Founded in 1981, the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity was born out of social justice and grass roots advocacy for quality education for public school youth. Thirty-one years and 15 Black Clergy presidents later, the organization is still promoting and advocating for the good and welfare of the African-American community, including other disenfranchised citizens in the region..
The Rev. Dr. Terrence Griffith is the current president of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity, he became a member in 2006. He has a vision.
“We are focused on three major areas, economic justice, political justice and social justice,” said Griffith.
In recent years, particularly under Griffith’s leadership, the Black Clergy has been building stronger alliances with political leaders, corporate leaders, education professionals and union bosses, establishing the organization as a legitimate power bloc in the region. Recently, Griffith was appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett to serve on the Governor’s Commission for African American Affairs.
Originally from the Caribbean Island of Granada, Griffith was a rising political superstar. He was a senator in his country, serving in the Parliament. He came to Philadelphia more than 20 years ago. On June 17, 2001, Griffith became the 13th senior pastor to serve at First African Baptist Church, 1608 Christian St.
“We want economic parody for African Americans and the disenfranchised in our region,” said Griffith.
The Black Clergy promotes and advocates for equality, justice, brotherhood, community betterment, Black awareness, employment, better housing, education and Christian principles.
There are a few accomplishments that Griffith is pleased about.
“Presently, we are engaged in a series of health fairs across the city,” he said. “We’ve had professionals from Einstein (Hospital) and other from the health field, come serve as lecturers to educate the people, in addition to conducting various free health screenings and distribution of informative healthcare materials to families citywide. “I’m telling you, it has been impactful.”
Several churches including First African Baptist Church (in South Philadelphia), Resurrection Baptist Church (in West Philadelphia), Tenth Memorial Baptist Church (in North Philadelphia), Mt. Airy Church of God In Christ, Mt. Zion Baptist Church of Holmesburg and Great Faith Baptist Church (in University City section), have hosted health fairs.
The health fairs are being organized to address the systemic bad-health issues that exponentially plague the African-American community such as diabetes, HIV, obesity, heart disease, cancer, teen pregnancy, poor eating habits and smoking. According to a report from the United Health Foundation, the United States currently spends more per capita than any other industrialized nation on healthcare, including $1.5 trillion in medical costs associated with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.
“Come September 15th, we are going to have a major health fair that will involve the entire city, at the Convention Center, and we have invited the first lady Michelle Obama, to be our keynote speaker,” said Griffith. “Hopefully she can make it. These are some of the things that we are doing, that Black Clergy hasn’t focused on before.”
Griffith said the Black Clergy has an economic agenda.
“On the economic field, we’re looking at workforce development, holding seminars so that we can talk to people about how they can become economically empowered,” he said. “Come September, these are workshops that our economic team will be (conducting).”
According to Griffith, building alliances with the business community is a key cog in the Black Clergy’s plans for economic uplift in the community.
“We have engaged some businessmen in the community who are a part of our Economic Development Committee, now that has never been done before … preachers do not have all the answers, and we have successful African-American business men and women that we thought we needed to tap, to put on the committee, to suggest to us ways we can assist the African-American community in becoming more economically stable,” he said.
The Black Clergy met last year to discuss a new vision and mission for the organization,
“About 30 of us met downtown and spent (hours) crafting a new direction for the organization,” said Griffith of organization’s bold new mission. “Two of the things that we did, we structured a new vision and a new mission for the organization, and the new mission of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity is, to unify African-American clergy, guided by Christian principles, to promote social, political and economic justice for all people. Not just for African-Americans, but to promote social, political and economic justice for all people.”
Griffith also shared the new vision statement: “To be the leading prophetic voice on issues affecting the quality of life of African Americans and the disenfranchised in our region.”
Some historical hallmarks of the Black Clergy include awarding college scholarships; establishing an ecumenical relationship with the Jewish community; establishing a non-profit organization (501(c) 3) named the African-American Interdenominational Ministries, Inc., under the umbrella of Black Clergy, which serves as a service arm. The Black Clergy is currently engaged in the city’s Peaceful Surrender Program which involves convincing those with criminal summons to surrender to churches and mosques to resolve their legal matter without violence. The Black Clergy has also forged an agreement with New York Theological Seminary for those ministers interested in pursuing a doctorate of ministry degree.
For Griffith, the unification of the Black Clergy is critically essential to the success of the organization and tantamount to its robust agenda,
“The only way we can affect change in this city, is if we come together and work together, for the common good of the people.”
The office of the Black Clergy of Philadelphia and Vicinity is located at 128 Chestnut Street, Suite 301, Philadelphia, Pa. Rev. Griffith can be reached at (215) 735-1050.