PhillyConnect is pleased to announce the recent hire of Minister Onleilove Chika Alston, as the Lead Community Organizer working from their 149th street office. Within this role, Alston will develop the leadership of youth and families who have been impacted by the criminal justice system. She will also build coalitions and partnerships with faith leaders and advocacy organizations.

“I was drawn by PhillyConnect’s mission and advocacy for our youth.  In this position I hope to build a strategic, powerful and faith-rooted organizing and advocacy department led by credible messengers, their families and their allies,” Alston said.

“The Faith Community has always been in the forefront of advocacy movements. Given that our Lord and Savior called on us to care from those in prison, and that a good portion of the New Testament was written by those in prison, helping the faith community to be a voice for justice reform should be a natural expression of our faith.” Rev. Wendy Calderón-Payne, Executive Director of Urban Youth Alliance/PhillyConnect.

Alston comes to PhillyConnect after working with a multi-faith 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. She currently worships and is a Minister of Evangelism at Beth-El The House of YHWH in the South Bronx.

This background has helped Alston to make an easy transition into her current position with PhillyConnect. She combines her recent experience in advocacy and consulting with past experience in a number of other areas, including outreach, public speaking, and workshop facilitating.

“As an Urban Youth Alliance Seekers Club Alum, veteran faith-rooted organizer and minister of Beth-El, The House of Yahweh in the South Bronx, I was drawn to this position because I am passionate about disrupting what I call the “womb to prison pipeline.” When I was a Seeker Club, member I lived in East New York. Brooklyn is one of the seven communities in New York City that sends the most people to prison. I truly believe that the youth, families and faith leaders in our communities have the wisdom to solve the crisis of mass incarceration and gun violence in our communities,” Alston said.