A Word for the People: Finding Our Way Out of COVID


Black faith leadership has played a central role in encouraging, empowering, and informing Black communities throughout the pandemic. Now we have a vaccine. What is our faith requiring of us in this moment?

Watch this candid conversation about faith and medicine in this ever-evolving Covid-19 moment.

This event included:

  • Remarks and guidance from national leadership
  • Critical vaccine access and distribution updates from New York State
  • An intimate conversation with leaders to encourage us through this wilderness moment

For more information on Roll Up Your Sleeves New York click here > 

Meet the Panelists

Jennifer Jones Austin
CEO & Executive Director, FPWA
As CEO and Executive Director of FPWA, an anti-poverty, policy and advocacy organization with 150 members and partners, Jennifer Jones Austin has led and secured monumental changes in social policy and law in New York State to strengthen and empower the disenfranchised and marginalized. Prior to joining FPWA, she served as Senior Vice President of United Way of New York City, Family Services Coordinator for Mayor Bloomberg, Deputy Commissioner for the NYC Administration for Children’s Services, Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief for Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, and Vice President for LearnNow/Edison Schools. Jennifer co-hosts the awarding winning WBLS “Open Line”, weekly guest hosts the nationally syndicated radio program, “Keep’n It Real with Rev. Al Sharpton”, and is a monthly contributor on the “Karen Hunter Show”. She is the author of Consider It Pure Joy, a harrowing account of her battle with a sudden, life threatening illness, and the power of faith and community to transform desperation into joy. Jones Austin has chaired several influential boards and commissions, including the Mayoral Transition for Bill de Blasio, the NYC Procurement Policy Board, and the NYS Supermarket Commission. She currently serves as a Board Member of the National Action Network, the NYC Board of Correction, and the Feerick Center for Social Justice.
Rev. Dr. William J. Barber
Co-Chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign
The Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II is the President & Senior Lecturer of Repairers of the Breach, Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call For Moral Revival; Bishop with The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries; Visiting Professor at Union Theological Seminary; Pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ in Goldsboro, North Carolina, and the author of four books: We Are Called To Be A Movement; Revive Us Again: Vision and Action in Moral Organizing; The Third Reconstruction: Moral Mondays, Fusion Politics, and The Rise of a New Justice Movement; and Forward Together: A Moral Message For The Nation. Rev. Dr. Barber is also the architect of the Moral Movement, which began with weekly Moral Monday protests at the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013 and recently relaunched again online in August 2020 under the banner of the Poor People's Campaign. In 2018, Rev. Dr. Barber helped relaunch the Poor People's Campaign, which was begun by Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968, starting with an historic wave of protests in state capitals and in Washington, D.C., calling for a moral agenda and a moral budget to address the five interlocking injustices of systemic racism, systemic poverty, the war economy and militarism, ecological devastation, and the false moral narrative of Christian nationalism. There are currently 45 state coordinating committees across the country, mobilizing around the Poor People's Jubilee Platform and We Must Do M.O.R.E. (mobilize, organize, register, and educate people for a movement that votes). On June 20, some 2.5 million tuned in on Facebook alone for the campaign's Mass Poor People's Assembly & Moral March on Washington, which originally was scheduled as an in- person event but switched to digital because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of others watched and listened on C-SPAN and other media.
A highly sought after, speaker, Rev. Dr. Barber has given keynote addresses at hundreds of national and state conferences, including the 2016 Democratic National Convention. He has spoken to a wide variety of audiences including national unions, fraternities and sororities, motorcycle organizations, drug dealer redemption conferences, women’s groups, economic policy groups, voting rights advocates, LGBTQ equality and justice groups, environmental and criminal justice groups, small organizing committees of domestic workers, fast food workers, and national gatherings of Christians, Muslims, Jews, and other people of faith. Rev. Dr. Barber spoke at the Vatican City, 2017 in response to Pope Francis’s Encyclic to the Bishops of the Church, “ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME” and on June 18, 2018 Rev. Dr. Barber spoke before the 5th Uni Global Union World Congress to more twenty-five countries during which time he was added to Black Achievers Wall in the International Slavery Museum in Liverpool, England. Rev. Dr. Barber has been conferred upon ten Honorary Degrees. Rev. Dr. Barber served as president of the North Carolina NAACP, the largest state conference in the South, from 2006 - 2017 and severed on the National NAACP Board of Directors from 2008 - 2020. A former Mel King Fellow at MIT, he is currently Visiting Professor of Public Theology and Activism at Union Theological Seminary and is a Senior Fellow at Auburn Seminary. Rev. Dr. Barber is regularly featured in media outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, New York Times, Washington Post, and The Nation Magazine, among others. Rev. Dr. Barber was named one of 2020’s BET 100 Entertainers and Innovators, as a Social Justice Warrior and he is one of the 2019 recipients of the North Carolina Award, the state’s highest civilian honor. He is the 2018 MacArthur Foundation Genius Award recipient and Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Award and 2015 recipient of the Puffin Award.
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Rev. A.R. Bernard
Senior Pastor of the Christian Cultural Center
A.R. Bernard is one of the most influential religious leaders, and transformative visionaries in the United States. He is the Founding Senior Pastor of Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in Brooklyn, NY, with a membership of more than 40,000, and campuses in Long Island, and Orlando, Florida as well as a virtual campus that reaches thousands across the country and around the world. Bernard enjoyed a successful career 10 year career in Finance before opening a small storefront church in 1978 in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn. Bernard is a preeminent thought leader in faith and culture and a is highly sought-after media contributor. He has made frequent appearances on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, NBC, CBS, BET, NY1, TBN, and Daystar TV. Bernard embraces radio, TV, social media, and other communications platforms to share the message of Christ in culture. In March 2021, Bernard launched ARBtv—a digital platform that features diverse topics at the intersection of faith, culture, and media. As an author, Bernard shares transformative messages in his two books, Happiness Is... and Four Things Women Want from a Man. A lifelong civil rights activist, Bernard often collaborates with national and global faith leaders building solid partnerships that advocate for religious freedom and social justice. Bernard previously served as the president of the Council of Churches of the City of New York and is currently the president of the Commission of Religious Leaders of New York City (CORL), an organization representing all faith traditions.
