Reverend Onaje Lee Austin Crawford, M. Div., MSW
Though he has traveled outside of New Jersey in pursuit of higher education, Rev. Onaje Lee Austin Crawford is a lifelong Newark resident and has always been proud to call Newark his home. He is the beneficiary of the wisdom, experience, and generosity of great parents, families, teachers, neighbors, and community leaders throughout the city. Having been taught the importance of constant growth, spiritual, personal, academic, professional, and otherwise, Rev. Crawford has dedicated his life sharing this message by preaching and teaching the life-changing effects of faith and education to young people and families.
After graduating from Mt. Vernon Elementary School in 1994, Rev. Crawford received a scholarship from the Wight Foundation, a Newark-based non-profit, to attended The Taft School, a college preparatory boarding school in Watertown, CT. There, he was president of the Native American Afro Latino Student Alliance and captain of the track team. After Taft, he attended Boston University where he served as President of the Sigma Chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc., Senior Vice President of the Inner Strength Gospel Choir, and Vice President of Multicultural Affairs for Boston University’s Student Union. In 2002, Onaje graduated with a Bachelors of Art in Political Science.
Upon leaving Boston, Rev. Crawford joined the team of community leaders that helped form and open University Heights Charter School in Newark, NJ, a nationally recognized, award winning elementary school. Seeking a more direct connection with Newark’s young people, he joined the New Jersey Law and Education Empowerment Project (NJ LEEP, Inc.), a college preparatory program for high school students. As NJ LEEP’s Director of College Bound Programs, Dean of Students, Alumni Coordinator, and now College Access Consultant he has helped young people develop character and leadership skills and has prepared them to attend and graduate from the nation’s top colleges and universities. Thus far, he has helped students gain admission to Amherst College, Boston College, Bowdoin College, Bryn Mawr College, the College of the Holy Cross, Duke University, Georgetown University, Harvard University, Howard University, Morehouse College, NYU, Princeton University, Spelman College, Smith College, Stanford University, Wellesley College, Williams College, and Yale University to name a few.
Last year, Reverend Crawford was ordained by American Baptist Churches of New Jersey at the church he has attended all of his life, Bethany Baptist Church, whose 146 years of existence make it one of Newark’s oldest churches. In 2013, he interned at United Nations where he worked with the Presbyterian Church to respond to international crisis and advocate for human rights. In 2014, he interned at the Union Chapel Community Development Corporation and the YMCA of Newark and Vicinity, where he developed programming for youth, families, and the elderly. These opportunities have allowed him to share his calling to serve people, that began right here in Newark, with the city and the world. In 2014, Rev. Crawford graduated from Princeton Theological Seminary, where he earned a Masters of Divinity with a 3.7 grade point average. The following year, he graduated from a joint degree program at Rutgers University, through which he received a Masters of Social Work after earning a 3.9 grade point average. Currently, he resides in Newark, with his wife, Tahirah, his 5-year-old daughter, Kela, and his 20-month-old daughter, Kari. In everything he does, Rev. Crawford endeavors to become a better leader, servant, and catalyst for change. Seeking to help improve the lives of the people and community around him, Rev. Onaje Lee Austin Crawford loves sharing the importance and power of character, education, faith in Jesus Christ, and love with everyone he meets.
On the afternoon of Saturday, December 16, 2017, Rev. Crawford was elected by the congregation of First Hopewell Baptist Church to become its 3rd pastor in its nearly 50 years of existence.