A Powerful, Lasting Impact of Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon

In June 2012, I stepped into my call to ministry while attending the Unity Peoples Convention in Detroit, Michigan. Little did I know some 8 months later, I would be quitting my job, emptying my apartment, throwing my household furnishings into storage, and driving my loaded down car from California to Missouri to go to seminary. I’d heard people say, “you won’t know until you go.” That’s the way it is sometimes when we are following our guidance. We often don’t see the next step until we make the first step. Something inside me said to leap and I did…into a full residential seminary program. 

It was an adventure for my oldest sister and I to drive across country. We stopped at the Grand Canyon and took pictures. I figured there was no sense being that close and not stop to see one of the world’s wonders. We stopped each night for dinner and checked into a hotel. We had great weather all the way, for March anyway. We plumed through Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and at last we drove into Missouri.  Funny thing is…the closer we got to Unity Village, the harder it snowed and it started to stick on the roads… but finally we made it. 

I couldn’t wait to get the keys to my room I was renting on the grounds of Unity Village. I considered it a miracle! I was told there was no housing available at first, and I was put on a waiting list. But through a turn of events, here I was, settling down in my warm, toasty room, with the temperature of 20 degrees outside and seven to eight inches of fresh fallen snow on the ground. As I lay in bed on the first night in the Women’s Annex, I was gazing out my window looking up at the famous landmark Unity Tower. In that moment, I remembered and gave thanks for Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon, who broke the color barrier at the Unity School of Christianity and was permitted lodging on grounds in the late 50s.  Unity village had been segregated. I honored her in my prayers that night and drifted off to sleep. “Because of her, and many others, I am here,” I thought to myself. She was the first African American to stay on grounds, and here I was sleeping overnight as a residential seminarian on these grounds. We must never forget those who have paved the way for us. 

While growing up as a little girl in the midwest, I had heard talk about this “woman preacher” in Chicago who had this BIG church. Oh yes, there was talk of her, but I knew very little about Unity and was fascinated to hear of big city news such as that. Our family had made many trips to Chicago, but we were in another denomination and I don’t recall ever venturing out to see her church. But in the Black community, she definitely had some notoriety and had appeared in Jet and Ebony magazine. Who knew decades later I’d come to this same place of beginnings? 

I went on to do more research about Rev. Colemon’s life and her experience while I was studying at Unity Institute and Seminary from 2013 to 2016. She made her transition in 2014. In 2016 as I walked across the stage to graduate and be ordained, I had pinned a picture of Rev. Johnnie Coleman inside my robe near my heart. I had to find a way to carry her across that stage with me for I knew she paved the way for me to be there. Because of you, Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon, we can all follow the truth in our hearts and live courageously. Thank you. We celebrate you this Black History Month of 2020. Many stories have been written about her, but this is mine.

To celebrate Black History Month, see Gems of Wisdom from Black Leaders of New Thought:

https://www.unity.org/publications/resource-materials/black-leaders-new-thought