Phoenix pastor still fighting for civic and social justice after 45 years in community
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Pastor Warren Stewart knows the power of prayer, and the power of taking action to make a difference in his community and around the world. “I try to leave nothing on the table by the time I go to sleep every day,” said Stewart. “I give it my best for Jesus and justice.”
For the past 45-plus years, the senior pastor at the 1st Institutional Baptist Church in Phoenix has been practicing what he preaches, fighting for justice for everyday people, especially African Americans and low-income families. Stewart has pushed for better housing, health care and job training.
Stewart’s office looks more like a history museum, with pictures of the pastor with Rosa Parks and Coretta Scott King, the wife of Martin Luther King Junior. Pastor Stewart was instrumental in getting an MLK Holiday passed in Arizona. “The King holiday was a symbol, an important symbol, but once we won I said now we move from symbol to substance,” said Stewart. “For the last 45 years this church and I have been fighting for substance when it comes to justice.”
Stewart’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. The Phoenix City Council recently voted to honor the pastor by naming a ceremonial street after him. Street signs with Stewart’s name will go up Friday at 12th Street and Jefferson Street, right in front of his church. “There are streets currently names after MLK, Cesar Chavez, Jesse Owens, Pastor Barnwell, but they are all gone and never saw this, so this is remarkable,” said Stewart.
As honored as Stewart is to be recognized for his lifetime achievements, he’ll be the first to tell you what’s going on in the country today is wiping out many of the gains community leaders fought so hard to attain. “To see us in reverse, being xenophobic, being racist, having so much prejudice against a person simply because of the color of their skin, or nationality, that’s not the USA.”
Stewart remains hopeful that the divisions that divide our society can be overcome. “What do we say in the pledge of allegiance, with liberty and justice for all,” said Stewart. “We hope that is in the forefront as our goal, then we can change these things.”
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