The Rev. Willie F. Wilson, pastor emeritus for the Union Temple Baptist Church in D.C.’s Ward 8 for nearly 50 years, will officially hand over the reins to his daughter, the Rev. Anika Wilson Brown, on Saturday.
Brown will become the first woman to lead the church in its 53-year history. Brown’s investiture and installation were supposed to occur two years ago but the coronavirus pandemic forced church officials to postpone the ceremony.
Wilson, a fixture in the District’s political scene for decades, was a confidant of the late Marion S. Barry, who served as the District’s mayor for four terms and on the D.C. Council.
Wilson, a former candidate for the Democratic nomination for mayor in 2002, helped found UNIFEST, a cultural celebration, and was the executive producer of the Million Man March in 1995.
His church — with an estimated 8,000 members — attracted speakers such as South Africa President Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist Winne Mandela, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, Nation of Islam Minister Louis Farrakhan, Dr. Dorothy Height, Dr. Bernice King, daughter of slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., and Rosa Parks, as well as many politicians and political activists.
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser has been invited to attend the investiture, a news release reported.
Brown said she wants to continue her father’s work but also start her own legacy.
“I envision a church that is both inclusive and empowering, where all are welcomed to fulfill their divine destiny and call,” she said in a statement. “As I step into the path of legacy leadership, I am most grateful that my father is one of the trailblazers who has given his life to reshaping the course of history for African Americans. I get to stand on my father’s shoulders and I get to continue his legacy, but in a different way, in my own way.”