Written by Daniel Hazard
The Cleveland-based denominational headquarters of the United Church of Christ are presenting five prominent African Americans who will highlight activities at the UCC Church House during Black History Month. They will preach at special noontime Wednesday worship services in the Amistad Chapel.
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, UCC general minister and president kicked off the celebration on Feb.1. On Feb. 8, the Rev. Paul Hobson Sadler Sr., pastor of Mt. Zion Congregational UCC in Cleveland, will be in the pulpit, followed by Judge Denise Page Hood on Feb. 15, David Driskell, art scholar, on Feb. 22, and the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. on Feb. 29.
The Wednesday noon services at 700 Prospect Ave., downtown Cleveland, are open to the public, but registration is required.
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black
The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black is the general minister and president of the United Church of Christ (UCC), headquartered in the Gateway District of Cleveland.
During his years in ministry, Black has served as assistant chaplain at Brown University, associate minister at St. Albans Congregational UCC in Queens, lecturer in the Field Education Department at Union Theological Seminary in New York City, and Protestant chaplain at Adelphi University, as well as pastor of Congregational UCC of South Hempstead (N.Y.), and Conference Minister of the UCC's New York Conference as well as national ministry in his capacity as minister for church life and leadership at the national offices of the UCC in the 1990s.
Ecumenical commitment, concern for equal justice, African-American empowerment, and community improvement have shaped Black's ministry in the church and in the communities in which he has lived. This has resulted in his work with organizations such as the Nassau Coalition for Safety and Justice, The Long Island Interracial Alliance for a Common Future, and the Amistad Cultural Center of Long Island, which he co-founded. While living in Ohio previously, he was an active member of Caring Communities of Shaker Heights, Ohio, and Partnership 2000 of the Shaker Public schools. He currently enjoys hiking and photography on Cleveland's west side.
Black is married to Patricia Williams-Black. They have one daughter, Makeda Black, who resides in Hyattsville, Maryland.
The Rev. Paul Hobson Sadler Sr.
Paul Hobson Sadler was born in Philadelphia and received his elementary and secondary education in the public schools of that city. He attended Howard University and earned a B.A. degree in political science. He continued his education at the Howard University School of Divinity and earned an M.Div. degree. Sadler has served United Church of Christ (UCC) congregations in Washington, D.C., New Orleans, and Chicago, where he served three years as associate pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ, the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ with more than 10,000 members. From 1988 to 1991, Rev. Sadler was host and executive producer of an award winning Christian talk show, Reaching Out, on cable television in New Orleans.
Sadler served for nine years as minister of evangelism for African-American and Native-American Indian Church Development, and ultimately as assistant general secretary of the Division of Evangelism and Local Church Development at the UCC's United Church Board for Homeland Ministries. He currently serves as Pastor of Mt. Zion Congregational United Church of Christ, one of the oldest African-American congregations in Cleveland. He also serves as president and chairman of Creative Arts Ministries, a nonprofit ministry consulting firm, where he oversees their programmatic efforts to use the creative arts to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. From 2000 to 2004 he served as Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, in the College of Arts and Sciences at Cleveland State University.
Considered a leading expert in the field of African-American church growth, Sadler is widely sought after to provide seminars, workshops and lectures in seminaries, local congregations and denominational gatherings. He is an eloquent preacher who is gifted with a resonant bass voice that he uses to sing and preach to the glory of God. He also has performed in the theater, on the concert stage, and has appeared in several films.
Sadler is a prolific writer who has published numerous articles and contributed to several books, including How to Help Hurting People (Urban Ministries, 1990), How I Got Over (Urban Ministries, 1992), From One Brother to Another (Judson Press, 1996), The Book of Daily Prayer 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001 and 2002 (Pilgrim Press), The African American Devotional Bible (Zondervan, 1998), Men of Color Study Bible (Nia, 1998.) He is the author of the book, Walk in the Light: Insight and Reflections on Living the Christian Life (Creative Arts Ministries, 1998). In 2000, he recorded his first CD, Paul Hobson Sadler Sings (CAM Records), which was re-released in 2004.
