Onleilove (pronounced Onlylove) Alston was born and raised in East New York, Brooklyn. When she was 10, she felt led to pray and read the Bible though she was not raised in the church. Four years later she walked into a local National Baptist Church where she had a life-altering conversion experience. This conversion not only saved her soul, but her life from the effects of poverty.
Currently, she is the faith-based organizing associate at The Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies where she organizes an interfaith coalition of leaders to provide social services and advocate for vulnerable New Yorkers. Onleilove is also a workshop facilitator, speaker, and writer.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in Human Development and African-American studies from Penn State University, she completed a year of service with AmeriCorps Public Allies New York. In 2011, she received her Master of Divinity and Master of Social Work degrees from Union Theological Seminary and Columbia University School of Social Work, respectively.
In addition to her organizing work, she is a member of Alpha Nu Omega Inc.—a Christian sorority—and The Poverty Initiative at Union Theological Seminary which is building a movement to end poverty led by the poor. For more than 10 years, Onleilove has interned and worked for various nonprofit organizations such as Sojourners (where she was a Beatitudes Society Fellow), NY Faith & Justice, United Workers and Healthcare-Now!
She is a contributing writer for Sojourners magazine and a featured blogger on Your Black World. Onleilove’s writing has also appeared in The Black Commentator, CONSP!RE magazine, and NPR’s Onbeing blog, as well as other print and online publications. She has a passion for creating devotional materials to aid the body of Christ in holistic sanctification that leads to spiritual maturity, emotional health, and prophetic justice. Inspired by the Rev. Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign, Onleilove has co-written a series of Bible studies and devotionals with The Poverty Initiative titled, “The Last Week of Jesus, Last Year of King.”
Having experienced poverty, foster care, and homelessness, she has developed a compassion for people fueled by her passion for justice, and knows that the gospel is truly “good news to the poor.” God has used communities of justice to aid Onleilove in her personal healing by showing her that God doesn’t just care for the poor, but that God wants the poor to play an active role in building the kingdom.
For her writing and activism work, Onleilove has received the Bennett Fellowship for Social Justice from Auburn Seminary, the National Association of Social Workers-NYC Scholarship for Social Justice, United Food and Commercial Workers International Union Minority Coalition Young Adult Award, and the 2011 Evangelical Press Association’s Student Writer of the Year First Place Award for her Sojourners cover story: “Dethroning King Coal: Christians defend a way of life, and the earth, in Appalachia.”
Onleilove currently lives in Harlem, and has five siblings and a large extended family in both New York and North Carolina. She blogs about her journey to holistic health, faithful justice, art, and her addiction to thrifting on Wholeness4Love.
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