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Hardwick at 90 – Still on the Battlefield for God and Justice
By Cora Jackson-Fossett, Religion Editor
Published May 18, 2022

Rev. Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick (Courtesy photo)

Rev. Dr. Joseph Benjamin Hardwick has preached the Gospel and equal rights for African Americans in South Los Angeles for nearly seven decades.

Last month, the Rev. Dr. Joseph Benjamin Hardwick called on African American clergy to join him at a breakfast in support of Karen Bass for L.A. Mayor. More than 75 pastors representing denominations and independent ministries responded to his call.

Such is the deep level of respect and endearment that Hardwick commands. When he speaks, people listen and likely because he has an solid history of standing firm in the name of the Lord and fighting fiercely on behalf of his community. And even today, at the age of 90, his remains unwavering in his commitment to Christ and lifting up others.

Over the years, the Sentinel has reported on notable achievements in Hardwick’s ministry. The following are highlights of some of those milestones.

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Rallying Clergy to Back Bass – 2022

U.S. Representative and L.A. mayoral candidate Karen Bass met with the President Joseph B. Hardwick and the members of the Western State Baptist Convention on January 21. Bass shared her vision for the city’s future, gave an update on COVID initiatives and shared insight on the passage of voting rights legislation. At the conclusion of her remarks, the attendees pledged to support her in the election for mayor of Los Angeles and nearly 70 faith leaders responded to participate in a prayer breakfast and press conference with Bass on May 3.

The event, organized by Hardwick and hosted by Danny J. Bakewell, Sr., featured remarks and an endorsement of Bass by U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn. Some of clergy in attendance were Pastor Marvis Davis, Pastor Douglas Nelson, Pastor K.W. Tulloss, Rev. Dr. Melvin Wade, Bishop Clement Fugh, Pastor J. Edgar Boyd, and Rev. Dr. Najuma Smith-Pollard.

Dr. Hardwick, 2nd from right, organized L.A. clergy to support Karen Bass for mayor. (Ian Foxx/L.A. Sentinel)

Hosting Friends Helping Friends Fair – 2019

Pastor J. Benjamin Hardwick and the members of Praises of Zion Missionary Baptist Church celebrated his 88th birthday by hosting “Friends Helping Friends,” a community outreach and resource fair. The event will be held in the church parking lots and will include free food, games, clothing, shoes, haircuts, showers and music.

Hardwick said that by hosting this event,  “We show our willingness to accept our moral responsibility to help others who have a need because it is the right thing to do. Not one of us can escape the fact that each of us has the ability to share whatever we have, which could transform the lives of those in need with compassionate, and not judgmental, assistance.”

Hardwick also joined with Pastor Sherman Manning, Rev. Dr. R.A. Williams, and Rev. L.A. Kessee to host fairs to assist the homeless.

From right are Dr. Hardwick, Dr. Manning, Dr. Williams and Dr. Kessee. (E. Mesiyah McGinnis/L.A. Sentinel)

WBSC Makes $40,000 Contribution – 2018

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Rev. Dr. Richard Sanders, CEO of the Mozell Sanders Thanksgiving Dinner West Coast, Inc., accepted a $40,000 check from the Rev. Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick on behalf of the Western Baptist State Convention (WSBC). Sanders, who helps many people through the organization founded by his father, said the donation will help feed 10,000 people during the Thanksgiving holiday.

As president of WBSC, Hardwick often seeks avenues to assist others. He implemented the organization’s Chaplain Prison Ministry, countless food drives and an annual scholarship program for youth.

Bishop Sanders and Dr. Hardwick. (Cora J. Fossett/L.A. Sentinel)

African American Faith Leaders Protest Artic Oil Drilling – 2017

In a fight for social justice, the Rev. Dr. Joseph B. Hardwick, president of the Western Baptist State Convention, joined with 49 black ministers throughout the country to protest the potential of oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Artic National Wildlife Refuge.

In a Dec. 11 letter to the U.S. Congress, Hardwick and his colleagues wrote in support of the indigenous Gwich’in people, who depend on the Refuge’s Coastal Plain and the Porcupine Caribou herd to maintain their standard of living, food supply and ecological balance, inhabit the area.

The letter stated, “As black church leaders, we are also struck by the similar injustices continually faced by the African American community. We may live far from Alaska, but our plight as African Americans is one and the same, and thus the call to protect the land of the Gwich’in, the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, is a common cause.”

Winning Lawsuit Against Transamerica – 2017

Reminiscent of David versus Goliath, the Rev. Dr. J. Benjamin Hardwick took on the mammoth Transamerica Life Insurance Company and won.

Hardwick, the pastor of Praises of Zion Missionary Baptist Church in South Los Angeles, was recently awarded a $5.6 million judgment from Transamerica after a jury found the company guilty of improperly raising insurance premiums by 50 percent on 2,400 predominately African American members of his and other local churches.

“This outcome is a blessing to our community and all who believe in the promise of the program,” said Hardwick. “It gives rise to the belief that all of us – no matter what community you are from – have the right to be treated fairly.”

Dr. Hardwick discusses the lawsuit with his attorney. (Courtesy photo)

Celebrating 60 Years of Ministry – 2015

Looking back over his career, Hardwick realized his calling to help others developed during the Watts Riots when Praises of Zion, then located on 84th Street and Avalon Boulevard, played a pivotal role.

“In 1965, this church was the headquarters for the Watts Riot. The governor and the National Guard operated out of this church. That was the beginning of my total commitment to helping the less fortunate and this church has been doing that for 60 years,” recalled Hardwick.

In recognition of his many achievements, he has received hundreds of awards from city, state and federal officials as well as ecumenical and community organizations.

Pastor and First Lady Hardwick (Courtesy photo)

“God has been good to me. We have had a number of dignitaries visit our church including the vice-president and Dr. Martin Luther King when we were on Avalon. I have been welcomed to the White House and met every president,” said Hardwick.

“But the most memorable moment in my life is being able to pastor God’s saints. To sum it all up, God looked on me and made me a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

Categories: Religion

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