Skip to content Skip to footer

Let Me Tell My Story

Today we are introducing:

Janette C. Wilson: Mentor, Role Model, and Civil Rights Advocate

written by Dr. Sandra Leconte

Let me tell you, her story. Rev. Janette C. Wilson, Esq. is known as the Senior Advisor to Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. at Rainbow/PUSH Coalition (RPC) in Chicago, Illinois, and the National Executive Director of PUSH for Excellence. Rev. Wilson started volunteering at PUSH in 1980 immediately following graduation from law school, promoting excellence in teaching and learning and advocacy of funding for quality educational programs. She supports the organization’s weekly broadcasts on stage with leaders from around the globe. Rev. Wilson holds degrees in chemistry environmental science/planning, law, and theology.

I remember when Rev. Wilson introduced alternative sentencing programs in cooperation with various religious organizations in Chicago while serving in the role of Executive Director of Operation PUSH from 1984 – 1989. During this time, she implemented local and national voter education and registration seminars as well as innovative community development networking programs. Rev. Wilson organized the volunteer legal clinic for the National Rainbow PUSH Coalition, Inc. and became its first volunteer director, remaining thus for many years. Also, Rev. Wilson developed the first public school Interfaith Community Partnership in the United States for the Chicago Public Schools System (CPS) in 1997. This role later evolved into employment as the Manager of School Climate for CPS.  Rev. Wilson once served as General Counsel for Chicago State University and she holds the distinguished honor as the first African American female Dean of the Doctor of Ministry Program for United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio.

When Rev. Wilson was ordained as a Minister by the late Rev. Clay Evans, Senior Pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church in September 1997.  The ordination service included a nationally recognized ecumenical board of clergy consisting of Rev. Willie T. Barrow, Rev. Addie Wyatt, Dr. Otis Moss Jr., and Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker.

All who are fortunate to meet Rev. Wilson are acutely aware that her wisdom reaches far beyond the walls of brick-and-mortar education. She partners with many local and national leaders in the field to actualize the dreams of many youth and adults; her intentional advocacy for people of color is evident in her life’s journey. Enthusiastically, Rev. Wilson organizes a team of community volunteers to review hundreds of scholarship applications each spring at PUSH. The diverse scholarship committee makes recommendations to award scholarships based on criteria that are met by chosen applicants. Her advocacy affords hundreds of higher education opportunities for youth each academic year.

Not surprisingly, Rev. Wilson was the guest speaker for several organizations in Waukegan, Illinois over the last decade. She came armed and ready to educate audience participants with a moral compass that drives everyone to want to succeed. Notably, Rev. Wilson founded the International Sunday School as a member of Fellowship Baptist Church, Chicago, Illinois, the late Rev. Clay Evans, Pastor.

“Rev. Wilson bargained with musicians and said the female director must receive equal pay for services.”

Her friends and associates are aware that Rev. Wilson believes in equitable wages for women. There was an instance in 1995 when Nelson Mandela was slated to visit PUSH Excel on stage. Musicians were considered for the roles of Gospel Music Choir Directors. Rev. Wilson bargained with musicians and said the female director must receive equal pay for services. I was amazed at her candor and advocacy for women. Needless to say, two directors were selected and were equally compensated. Those directors were Calvin Bridges, Chicago, Illinois, and me. We were applauded for our musical offerings because of Rev. Wilson’s visionary and equitable leadership.

Congratulations are due. In July 2019 Rev. Wilson- Howard was appointed as Senior Pastor of the Maple Park United Methodist Church, Chicago, Illinois. At Maple Park, she visualizes growing her congregation in spirit and in truth to serve south side community residents in matters of education, food security, equitable housing, and health care. She looks forward to a robust and productive ministry after the pandemic.

Her prayers are for the healing of the world.