Ben is a native of San Francisco and a longtime activist for peace and justice in the Bay Area. As an advocate for youth, he served as a member of the crisis counseling team for West Contra Costa Unified School District; and as Program Director for Global Education Partnership, he served to empower at-risk youth through entrepreneurship.
Ben has a history of spiritual leadership, beginning as a youth pastor and continuing throughout his term as collegiate pastor for Greater St. Paul Baptist Church and Shiloh Church. In 2008, Ben relocated his family to a difficult neighborhood in Oakland known as “The Kill Zone.” This positioned him to gain firsthand understanding in order to intelligently respond to the epidemic of gun violence.
During this tenure, he also served as Executive Director of Cityteam, a Christian non-profit providing rescue and recovery; medical and financial; educational and spiritual opportunities to hurting and homeless Oakland residents.
In 2012, Ben was an instrumental component in relaunching the first successful iteration of Operation Ceasefire: a data-driven, communication strategy to reduce gun violence. As Co-Chair of the Steering Committee, Operation Ceasefire’s strategy has contributed heavily to a near 40% reduction in homicides over the last two years.
As a result of Ben’s zeal for social improvement and judicial restructuring, Ben founded the Empower Initiative in 2014. Empower provides faith-based technical assistance concerning public safety and training for suburban community members around issues affecting the urban core. In 2014, Ben was visibly involved in ministering justice and non-violence in Ferguson, Missouri, in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting. Ben, along with a bevy of clergy and national leaders, were extolled for their message of reconciliation, peaceful protests, and empowerment strategies during the height of racial unrest and social chaos.
In late 2014, Ben became the primary non-police trainer for the Oakland Police Department’s Procedural Justice & Police Legitimacy Course. Though the course is facilitated nationally, Ben is the sole community participant currently providing training and consultation to police departments, nationally. Ben is deeply committed to rebuilding the relationship between the community and police departments through reform and practice.
Ben was a leading voice in PICO California for the Proposition 47 campaign leading to restructuring laws that create more opportunities for treatment of those diseased with addiction. He provides ongoing technical assistance for violence reduction, along with reintegration strategies statewide and nationally.
In June 2015, Ben begins a new leg of his journey as Regional Director of Clergy Development with PICO California, with a view towards leveraging faith leader's involvement in criminal justice through reform and peacemaking.
Ben has received many honors, including the FRED Scholars Award; Oakland Natives Non-Profit Leader of the Year; the Oakland Police Foundation's Neighborhood Champion Award; and the ASIS Community Policing award. Ben authored his first book, Cry for Freedom, in 2006, and his current work, Crossing the Street, is slated for release in 2016.
Ben is an internationally sought after speaker and has shared his motivational message of peacemaking and transformation in Canada, the United Kingdom and the Middle East. He carries an inspiring message that resonates in religious circles and corporate communities alike. Ben’s core message of “Crossing the Street” incorporates a fusion of anecdotes and reflective principles, challenging leaders to bring conflicting parties together in a manner idealizing “the world as it should be.”
Ben has keynoted a variety of sessions, including World Vision International offering insight to global relief executives; the Global Immersion Project providing remedies towards the cessation of global conflict; the Sauder School of Business regarding the retooling of strategies for today’s impact; and Q Commons/Silicon Valley, as he inspired technological entrepreneurs from just making a difference to “being the difference.”
Ben is a well-known conference speaker, delivering passionate directives that motivate listeners to action. He has been featured at the Cityteam Ministries, "iDisciple Conference" and the Colson Center’s "Wilberforce Conference."
Ben is distinguished by his mantra, “Hope is living in the neighborhood, but it doesn’t impact despair until we cross the street."
Ben and his wife Gynelle have been married for 15 years and they reside in Oakland, California with their three beautiful daughters: Brittani, Jasmin and Symonne.