Today's Trailblazers: Ekemini Uwan

Words by Rachel Ishee
Illustration By Jamison Harper

Born and raised in California, Ekemini Uwan is a first-generation Nigerian American. Growing up, she attended church every Sunday with her family and was baptized as an infant in the Lutheran Church. Although she grew up in the church, Ekemini didn’t actually come to faith until her senior year of college in 2004. 

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“Religion was a big part of growing up. My family had nightly devotions, we sang hymns in English and in Ibibio,” she says. “All of those seeds were planted at a young age, and I’m grateful for that foundation because in the right time the holy spirit really watered the seeds that were planted.” 

While many people tend to lean away from hard topics, Ekemini leans in and talks about the very prevalent topics that are plaguing the world today. “As a Christian anti-racist person who seeks justice, I try to bring the blessings of joy and peace and love,” she says. “I try to make those realities tangible now because we don’t have a problem with seeking all of the wickedness in the world; we see that every day.”

“In this time and in this space that the Lord has appointed me to live in, I’m trying to beat back the wickedness and the darkness of rape culture, racism, police brutality, misogyny, gender inequality—and the list goes on—so that people can see there is a reason to hope and fight,” Ekemini says. 

Ekemini added that when these acts of hate and violence are perpetrated in the church, they are, in fact, keeping people away from Christianity. 

“Bigotry, prejudice, and white supremacy is killing people. This is a serious matter. These ideologies, they kill. It’s important to shine a light on these things. We love people, and God asks us to love our neighbors as ourselves,” she says. “One of the greatest commands means actually fighting these systems of oppression that actually kill people.”

Ekemini credits many historical figures and activists for what she does. People like Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Harriet Tubman, and Fannie Lou Hamer, who have all bravely fought for equality and human rights, are some of the women she calls her heroines. All of these are inspiring black women who have done the work of justice and truth-telling while putting their lives on the line. 

Who else is on that list of heroes? Her grandmother. 

“She is someone I look up to. She’s the one who taught me the Nicene Creed, the Apostles’ Creed, Psalm 1, John 3:16, and the Scriptures,” Ekemini says. “She taught me how to pray; she taught me the importance of having devotion with your family, so that one day I will do the same.”

As a speaker, writer, and public theologian, Ekemini hopes to leave behind a legacy that others can help to carry on. One that involves liberating people and speaking truth in the face of darkness and wickedness.