Recently, I had the pleasure of sitting with Reverend Nicholas Richards of Harlem’s Abyssinian Baptist Church, to talk about his spearheading of the Abyssinian Fund, which provides development grants in the form of training, education and technical assistance to a fair-trade, coffee growing community in Ethiopia.
The Aby Fund is a continuation of Abyssinian Baptist Church’s loooong legacy in social justice and community development. The young Rev. Richards walks in the esteemed path of numerous other Abyssinian clergy including Adam Clayton Powell, Sr. and Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.. Richards also mentions Leon Sullivan, another Abyssinian fellow and remarkable trailblazer in community development (especially in Philadelphia) and development partnerships on the African continent. Rev. Sullivan founded the International Foundation for Self-Help and the Sullivan Foundation.
Abyssinian Baptist, from its inception in 1808, began as an alliance between African Americans and Ethiopians, then perhaps a small group of churchgoers in New York City, led by a call for fair treatment. Reverend Nicholas has indeed inherited a dream that is over 200 years old.