Awakin Calls » Ben McBride
Ben McBride: Pastor, community builder, diversity trainer, peace activist
Pastor Ben McBride is a national leader with expertise in police-community trust building, gun violence prevention, faith based community organizing, and training in equity, diversity and inclusion. A native of San Francisco, he is a spiritual leader and longtime activist for peace and justice in the Bay Area.
In 2008, Pastor McBride relocated his family to a difficult neighborhood in Oakland called the “Kill Zone” to better understand and respond firsthand to the epidemic of gun violence. During this time, he was an instrumental leader in the re-launching of Oakland’s Operation Ceasefire, a data-driven, violence reduction strategy, which contributed heavily to a 50% reduction in homicides over the course of five years.
Ben’s work as a national leader around police/community trust-building and gun violence prevention work includes his background of training more than 100 law enforcement departments & executives. He serves as the Co-Director of PICO California, a multi-racial inter-faith network that is the largest grassroots community organization in the state of California, representing 450,000 people across 73 cities. The mission of PICO California is to build a world where everyone belongs, everyone thrives, and everyone has agency over their lives. PICO California supports grassroots organizing which enables people of faith to build power to reshape their lives and their communities. Its network of organizations trains leaders and equips them with tools to fight racism and to build a more equitable and just society.
Motivated by various prophetic traditions, PICO California grounds its civic action and demands for change in moral and ethical principles. It uses a relationship-based organizing model to develop leadership and build capacity for civic engagement in communities throughout California. It is founded on the belief that people are radically interconnected despite our differences, and that together, we can build a Beloved Community/just society where everyone belongs.
As a result of Ben’s zeal for social improvement, he co-founded the Empower Initiative in 2014 with his wife Gynelle. The Initiative’s mission is to empower sustainable change in urban communities by addressing public safety challenges. It creates a hub of social innovators to work around public safety and the intersection of race in our society. Partnerships with local law enforcement agencies are strengthened and deepened through this Initiative.
At times many people in Ben’s community have thought he was too close to the police, while many in law enforcement thought he was too close to protesters. His commitment to reforming our institutions leads him to building spaces that are prepared to hold the tension between differing groups, to include those with whom we disagree, so that we can sit at the table together and work together to make lasting change. He asks the difficult questions of both sides in conflicts: “Are we willing to take the risky journey to belong to each other? Are we willing to widen our circle of concern? What does it mean to come alongside those who are in pain, even if we see the situation through different eyes?” Are we willing to open our eyes and to really see “the other” so that their stories and challenges become a part of our world? He points out that until we do this, these “others” do not exist for us and we cannot bridge the divide. Ben McBride’s call is not to avoid conflict but to be in the middle of it so that we might be the peacemakers to bring about needed change, for as he says, “The only way we’re going to get through the difficult moment we live in is to do it together. I hope to meet you in the crosswalk.”
As an advocate for youth, Ben served as a member of the crisis counseling team for West Conga United School District and as Program Director for Global Education Partnership. He served to empower at-risk youth through entrepreneurship. He began his history of spiritual leadership as a youth pastor and served as collegiate pastor for Greater St. Paul Baptist Church and Shiloh Church.
Ben serves as Co-Chair of California’s Racial and Identity Profiling Advisory Board which focuses on ending racial profiling in California. He was featured in the Sundance Film Festival Award winning film, THE FORCE, which highlights his peacemaking work. He is a dynamic. internationally sought-after speaker who delivers passionate directives that motivate listeners to action. He has shared his motivational message of peacemaking and transformation in Canada, the United Kingdom and the Middle East. His inspiring message resonates in both religious circles and corporate communities. His core message of “Crossing the Street” utilizes a combination of anecdotes and reflective principles, challenging leaders to bring together parties in conflict in a way that idealizes “the world as it should be.”
Ben has received many honors, including the FRED Scholars Award, Oakland Natives Non-Profit Leader of the Year, the Oakland Police Foundation’s Neighborhood Champion Award, and the ASIS Community Policing Award. He and his wife Gynelle live in Oakland, California, with their three daughters.
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