Adwoa Rey is the Chief Advancement Officer at Sojourners, a Christian faith-based social justice advocacy organization and award-winning magazine. She is also the President and CEO of Women of Praize, a non-profit dedicated to providing spiritual support for women of color in politics. Adwoa recently founded a second non-profit called You Read You Lead, a reading and leadership development program for children.
From an early age, Adwoa knew she was called to social justice work.
“I’ve always been active in my community,” Adwoa shares.
Growing up, Adwoa regularly volunteered at a soup kitchen with her church. And even by the age of 12, she questioned why most of the people who returned to the food bank were Black and lived in the inner city.
When Adwoa was given an NAACP membership for her 16th birthday she began to understand.
“I started learning and connecting the dots about racial justice and economic justice and started to advocate on behalf of my community,” Adwoa explains.
As a young college student, Adwoa remembers an experience that truly changed her perspective. While shopping for clothing in a suburban department store, Adwoa recalls being followed around the store by a sales associate. Adwoa decided to approach the sales associate to talk about the situation and even then, the sales associate gave no apologies for her behavior.
“I’ve decided to allow these experiences to motivate me to create the change that I know needs to happen,” Adwoa adds. Adwoa’s experiences led her to charter and serve as the first president of the Southern Connecticut State University NAACP chapter.
In addition to working with campus organizations, she focused on earning her political science degree. And during her senior year, she served as an intern with her member of Congress.
Once she graduated she moved to DC to work in their legislative office.
“I was able to dig my heels deep into policy legislation and understand how it affects people’s lives,” Adwoa shares.
However, working on The Hill showed her how hard it was to navigate a career in politics as a young Black woman.
“I lean a lot on my faith to get me through difficult times,” she shares. On a particularly tough day, she called a few friends and colleagues together to pray. And from there, her nonprofit Women of Praize was born.
“Now it is a 501(c)(3) organization that has more than 300 members,” she explains. “We’ve been able to support each other as we journey in politics, trying to change the world, advocating for our communities. It created a space where we can come together as women of faith, women of color, and express our faith in the political space.”
Helping to Lighten the Load
Every morning Adwoa wakes up with the lyrics from a gospel song in her head. She sings, “if I can help somebody as I travel along, then my living shall not be in vain.”
These words motivate Adwoa to keep going in her work. In all of her roles, she aims to lighten the load for at least one person every day. “I am doing what God has called me to do and that feels good,” Adwoa says.
She also looks to her children for additional motivation.
“The fact that I’m still fighting for the same things that my parents and grandparents were fighting for is extremely disheartening,” she adds. “I don’t want my kids to have to do the same thing, to be fighting the same battles.”
Her Advice? Push Back on Limitations
Adwoa wants future changemakers, especially young women, to know that they can do whatever they want.
“Don’t let society’s limitations stop you from trying things,” she imparts.
She adds that if you have an idea, go for it. Push up against the limitations in a meaningful way.
“You have to take the risk and you have to say, ‘okay, this doesn’t exist, I’m going to create it,’” Adwoa explains. “If I don’t do it, I don’t know that somebody else will. And then there is a missed opportunity to positively impact people.”