Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart standing in a public square. She is a Black woman wearing a blue coat with a pale blue button up shirt underneath it. She has short brown heair and is facing the viewer with her hands folded over her stomach. She is smiling.
Photo courtesy of the City of Philadelphia.

Philadelphia’s former Director of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs joins social justice think tank


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Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart has joined Political Research Associates, a social justice think tank that researches and publicizes the agendas and strategies of the U.S. and Global Right wing of politics, tracking intersections of Christian nationalism, White nationalism, and patriarchy within politics.

On April 20, 2023, Mayor Jim Kenney announced the departure of Washington-Leapheart from her position of Director of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs under the Office of Public Engagement.

“Over the last several years, Naomi has played a critical role in grounding the work of City government in moral clarity and ensuring that Philadelphia’s diverse faith communities have a seat at the table, particularly, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mayor Jim Kenney, in a statement.

As Director of Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs of the City of Philadelphia, Washington-Leapheart had served the Mayor's Office as a public-facing leader, liaison, and subject matter expert on both local and national matters that have an impact on the City's faith communities.

“I have been reminded time and time again to never let a crisis go to waste – to let it transform you and then do the work of creating transformation around you,” said Reverend Naomi Washington-Leapheart.

“No one could have predicted that six months into my tenure as Director for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs, our city would face the biggest constellation of crises in recent memory. COVID-19, economic volatility, and chronic loss and rage produced by ongoing communal and political violence forced us to [reconsider] everything,” she continued.

During her time as Director, Washington-Leapheart was instrumental in establishing the first ever Mayor's Commission for Faith-Based and Interfaith Affairs.

Composed of two dozen leaders from seven different spiritual and religious traditions, the Commission engages with hundreds of people of various faiths in conversations and strategic planning for economic justice through reparations for Black Philadelphians. 

Additionally, she designed several opportunities for engagement with faith for residents, including "Prayer Pause," an initiative that encourages weekly prayer with local faith leaders; the Longest Night PHL, an annual event catering towards residents experiencing emotional turmoil during the winter holiday season; and other events to provide support to victims of violence.

“Naomi’s ability to hold the complexity of our times and be a beacon of hope and light for so many across our city has been a gift,” said Executive Director of the Mayor’s Office of Public Engagement, Romana Lee-Akiyama. “She has led with compassion and care, never losing sight of justice and the belief that we as Philadelphians can do better for each other.”

In Washington-Leapheart’s absence, the Commission will continue to connect the City's diverse faith communities. Presently, it is co-chaired by Lucy Duncan and Imam Quaiser Abdullah.

“I am honored to have had the opportunity and challenge of leading during such difficult and historic times. I have tried not to waste this moment. I have deeply enjoyed working with people of faith all over the city and region and alongside some of the best leaders in City Hall,” Washington-Leapheart concluded.

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