Sadler serves on numerous civic, corporate and denominational boards including Cleveland's University Circle Inc., Shore Bank Enterprise Cleveland, Eliza Bryant Village, Adoption Network Cleveland, University Circle Design Review District, Justice And Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, United Black Christians, The Ambassadors Council of the Club at Key Center, and the African American Advisory Committee to the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art. In addition, he serves as president of the Howard University Alumni Club of Cleveland.
Sadler is married to Kim Martin Sadler, who serves as editorial director of The Pilgrim Press, the oldest religious publishing house in America. They have two adult children, Robin Renee Sadler, a broadcast journalist, and Paul Hobson Sadler Jr., an entrepreneur. Sadler's numerous hobbies include painting acrylic abstracts, physical fitness, collecting African American art and restoring classic automobiles.
The Hon. Denise Page Hood
United States District Court Judge Denise Page Hood was born in Columbus, Ohio, Feb. 21, 1952. After attending high school at the Columbus School for Girls, Hood earned a bachelor's degree from Yale College in 1974. She went on to graduate from Columbia University School of Law in 1977. In 1982, after working as a lawyer for the Detroit Law Department In 1987, Hood began her career behind the bench. As a judge, she has served Detroit's 36th District Court, Recorder's Court and Wayne County Circuit Court. Her reputation in the legal community garnered her a nomination to the United States District Court from President Bill Clinton. On June 16, 1994, Hood was officially appointed to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. In this role, she continues to preside over both criminal and civil cases. Over the course of her career, Hood has participated in nearly 20 professional organizations. She became the first African-American female president of the Detroit Bar Association in 1993 and has also acted as the president of the Association of Black Judges of Michigan.
Judge Hood has demonstrated her strong commitment to community through her involvement in a number of organizations such as the Lula Belle Stewart Center, Cyprian Center, and the United Church of Christ. She was moderator of the United Church of Christ's 1999 General Synod, the biennial gathering of the denomination.
She also is active in various professional organizations, including the Detroit Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan, and the Association of Black Judges of Michigan. Notably, in 1993, Judge Hood was sworn in as the first African-American female president of the 157-year-old Detroit Bar Association. Judge Hood said of this honor, "Never mind that I'm the first. What's important is that I'm not the last."
Judge Hood believes that it is important for judges, lawyers and aspiring lawyers to work hard to maintain the integrity of the profession. In particular, she advises:
"Always do your best. Always be professional and courteous. People will judge other lawyers and judges by how you present yourself. Be fair. Remember the judicial system can only work if people, including lawyers and judges, respect it."
Hood is married to the Rev. Nicholas Hood III, senior minister of Plymouth United Church of Christ in Detroit.
Artist and scholar David Driskell is regarded as one of the world's leading authorities on African American art. Driskell was born on June 7, 1931, in Eatonton, Ga. Educated in North Carolina's public schools, he earned his undergraduate degree at Howard University and an M.F.A. from Catholic University in Washington, D.C. Driskell also pursued post-graduate studies in art history at the Netherlands Institute for the History of Art in the Hague and studied African and African-American cultures independently in Europe, Africa and South America.
In 1976, Driskell opened his groundbreaking exhibition, "Two Centuries of Black American Art," at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The show prompted the creation of similar shows around the country. Driskell also penned the show's catalogue, an invaluable text to art scholars who previously had very little information available on African-American artists.
Since 1977, Driskell has served as cultural advisor to Camille and Bill Cosby and curator of the Cosby Collection of Fine Arts. He placed works of African-American artists on the set of The Cosby Show. This is credited with creating a new class of African American art collectors.
Driskell has contributed significantly to the study of the role of African American artists in society. He has written five exhibition books, co-authored four others and published more than forty catalogues from exhibitions he has curated. Driskell has lectured extensively in North America, Europe, Africa and South America, and has taught at numerous universities.
