Rev. Rodney McKenzie
Rodney McKenzie, Jr. is an experienced community organizer, movement leader and out person of faith who brings to Dēmos over fifteen years of experience fighting for grassroots political power in marginalized communities. Before joining Dēmos, Rodney was the Director of the Academy for Leadership and Action at the National LGBTQ Task Force, where he led the grassroots organizing strategy that focused on faith organizing across the country. His work at the Task Force focused on disrupting the national narrative that LGBTQ people aren’t people of faith and that people of faith don’t support LGBTQ equality.
Earlier in his career, Rodney was the Spiritual Director and Co-Creator of Expansion Church, where his leadership focused on the intersection of community organizing and radical spirituality in the public square. He also served as Executive Director of Resource Generation and the first Coordinating Director for the Pushback Network. At Pushback he coordinated a state based network that centered it’s time and resources on building grassroots political power through community organizing and voter engagement.
Rodney holds a Master of Divinity from the Union Theological Seminary. By putting James Baldwin, Audre Lorde, Essex Hemphill and the Apostle Paul in conversation, his theological work challenges how theology and LGBTQI politics approaches the intersection of race, class and sexuality through a radical faith frame.
Rodney currently lives in Washington, DC.
Ahmad Greene-Hayes is a writer, scholar, and freedom fighter whose work bridges the gap between communities of faith, the academy, and movements for racial and gender justice. He currently serves as an inaugural cohort fellow of the Just Beginnings Collaborative (2016-2018), where his project, Children of Combahee, works to eradicate child sexual abuse in Black churches. Through workshops, preaching series, public townhalls, and curriculum development, Ahmad is working with black pastors, preachers, theologians, and leaders to respond to the epidemic that is child sexual abuse—from the pew to the pulpit.
He is the creator of #BlackChurchSex on Twitter, a progressive digital conversation on gender and sexuality in the contemporary life of the Black church, and he helped plan the #BlackChurchSex convening—“Love Thyself: Black Bodies and Religious Space”—co-sponsored by Princeton Theological Seminary’s Office of Black Church Studies and Columbia University’s Center on African American Religion, Sexual Politics and Social Justice.
A highly sought after speaker, writer, and advocate, his work has appeared on Ebony, NewBlackMan (In Exile), NewsOne, Racebaitr, The Root, The Huffington Post, The Feminist Wire, among many others; and he has spoken across the country on issues of race, gender, sexual violence and religion, most recently at the internationally recognized Women of the World (WOW) Festival at the Apollo Theater, Columbia University, the University of Arizona, New York University, Middle Collegiate Church, Princeton Theological Seminary, Rutgers University-New Brunswick, the Children’s Defense Fund, and in a host of other community-oriented spaces. He has also appeared on CNN and the Nancy Grace show to discuss the movement for Black lives and state-sanctioned violence.
The recipient of many prestigious awards and honors, Ahmad was named a finalist by the Harry S. Truman Foundation, was awarded (but declined) the notable Thomas J. Watson travel fellowship, and was honored with the 2015 Unilever Legacy of Leadership Award from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, of which he is an alumnus. In October 2015, he was named one of five “Super Men” who organize around racial and gender justice in Black communities by Ebony magazine, and in 2016, he was honored by Planned Parenthood as a thought leader in the movement for Black lives around issues of race, gender, sexuality, and religion.
He is a doctoral student in the Department of Religion at Princeton University in the Religion in the Americas subfield, and an interdisciplinary scholar pursuing graduate certificates in African American Studies and Gender and Sexuality Studies. During the 2016-2017 academic year, he worked with Wallace Best as the graduate student coordinator for the Department of African American Studies’ Faculty-Graduate Seminar, “Sexuality in African American Communities and Cultures.” His research interests include Black religion(s), African American Pentecostalism, Holiness Movements, Gender and Sexuality in Black churches, and 19th-20th century African American and Africana religious histories. He is the past recipient of fellowships and apprenticeships from the Mellon Mays Foundation, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and the Creating Connections Consortium (C3), and he currently holds the Princeton University Program in American Studies’ Pre-dissertation fellowship, along with the Dean’s and President’s fellowships, respectively. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in History and Africana Studies from Williams College. Using oral histories, performance studies, and other archival materials, his senior honors thesis entitled, “Black Pentecostal Touch: Sexual Abuse, Queerantagonism, and (Un)holy Hands,” examined how Black religiosity, within the context of Black Pentecostal churches, responds to gendered and sexualized Black trauma. He intends to record the histories and tell the stories of black religious people who are often erased or eclipsed by our cultural memory, and he also hopes to bring to light new pathways for collective liberation, communal accountability, and justice.
When he is not writing, researching in archives, and traveling the country, he enjoys spending quality time with friends and family, binge watching his favorite tv shows, watching films, swimming, and cooking new and old family recipes for loved ones and chosen kin.