Bernard holds a Master of Professional Studies and a Master of Divinity from Alliance Theological Seminary. He received an Honorary Doctor of Divinity from Wagner College and an Honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Nyack College/Alliance Theological Seminary. Under Bernard’s leadership, the newly established New School of Biblical Theology at Christian Cultural Center offers master’s degrees and is in the process of obtaining full accreditation. Bernard and his wife, Karen, are married nearly 50 years; they are the proud parents and grandparents of seven sons and 24 grandchildren, respectively.
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Rev. Dr. Elaine Flake
Co- Pastor of Greater Allen A.M.E Cathedral in New York
Long recognized as a powerful preacher, teacher and role model with a gift for reaching worshippers of all ages, the Reverend Margaret Elaine M. Flake has been impacting the many lives she touches at The Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral in New York City, where she serves as co-pastor with the Reverend Floyd H. Flake. She has dedicated her life to the betterment of others by leading Christian education, evangelistic, and outreach ministries. She is an itinerant Elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Fondly called “Reverend Elaine” by the GAC congregation, she and her husband founded the Allen Christian School in 1982. She was also instrumental in developing the Allen Women's Resource Center, which houses women and children who are victims of domestic violence. She acts as Advisor to the Missionary Department, and many of the other ministries at Allen, and as Advisor/Coordinator of the Allen Women's Ministry Department. Each year over 1,000 women from across the country and the Caribbean attend the retreats she hosts. Reverend Elaine has played a crucial role in increasing the membership of The Greater Allen A.M.E Cathedral to over fifteen thousand. She mentors many male and female leaders in the New York City area and is frequently invited to speak throughout the country. Dr. Flake is the author of the popular book, God In Her Midst: Preaching Healing to Hurting Women and has contributed to The Women of Color Study Bible, and Souls of My Sisters: Black Women Break Their Silence, Tell Their Stories, and Heal Their Spirits. She and her husband, the Reverend Dr. Floyd H. Flake authored two books, Practical Virtues: Everyday Values and Devotions for African American Families Learning to Live With All Our Souls published by Harper Collins and African American Church Management Handbook, published in 2005 by Judson Press.
A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Dr. Flake earned her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee. She received a Master of Arts Degree in English from Boston University and a Master of Divinity Degree from Union Theological Seminary in New York City. She was awarded the Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio. She has received numerous citations and awards. Most recently, The Distinguished Alumni Award was conferred upon her by Union Seminar, and in March, 2017, she was inducted onto Morehouse College’s “Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers.” She is also a proud member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated; The Links, Incorporated; and the National Council of Negro Women. Married for more than 44 years to the Reverend Dr. Floyd H. Flake, they are the parents of four adult children: Aliya, Nailah, Robert Rasheed, and Harold Hasan. She has one granddaughter, Nia Renee.
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Dr. Wayne Riley
M.D., MPH, MBA, MAC; President of SUNY Down State Health Sciences University
Wayne J. Riley, MD, MPH, MBA, MACP, is the President of the State University of New York (SUNY) Downstate Health Sciences University. A distinguished physician, internist, academician, clinician-educator, and administrator, the institution that Dr. Riley leads is the only academic medical center serving Brooklyn, New York one of the most diverse communities in the nation. Since his appointment, Dr. Riley has worked to achieve high levels of excellence across Downstate’s multiple enterprises. He also holds the tenured rank of Professor of Medicine and of Health Policy & Management. Immediately prior to joining Downstate, Dr. Riley served as Clinical Professor of Medicine and Adjunct Professor of Healthcare Management and Health Policy at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. From 2007 to 2013 her served with distinction as the 10th President and Chief Executive Officer of Meharry Medical College. He began his career at Baylor College of Medicine, where he rose to Vice President and Vice Dean for Health Affairs and Governmental Relations. During that time, he also served as Assistant Chief of the Medicine service at Ben Taub General Hospital, the safety net teaching hospital serving the indigent and uninsured of Harris County and Houston, Texas. Prior to pursuing a career in medicine, he served in three capacities in the Office of the Mayor, City of New Orleans.
Dr. Riley is a Commissioner of the U.S. Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC), President Emeritus and a Master of the American College of Physicians, an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, Secretary and member of the Board of Directors of the Arnold P. Gold Foundation, President-Elect & Secretary-Treasurer of the Society of Medical Administrators, a member of the American Clinical and Climatological Association, and a Fellow and member of the Board of Directors of the New York Academy of Medicine. He is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including election to Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society, the Arnold P. Gold Medical Humanism Honor Society, and the Delta Omega Public Health Honor Society. He was awarded the SUNY Downstate Ailanthus Award for Outstanding Public Health Leadership and holds honorary degrees from SUNY Downstate, Tuskegee University, and Mount Saint Joseph University. Dr. Riley earned his medical degree from the Morehouse School of Medicine. He also holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology with a concentration in Medical Anthropology from Yale University, a MPH degree in health systems management from Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, and a MBA from Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Business.
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