In 1998, the University of Maryland established the David C. Driskell Center for the Study of the African Diaspora, honoring Driskell's 44-year career as artist, educator, philanthropist, collector and art historian.
Driskell has been a practicing artist since the 1950s and has exhibited his work around the world. He is highly sought after as a major stained glass artist. One of his most celebrated such projects as the DeForest Chapel at Talladega College in Alabama, which consists of 65 stained glass windows. In December 2000, President William Jefferson Clinton bestowed the National Humanities Medal on Driskell, noting that "... he has focused attention on black artists sparking worldwide interest among art lovers, critics and historians and enriching the cultural heritage and history of our nation."
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.
The Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. is a man of faith, a homiletic genius, a theological scholar and a pastor's pastor. He is a family man who enjoys spending quality time with his wife, children, grandchildren, extended family and friends.
Born in Philadelphia, Wright is a son of the parsonage and hails from a family steeped in educational achievements. A third-generation family member to matriculate at Virginia Union University, Wright followed in the footsteps of his maternal grandfather, Hamilton Martin Henderson, who graduated from Virginia Union with a B.A. degree in the late 1800s and finished seminary at Virginia Union in 1902. His father, Jeremiah A. Wright Sr., also graduated from Virginia Union with two undergraduate degrees and from the seminary with a Master of Divinity degree in 1938. The senior Wright also received a Master of Sacred Theology degree (S.T.M.) from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia.
Wright's mother, Mary Henderson Wright, also graduated from Virginia Union and earned her first master's degree before age 19 from the University of Chicago. She earned a second master's degree and her Ph.D. in education from the University of Pennsylvania.
With four earned degrees –– B.A and M.A. degrees in English from Howard University, an M.A. degree in the history of religions from the University of Chicago Divinity School, and a D.Min. degree from the United Theological Seminary –– Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. grew up in a home where reading books was a daily way of life. Wright read a wide range of sources, from the Greek philosophers and Shakespeare to African-American authors such as Carter G. Woodson (the father of African-American history) to Sterling Brown (one of the Harlem Renaissance artists as well as one of Wright's college professors).
A student of Black Sacred Music, ethnomusicology and African Diaspora studies, Wright is an historian of religions. He came from a family where diverse ideas were discussed and lessons were learned. In that context, his faith was formed and his commitment to the continent of Africa and social justice were born. These foundational strengths shaped Wright's vision for prophetic ministry.
As senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where he served 36 years, Wright combined his studies of African traditional religions, African music, African-American music and the African-American Religious Tradition with his studies of Judeo-Christian thought to create ministries that addressed the needs of the community and enriched the lives and faith of his congregants by moving ministry, as stated in his own words, "from theory to praxis." Describing Wright's preaching style, the Rev. Otis Moss III, the pastor of Trinity and Wright's successor, says, "The weight of the holy is upon his words."
Wright said in a published article: "I have tried to bring those two different worlds together [the academy and the pew] in the context of pastoral ministry in an effort to move an ignored people from hurt to healing and from hate to hope. My mission at Trinity has been to bring those worlds together by using the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the life of Christ as a model for what is possible, of what might be, and of what our faith really is —‘the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.'"
Wright's efforts made Trinity –– long considered in theological circles as a model for the Black church –– one of the most politically active and socially conscious churches in the nation. When he retired, the church had more than 50 active ministries with social justice advocacy at the core of its theological perspective.
From HIV/AIDS outreach programs and two senior housing complexes to a federally funded childcare program for low-income families and the church's newly formed Kwame Nkrumah Academy to serve students on Chicago's South Side, the congregation has put into practice the Gospel that was preached every week. At the end of May 2008, Wright retired as senior pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ. He became pastor emeritus and now spends his time preaching, teaching, and leading study tours to Africa, Brazil and the Caribbean.
Wright is married to the Rev. Ramah Wright, has five children (Janet, Jeri, Nathan, Nikol and Jamila) and three grandchildren (Jeremiah, Jazmin, and Steven).