March 16, 2011 – A Georgetown theology professor’s longtime interest in the welfare of Washington, D.C., led him to coordinate a March 15 forum that included Kaya Henderson (F’92, G’07), who was recently named acting D.C. Public Schools chancellor.
Rev. Raymond Kemp, a senior research fellow at the Georgetown-based Woodstock Theological Center since 1992, is a native of Washington D.C. and has spent his life teaching about and helping to solve urban issues.
“I lived through both segregation, desegregation, and continue to see the ongoing residuals that were there while I was in high school,” Kemp said in an interview before the forum, “especially as they mark the levels of extreme poverty in the nation’s capital.”
Struggle and Transcendence
A former D.C. board of education member, he also worked for the Office of Urban Affairs for the Archdiocese of Washington before serving as pastor at St. Augustine’s Church at 14th and V St. N.W.
He teaches two courses each year, The Church and the Poor in the fall and Struggle and Transcendence in the spring.
Kemp organizes student volunteer trips to local schools, shelters, jails and other areas, and this often leads them to working on urban issues following graduation.
The Tuesday forum at Georgetown, called “Faith in the City: Believing You Can Make a Difference,” featured some of Kemp’s former students, including Henderson and Aileen Tejeda (C’07), a teacher at Aquinas High School in New York City.
Panelists also included Ky Adderley (C’98, G’01), founder and principal of KIPP AMP Charter School in Brooklyn and Diamond Graham (F’11), a coordinator of DC Reads.
“We want to get at how [the panelists] got into this work, what sustains them … [and] how they make for effective change,” Kemp said at the forum.
Call to Service
Henderson said that before she was nominated acting chancellor reporters kept asking her if she “wanted” the job.
She told them that that was the wrong question.
“The question [was] whether I would answer the call to service,” she said.
Growing up in the projects, Henderson said her family brought her up to serve in nursing homes, hospitals and at church, so there was never a question about “would you like to do this?”
She said believes that she, teachers, students and others such as Kemp, the panelists and just about everyone are on earth to strive to be the “best people they can be.”
“If we’re actually able to realize that for each and every one of us we’re going to unleash something fierce on this world, and that’s what we’re called on to do,” she said.
Tejeda had high praise for Kemp’s influence on her life.
“Father Kemp helped me realize my personal story and how I can change the path for others and lessen that struggle,” Tejeda said in an interview before the forum.
“Here at Georgetown you get a very distinct group of students who hear that call to service,” Kemp said. “My hope is to help them find their voice and lead them to action.”