Author Tuesday, author Tuesday! Friends, have I got a TREAT for you today: Onleilove Alston was saved by grace and kept by the Torah, and her new book, Prophetic Whirlwind, examines the Black foundations of the Biblical text. Although I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, I DID have a chance to spend a week with Onleilove through the Collegeville Institute and can vouch for her writing prowess! Get to know her through this interview and leave a comment at the end to win a copy of her words.
Tell us a bit about yourself, will you? My name is Onleilove (pronounced Onlylove) Chika which means God is supreme or God is above all in the IGBO language Alston which is the name of one of the 10 largest slave holding families in American history. My name tells a great deal about me and what’s important to me. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York and live in Harlem. For over a decade I have worked faith rooted community organizer and non-profit leader as well as a writer. Today I lead Her Wisdom Consulting which is focused on diversity and inclusion especially around issues of race and gender. I am also a Minister at my home congregation Beth-El The House of YHWH in the South Bronx. I love to travel and have been to various African countries to conduct research for my book. I also come for a large family and have 5 siblings. I also like cheesy 80’s pop and the color purple.
Let’s talk about your book: what, in a nutshell, is your book about anyway? My book Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering The Black Biblical Destiny, examines the Black foundations of the Biblical text, who is a Hebrew, the Torah’s call to justice and the connection between idolatry and injustice. This book reveals where many of The Lost Tribes of Israel went to escape oppression and what this means for the Black Freedom Movement of today. By profiling the Hebraic foundations of the African-American Church and over 15 African Hebrew tribes, Prophetic Whirlwind reveals what the author calls The Black Biblical Destiny which is the call to teach humanity how to reconcile with the Creator and to bring justice to the earth.
Do tell, what was the inspiration behind it? How do you hope readers will be changed by your words, and also, how have you been changed by writing the book? In 2012 I begin to consider observing Sabbath (Shabbat) and started to look into my ancestry and family history in this search I began to learn about tribes in Africa that laid claim to being Lost Tribes of Israel and had archeological, historical and even genetic proof of this claim in addition to cultural customs found in Torah but lived without the written word. I also was inspired by Black Millenials I saw grappling with questions of faith while going through the trauma of viewing countless murders of their brothers and sisters by police on video. I wanted to answer the question “Is the Bible A White Man’s Book?” I hope readers will be changed by realizing that all of humanity is liberated when we give honor to the Mother and Father of humanity. I also hope that we will begin to love truth and worship not just in spirit but truth. Finally, I hope we return to the commandments of scripture and let go of traditions seeped in white supremacy. I have been changed deeply by the 6-year journey of writing this book first I was invited to Africa by leaders from African Hebrew tribes and I lived for a couple of months in Ghana. I was so stretched in my faith and perspective by traveling and my faith was revived. I was also changed by the process of publishing and realizing that storytelling could be an act of ministry. An elder of the Sefwi Jewish community asked me and other African-Americans to tell their story and so as I wrote I wanted to honor my elders and ancestors. This process has truly changed my life a woman and minister of The Good News.
We oftentimes talk about “coloring outside the lines” on this blog: so, how do you hope your book will help readers color outside the lines? I hope this book will help people to re-examine how the people of scripture looked and if you don’t believe the scriptures are literal how the scribes who wrote it looked. I hope we will begin to realize that Jews of color exist and have always existed as the Hebrew people of scripture were and are people of color. I hope people will remove the idol of white supremacy from their faith and truly begin to embrace truth.
Words hold the power to change us …and Onleilove’s words are no exception. Leave a comment below to win a copy of Prophetic Whirlwind or check out my Instagram account in August for more chances to win!
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