Billy Michael Honor
Billy Michael Honor is a minister, public theologian, and cultural critic whose progressive and compelling insights have made him a sought after preacher, lecturer, and social commentator.
Billy is currently the organizing Pastor of Pulse Church in downtown Atlanta. Pulse began in fall 2015 and is already widely known for its progressive faith witness and social justice advocacy. Prior to organizing Pulse, Billy was the Pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in College Park, GA, which became the fastest growing predominantly African American Presbyterian congregation in the United States. In addition to pastoring, Bill is also the founder and facilitator of an independent public scholarship ministry called “Truth on the Loose” that focuses on promoting quality social commentary and criticism on faith and culture.
Recognized as an emerging progressive social voice, Billy regularly speaks at churches, conferences, colleges and community events and is a media commentator on issues related to contemporary faith and culture. Since 2008 he has facilitated a respected blog called “The Critical Cleric” that maintains a diverse and growing readership and his sermons and writings have been featured in Huffington Post, the Root.com, Presbyterians Today magazine, Yahoo Voices, Odyssey Network and Day1 Media Ministry.
Billy holds a bachelors of arts in Biblical Education with honors from Beulah Heights Christian University in Atlanta, Georgia, a Master of Divinity degree from Johnson C. Smith Seminary of the Interdenominational Theological Center in Atlanta (where he graduated at top of his seminary class), and has completed an advanced studies Master of Theology degree with honors from Emory University’s Candler School of Theology, where his research focused on the intersection of theology, race and cultural criticism.
Billy has also served on the board of trustees of several institutions including Columbia Theological Seminary, Johnson C. Smith Seminary and the Interdenominational Theological Center. He has also been an adjunct professor of religious studies and guest lecturer at various theological institutions throughout the United States and is currently working on completing his first book project scheduled to be released next year.
He currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife Kaldeen who is an HR professional and special events consultant.
Louis Mitchell is a pioneering "intentional man". Known around the country and abroad as an elder, advocate, teacher, student, minister, parent and friend. He serves as the Co-founder and Program Development Manager of Transfaith™/Interfaith Working Group and as the Associate Minister of South Congregational Church in Springfield, MA.
Rev. Mitchell is a proud father to his daughter, Kahlo, and co-parent with her mother, Krysia L. Villon. Louis has been in recovery for over three decades and been involved in the fight for health, respect and self-determination since the early 1980s, with deep engagement in political, mental health, recovery, and church contexts.
He brings his own learned experiences, a broad range of resources, theories and studies, to offer a fresh, “on the ground”, open-hearted, holistic strategy to the work of individual and community healing, intersectional diversity planning and commitment to personal and community agency and solvency.
Some key accomplishments include:
Profiled in the documentaries
- Still Black: A Portrait of Black Transmen (2008, Zeigler & Lora),
- Gender Journeys: More than a Pronoun (2016, Luke Allen) and More than T (2017, Silas Howard)
Received the 2017 International Jose Julio Sarria Civil Rights Award from the Imperial Court of Western Massachusetts, the 2015 Claire Skiffington Vanguard Award from the Transgender Law Center for his long time advocacy for the disenfranchised and the 2011 Haystack Award from the Massachusetts Conference of the UCC for his work in Social Justice and Social Ministry.
Received the President’s Award from the Wells College students for his 2015 Residency on Intentional Inclusion and Building Diversity
Recognized as a part of the 2014 edition of the Trans 100, Louis was named as one of the ten leading Black Religious leaders Advancing LGBTQ Justice by BelieveOutLoud
Honored by Black Trans Advocacy with a Foundation Award in 2013. Established in his name, the "Louis Mitchell Foundation Award for Empowerment" acknowledges those who increase spiritual, political, or social strength through service, personal encouragement, and availability to the Black Trans Community.
Profiled in the LGBT Religious Archives Network gallery
Provided keynote addresses for the 2011 Transgender Religious Leaders Summit, the 2012 Inaugural Black Transmen, Inc. Conference, and the 2012 Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference
Served as a founding member and East Coast Regional Minister of TransSaints, a ministry of The Fellowship of Affirming Ministries (TFAM)
Served as the founding Officer for Religious Affairs for the Transgender People of Color Coalition (TPOCC)
Served as a member of the Massachusetts Coalition for Suicide Prevention at both the regional (Pioneer Valley) and the statewide (Massachusetts) level.
Co-founded Recovering the Promise Ministries in Springfield, MA
Worked with clients and staff at Morris Home, a transgender-specific residential recovery house in Philadelphia, PA
Served as founding executive director of the Oshun women’s drop-in center (San Francisco, CA)
First “out” transgender-identified board member of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (now The Task Force) and a founding member of Lesbians and Gays of African Descent for Democratic Action (LGADDA)