Reverend Dr. Charles Curtis
Mount Olivet Baptist Church
“The spirit of Harlem is a buoyant spirit.”
“African Americans put Harlem on the map. One of my major concerns is that the indigenous people, mainly African Americans, are being pushed out of the community economically. It is possible that most blacks may be visitors here in the near future. I think the community needs leaders who will speak up. The church, where it used to be the primary advocate for black communities, over the years has become mute. Health is a problem, housing is a problem, education and jobs are very important. What we have now is the society trying to lead the church, rather than the church leading the society.Mount Olivet came to Harlem in 1925 and it is still working to right these social issues. We have our own housing development corporation. We feed the hungry and we have a clothing program in effect since 1980. Our history of service includes the founding of the Harlem YMCA, the first after school program in Harlem, and the first black state militia to protect the community. So we are involved in local, national and international issues.
I didn’t want to become a pastor. I was told I had a surgeon’s hands so I took pre-med courses. But God had a different idea. When I got accepted to Princeton Theological Seminary, I didn’t go at first. Later I returned and became the first black student body president at the seminary. I realized that I was restless and I wouldn’t be at peace until I followed His will. In all honesty, it is an honor to represent the Lord.
I would like my legacy in Harlem to be that I left the world a better place for future generations and gave evidence that with God all things are possible.”
Born and raised in Jersey City, Reverend Charles Curtis’ first love was medicine, yet he stands now as a historian, theologian, civic ambassador and more. He earned a Bachelor’s and a Master’s in counseling from Texas Southern University, his Masters of Divinity from Princeton Theological Seminary and his Doctorate in education from Rutgers University.