Voices was created in 2010 to be a place for leaders of color who were working alone in white led, evangelical organizations. I began to get a little concerned about the number of leaders that I came across who were really struggling in their work or looking to connect and process in a place that understood their perspective. I was also concerned that they were being used to do programs, give input, work with people, create safe places for students and participants of color, and even give ”perspective” to white leaders but were working alone in many cases. There are very few voices of color in boardrooms, very few as Executive Directors, etc. Finally, I was concerned that communities of color were not seeing leaders of color. In fact, there were many stories of failure. Leadership in countless organizations working in brown and black communities is being lost to young whites and gentrification. Even in our own association, CCDA, most organizations are led by white leaders, something Barbara Skinner mentioned in her plenary talk a few years ago.
Voices was birthed out of this lament. We have created a place for voices of color, and particularly African Americans, to come to the table: connect to history, share their wisdom, collaborate as bridge builders which many of them are, and affect culture in their communities from a larger platform. We engage quality leaders, not ones who needed the limelight all the time but people whose vocation spoke for itself. We collaborate in a multi-generational model, connecting new and mature leaders in conversations to reverse the increasing breakdown between young and old. We connect to leaders from every sector; business, church, the arts, politics, education, and media are represented.
We started with smaller conversations twice a year. These “gatherings” are held in January and August, and employ a “call and response” format where a presenter shares for a 30 minute period that is then followed by questions and conversation for 45 minutes. This allows someone to talk about his or her vocation or passion but then to have a deeper conversation with the group. There have been 10 of these events over the last 5 years reaching 60 leaders. We have attracted the attention of larger media voices like Soledad Obrien who continues to support these efforts and who spoke at a recent gathering.
Voices is also committed to engaging and training a younger generation of leaders of color. We do this through our college tours. This is done once a year in February where we visit select black colleges and schools in the northwest and offer training, encouragement and connection for future leaders of color. “The ReConnect Tour” looks to join Faith, Justice and Vocation for young leaders of color.
-Leroy Barber, Co-Founder
Leroy Barber has dedicated more than 25 years to eradicating poverty, confronting homelessness, restoring local neighborhoods, healing racism, and living what Dr. King called “the beloved community.”
In 1989, burdened by the plight of Philadelphia’s homeless population, he and his wife Donna founded Restoration Ministries, a non-profit created to serve homeless families and children living on the streets. In 1994 he became Director of the Internship Program at Cornerstone Christian Academy. Licensed and ordained at Mt Zion Baptist Church, he served as Youth Director with Donna, and as the Associate Minister of Evangelism. In 1997, he joined FCS Urban Ministries in Atlanta, GA and worked with the Atlanta Youth Project 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. He went on to plant and pastor Community Life Church, a missional congregation in southeast Atlanta, and served as the Atlanta City Director for Mission Year, a national year-long urban ministry program focused on service and discipleship. In 2007 Leroy became President of Mission Year and led the organization until 2013. He also served as Co-Executive Director of FCS Urban Ministries from 2009 to 2013 and as Global Executive Director of Word Made Flesh from 2013 to 2015.
Leroy is currently the Executive Director of The Voices Project and Holla Mentors, organizations committed to supporting and developing leaders of color. He serves on the boards of the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA), The Simple Way and EEN, the Evangelical Environmental Network. He is the author of New Neighbor: An Invitation to Join Beloved Community, Everyday Missions: How Ordinary People Can Change the World (IVP), Red, Brown, Yellow, Black, White: Who’s More Precious in God’s Sight?(Jericho) and recently released, Embrace: God’s Radical Shalom for a Divided World (IVP). He was also a contributor to Tending to Eden, and the groundbreaking book UnChristian: What a New Generation Thinks about Christianity and Why It Matters.
Leroy has been married to Donna for the past 31 years and together they have five children – Jessica, Joshua, Joel, Asha Joy and Jonathan.