaspora Communities (African American, Afro Caribbean, Afro Arab & African Latinix Communities)
    The Womb to Prison Pipeline
    Faith-Based Community Organizing
    Intersectional Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

    Awards

    2008-Beatitudes Society Fellowship
    2010-Bunton Waller Scholarship Award
    2010-UFCW Minority Coalition Young Adult Award
    2010-William Asbury Student Leadership Award
    2011-Bennett Fellowship from Auburn Seminary
    2011-Debbie Bial Scholarship Award
    2012 Lost Angels Society Award
    2013-World Vision Move Inspirational Leader Award
    2016-W.A.T.E. Women’s Humanitarian Award
    2016 NASW 2011 Miriam Dinerman Scholarship Award
    2016 International Humatradomes Award
    2017-Public Allies NY Local Alumni Award
    2019 Great Awakening Book of the Year Award 2021
    2020 Georgia-African Connection Week Keeping The Faith Award
    2020 National African American Women Clergy Awareness Month Sojourner Truth Award
    2020 Federation of International Gender and Human Rights Prize of Peace Nomination in Creative Nonviolence
    2021 George-African Connection Week Because You Care Award
    2012-CUNY Women’s Leaderships Conference Award

    Current Grants & Projects

  • The NYC Office of Civic Engagement TRIE Neighborhood Coordinator (TNC) for the Taskforce for Racial Inclusion and Equity (TRIE) neighborhoods of Morningside Heights and Hamilton Heights
    Books
  • Alston, O.C. (2019). Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering the Black Biblical Destiny. Portland, OR: Voices Publishing.
    Book Chapters
  • Alston, O.C. (2020). A Litany for Anchoring and Energizing Justice Work with Sabbath, Contemplation, and Community. In B. Winn Lee (Ed.), Rally. Nashville, TN: Fresh Air Books.
  • Alston, O.C. (2015). The New Jim Crow: A Poem. S.D. King (Ed.), Out of the Depths: Poetry of Poverty–Courage and Resilience. Duluth, MN: Holy Cow! Press.
  • Selected Published Articles

  • Towards A Moral Agenda for New York City. (2017) Medium.
  • Let’s Reform Our Broken Criminal Justice System. (2016). Religion & Politics Magazine.
  • In rezoning, a tale of two cities: Poorer, black, and Latino neighborhoods and wealthier, predominantly white ones still get treated very differently by the city. (Sep 12, 2016). NY Daily News.
  • Is Dark Skin A Sin? Colorism & Criminal Justice (2015). Sojourners & CBE Voices of Color Blogs.
  • Fibroids: The Silent Epidemic That’s Screaming In Our Community. (May 15, 2016). WOE Magazine.
  • We Are Not an Island: Queen Quet, The Gullah/Guchee People & Their Struggle for Environmental Justice. (July 2014). Sojourners Magazine.
  • A Caution in Pursuing the Common Good. (2013). Sojourners Blog and HuffPost Religion
  • Connecting The Dots: Hurricane Sandy, Racism, Climate Change & Poverty. (2013). Sojourners Magazine
  • Romney vs. Reality: A Social Worker’s Perspective. (2012). HuffPost Religion.
  • New York Domestic Workers Call for Rights. (2010). Sojourners Blog.
  • University of Puerto Rico Students Strike. (2010). Sojourners Blog.
  • Destroying West Virginia, One Mountain At A Time: The Battle for The Mountains in West Virginia. (2010). Sojourners Magazine.
  • America’s Pervasive Pattern of Race-Based Medical Disparities. (2009). Sojourners.
  • Breaking Boundaries: Seven ways to build a movement that includes poor and rich. (2009). Sojourners Magazine
  • A Call to Action for Healthcare Equality. (2007) The Black Commentator.