Baylor alum’s message hits at the confluence of faith, race and social justice
The Rev. Dr. Kenyatta Gilbert (BA ’96) — professor of homiletics at Howard University School of Divinity, nationally recognized expert on African American preaching, and a Baylor Bear — has one concrete message he hopes to share in his writing, preaching and teaching.
“I want to remind humans that God values us, honors our faith and commitment, empowers us to serve our world, and brings us hope and transformation because of God’s promise to strive with us,” says the Waco native.
After graduating from Baylor with a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1996, Gilbert enrolled in Princeton Theological Seminary, where he earned his master’s of divinity and a doctorate in homiletics. As an ordained Baptist minister, he served congregations in Texas, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Kenya before landing at Howard University in 2006.
A prolific writer and oft-featured expert on Black preaching, civil rights, and social justice, Gilbert has authored countless sermons and classroom lectures, as well as four books: Exodus Preaching: Crafting Sermons about Justice and Hope; A Pursued Justice: Black Preaching from the Great Migration to Civil Rights; The Journey and Promise of African American Preaching; and Just Living: Meditations for Engaging Our Life and Time (due out later this month). His writing has also been featured by such outlets as PBS NewsHour, Sojourners, Word & Way, and The Conversation.
In 2011, he launched The Preaching Project, a ministry aimed at equipping ministers to better serve African American churches and communities. The effort was inspired by Gilbert’s father, the late Rev. Robert Lewis Gilbert (BA ’67), a pastor and civil rights leader (and Baylor’s first Black graduate).
“I want to help people find their unique and authentic voice in a world that seeks to mute it,” Gilbert says. “To remind individuals that God honors our commitment and loyalty to God, and that God can transform, inform and empower our lives and produce the fruit of the spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, goodness of heart and faith. This aim gives life its integrity.”
Gilbert’s connections to Baylor and Waco run deep. After graduating from Baylor, Gilbert’s father served the Waco community for years as a pastor and civil rights leader, and Gilbert’s sister, Evangeline Gilbert Slaughter (BSED ’99), is also a Baylor graduate. An active member of Alpha Phi Alpha and the Heavenly Voices Gospel Choir as a student, Gilbert says his years at Baylor helped him learn more about himself, where he came from, and ultimately provided “the wings” to explore the world beyond Waco and Texas.
“Baylor allowed me to have an experience beyond my cultural tribe, and to see it as both a cultural benefit and cultural deficit — a growing edge,” he explains. “The journey to love myself and others within my Black cultural family has taught me that no other racial ethnic tribe is of any more value than my own. And this is why universal claims about the value of our existence on the planet have to begin with a fulsome embrace of our own cultural selves if we are to be free and realize a beloved community that honors God.”
Gilbert has repeatedly returned to speak at Baylor over the years, including at Martin Luther King Jr. Day events in 2002 and 2011 and as a plenary speaker at Truett Seminary’s African American Preaching Conference last fall.
Sic ’em, Rev. Dr. Gilbert!