Black History Month: Rev. Willie Bodrick

Rev. Willie Bodrick II: Pastor at the 12th Baptist Church in Roxbury

In the first of a series of reports, focusing on millennials having an impact in their communities, 
Boston 25 News Reporter Crystal Haynes sat down with a 31-year-old pastor and organizer who is following in the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King and serving as a leader in state and local government.

Boston Reverend Willie Bodrick II was a busy kid: captain of the football team, baseball team, and active in chorus. “I was a very interesting kid because I never really liked boundaries and my parents didn't allow boundaries to be placed on me or my brothers, “ he tells Boston 25 News Reporter Crystal Haynes.  The oldest of three, Bodrick’s mother was an educator and his father was a pastor in their Southeast Georgia community.

Bodrick entered Harvard Divinity School in 2011 and he was inspired to do more. “In the midst of that time there was so many things happening, “ says Bodrick, “Jena 6 and Osama Bin Laden… all these things happening… a black man running for president. And I wasn't even 21 yet. I had so many existential questions about race, about politics, about ethics, about me personally,"  Bodrick said.  He says faith answered some of those questions. His work at a Washington, D.C. charter school answered others.

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Young people his age were mobilizing across the country, speaking out against police shootings, inequities in the judicial system, and institutional racism.

Bodrick secured an internship and later the associate pastor position at the historic Twelfth Baptist Church in Roxbury, the same place Dr. Martin Luther King had served as pastor.

The church was established in 1840 and home to abolitionists like Lewis Hayden and Rev. Leonard Grimes and historian George Washington Williams"

"We need to think critically about what's happening with our young people. Or even some of our older people who feel like want to take the life of other people. And we need to figure out, we need to do something about poverty and food deserts in our neighborhoods. We need to do the work at really addressing unemployment in this community and saying look, we need to create atmosphere where business can grow in a healthy way that doesn't gentrify and push people out of their own neighborhoods. We need to really take seriously this community and the people in this community," Bodrick told Haynes.

Bodrick's community work lead him to politics and  Attorney General Maura Healy's office.
He focused his activism ministering to young people affected by gun violence, joining Boston Police-lead peace walks as one of the youngest members of the Youth Violence Community Task Force.

Bodrick joined faith leaders to address racial tension in the city and mobilized young people through programming, peaceful protest, and prayer. Bodrick serves on the board of advisors of the Roxbury YMCA and as the chairperson of The Boston Network for Black Student Achievement.

"We're doing things in a different way. It means we're going to look at the world in a different way”, he says. “There are many of people who, I think, are continuing to perpetuate ideals that are past their time. And you're seeing through various movements the last few years."

“I think as millennials, as young people, who have the energy, who care about people and care about the issues that are before us we need to be upright about saying, ‘look it can't stay the same.’"

NEXT WEEK: Melissa James is working to make sure there's diversity in their workplace.
Her story from Google drop-out to tech company CEO is next in our series.