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7 Questions with Onleilove Alston
7 Questions with Onleilove Alston
Name: Onleilove Alston
Current title: Founder
Current organization: HerWisdom LLC
Onleilove Chika Alston, founder of Prophetic Whirlwind Ministries and HerWisdom LLC, is an international organizer, speaker, and writer. Her ministry began after spending 6-years studying, visiting and researching Hebraic customs from tribes in West Africa. She compiled her research in her debut book, “Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering The Black Biblical Destiny”.
A global leader who often ministers among African Jewish communities, she was appointed as the Ambassador and given the title of Iyom for The Organization of Igbo-Hebrew Heritage Cultural Foundation’s Joseph Project which seeks to build a link between diaspora Africans and Igbos. She serves on the Pan African Women of Faith planning team and the faith-based coordinator for the Global African Business Association (GABA) a global network of African and diaspora business and political professionals in Ghana, Mozambique, Nigeria, Angola and the United States.
Aside from ministry and organizing work, Rabbi Onleilove is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Arts and Sciences in Criminal Justice for Hope International University and is a Professor at The Hebrew Academy of Detroit where she teaches Hebrew Tribes of Africa, Hebraic Life Cycle Customs and The Hebraic Call to Missions. She lives in New York City. You can follow her ministry at www.propheticwhirlwind.com and @propheticwhirlwind on social media.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
What I have found most challenging as a leader of a small enterprise is launching and marketing. It takes courage to launch your business and then to market it so that the people who need your services and products can find it. Moving from idea to enterprise takes strategy and courage but once you launch you feel a great sense of accomplishment. Furthermore, though it may not feel comfortable to market your business it must be done. When marketing it is important to remember that you are sharing a service or product that will help those in some type of need which is a service in and of itself.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
While working for an international community organizing federation I helped lead the entire organization through gender equity training and improvements for staff at all levels and members. I also started to receive requests to speak on gender equity or to do workshops around gender justice. After doing this work for over a year I realized that doing work around diversity, equity and inclusion through a gender justice lens was something I was passionate about. As I began to work with African and African diaspora organizations concerning gender justice I also knew that I had a unique contribution to the field DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion) because of the work I had done in Africa and because of my training in theology. In 2018 HerWisdom Consulting was launched and I haven’t looked back.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I begin my days with prayer, listening to scripture or a scripture based teaching. I also take my vitamins and supplements, have coffee and get dressed. I then check my emails and do my social media posts for my businesses and ministry. Monday-Friday I work remotely for The Interfaith Center of NY as The Racial Justice Organizing Fellow and we usually have a 10am zoom staff meeting. Friday sundown to Saturday sundown I do not work due to Shabbat. I use my lunch break to work on my business or to walk. After work I try to walk and spend time outside since I work from home due to the pandemic. I also use the evenings to work on my business or ministry commitments or now to do my Doctor of Ministry assignments. I also may take an evening to do something social in my personal life. I believe life is about balance. On Sundays in addition to spending time with friends or family I use this day to work on my personal businesses, ministry or
doctorate of theology work. Days may look different depending on the week or if I am observing High Holy Days such as Rosh Hashanah etc. I try to structure my days around prayer, listening to scripture teachings, affirmations and music as well as taking my vitamins and supplements, my work task for the day and using my free time wisely to juggle it all. I also take time to rest and have fun. For me it is very important to do something that brings me joy everyday even if it is just listening to a great piece of music or calling a friend or family member.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Recently I have learned that when you are leading it is very important to have a solid team around you that is dedicated to the mission of the organization. It is also extremely important to have help such as a personal assistant, automation of tasks, etc so that you have the time to build your business. We do not need to do it all and it is ok to outsource some tasks so you can live a balanced life.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
One book that has deeply influenced my leadership is a People’s History of The United States by Howard Zinn. I read this book in high school and had it assigned in college and graduate school. A People’s History of The United States showed me that everyday people have and will continue to impact history. This book inspired me as a faith-based community organizer and advocate to make strategic change in my city with other New Yorkers of faith.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
You build leadership capacity in a SME through constant leadership training, coaching, reading books and articles about leadership and networking with other leaders. Furthermore, you should provide those you work with opportunities to grow in their leadership through increased responsibility, training and readings about leadership. Leaders create leaders, not just amass followers.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
One meaningful story that lead to the founding of HerWisdom Consulting is when I took the first delegation of African-Americans to visit the Sefwi Jews of Ghana to conduct research for my book Prophetic Whirlwind: Uncovering The Black Biblical Destiny and at the end of the visit an elder Mother from the synagogue who did not know me or know the gender justice work I did in America pointed me out in the group and said in Twi “she (me) needs to come back and teach women’s empowerment.” What the elder mother said was translated for me and I was shocked! At this point I knew I needed to dedicate my vocation to gender equity. I would return 2-years later to hold a meeting with the women of the Sefwi Synagogue on their needs and particular issues as women.