Bishop Nkenge Abi
Bishop Nkenge Abi came into this world Juanita Deloris Kristine Jones Nov. 28, 1952 in Chicago, Ill. She was the first of five children born to John and Sophia (Griver) Jones. Raised by her grandmother Christine Anderson, Juanita grew up in the Catholic faith. Even at a young age, she recognized the chasm between the tenets of Catholicism and her family life in the projects of Chicago. Confronted by blatant racism in high school, she joined the Black Panther Party as a teen, while also working the campaign office of Anna R. Langford, in her successful bid to become Chicago’s first African American Alderman.
Later she became an active member of the Angela Davis Defense Committee and was chosen as a delegate to the Berrigan Brothers trial in Harrisburg, Penn. While attending Malcolm X Community College in Chicago, Juanita was literally driven to Detroit by a classmate and on Dec. 31, 1972, she joined the Shrine of the Black Madonna.
At her baptism, she received the name, Nkenge Mayimuna Olufunka Abi (superior mind, expressive; on guard; beloved of GOD). Nkenge’s new life as a Black Christian Nationalist, led her across the country spreading the gospel of liberation. She served in many capacities, working with both children and adults, and as an ambassador to the wider community. She established many cultural programs in conjunction with the Detroit Public Library, the Links, Delta Sigma Theta, the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History and many others. Under the tutelage of Cardinal Nandi (Barbara Martin) and Bishop Ayele (Orla Bennett), Abi worked at the Shrine Cultural Center for 35 years.
Serving as Shrine manager for the past 15 years, many say she was the embodiment of African and African American cultural and historical institutional knowledge. Abi was called to the ministry in 1993, by Jaramogi Abebe Agyeman, and served as Associate Pastor of Shrine #1 with Pastor Mbiyu Chui, for the past eight years. Talented and versatile, as a writer, actress, singer, teacher, preacher, Abi was also an avid reader, cultural icon and bastion of good will. Her life represents a legacy of good works from Chicago to Egypt and many places in between. A strong and regal African queen, her rich legacy will speak for her into perpetuity. Not bound by challenges, Abi always looked for the silver lining in life’s situations. Even in her darkest days and moments of great physical pain, she found the strength to resolve, persevere and push forward. Ever on the battlefield, she sought to make a difference and to do all the good she could.
At the end, she got tired and sat down, closed her eyes and went to sleep. Well done, good and faithful servant. Take your well deserved rest. She was preceded in death by her grandmother, both parents, and her two sisters Camilla and Montoya. Bishop Abi leaves to cherish her loving memory two brothers, Anthony and Emanuel, four nephews: Christopher, Emanuel, Jonathan and Angelo; two nieces: Keke and Amber; a sister-in-law Tilesa Williams; a host of aunts, uncles and cousins; and her loving church family at the Pan African Orthodox Christian Churches in Detroit, Atlanta, Houston and Liberia, West Africa.