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Karika Phillips

What is your official title?

I am the Associate Minister at Second Baptist Church with Pastor Strick Strickland. And I’m also a PhD student at Western Michigan University for Ed. Leadership. My discipline is Higher Ed Administration and Organizational Analysis.


What’s an average day in the ‘Zoo look like for you?

Routinely, I’m up at 5:00am, rehearing the day’s activities. This point in my life; I couldn’t sleep in even if I wanted to. I really enjoy grabbing a cup of coffee at Biggby or Waterstreet. But, if I may, I start my day off with devotion. I have three children, so I transport them to school, except for my oldest who takes the bus. He’s a junior a Kalamazoo Central, my daughter goes to Hillside, and she’s in eighth grade, and my nine year old is at Prairie Ridge in the fourth grade. And then my day begins. Ministry starts with people calling me with various issues and or concerns that require my being alert and ready to respond accordingly to their needs.


Can you tell us about your background/passion?

I went to Kalamazoo Central and was class president, and then I dropped out of high school. I moved out of my parents’ house and in with two friends of mine, and we had a blast for a year. I dropped out of high school because I suffered from Graves disease, which was hypothyroidism, and I couldn’t concentrate.

The year I dropped out proved to be cathartic, but also depressing. It was depressing because here is a person who had goals to attend top colleges, and I was sitting in an apartment with everyone else who had no dreams or no goals; it didn’t fit. People would walk into the house, everyone is hanging out being social, and see me sitting there and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ I didn’t fit. At some point during the fall of 1992, I recall sitting at the house, and a postcard came in the mail, and it said I could get my high school diploma at Adult Ed. And I’m like, me? Adult Ed? But when all of those people left, I sat and looked at that card, and I was so humiliated; I felt so disconnected from my dream of higher education that I felt I needed to do something. I needed to get back in the game, but how was I going to do that? That postcard said I could get a diploma, which was great because I didn’t want my GED.

After reading the contents of this postcard, I immediately became excited and my interest soared prompting me to hurriedly go and inquiry about attaining my high school diploma at Kalamazoo Central Adult Education program.

Looking back- I will never forget this, upon my arrival I met with Mr. Doug Wood, building principal-my former assistant principal along with Principal Mrs. Dorothy Young at Hillside. I must say my budding love for learning was significantly stimulated at Hillside as their student. They recognized and were instrumental in my early leadership and public speaking abilities.

From Hillside, fast forward I arrived at Adult Education and literally his mouth hit the floor. He pulled me into his office and was in shock. I told him I was there to register. I was a high school drop.

I enrolled in Adult Ed. in January 1993 and graduated that May. I then went onto KVCC, then Western, and I just vowed that if Adult Ed would take me, I’d never leave school again until I finished my PhD. Governor Engler asked me to give a speech about my life and my experience. I transitioned from Valley to Western where I have a Bachelors in Sociology and Black Americana Studies, and then my Masters is in U.S. History with a concentration in Slavery, Reconstruction, the Civil Right’s Movement, and Caribbean Women’s History. I will complete my PhD in December 2016.

Furthermore, my passion lies with my children.

Additionally, retaining great value is my being a member of the social justice consciousness of Kalamazoo County.


What do you love most about Kalamazoo?

What I love most about Kalamazoo is the fact that we offer great music on the mall, Bank Street farmers market, fantastic events like the Black Arts & Cultural Center Festival, along with my other favorite the Michigan Festival of Sacred Music. I was born and raised here and the fruit of my life is representative of the love that people in this community have shown me. So, what do I mean by that? The fact that Andy, Carrie and Sydney can come into my house, and feel so comfortable as if we’ve been friends for 10 or 15 years, that’s the heartbeat of who I am in Kalamazoo and it’s made me who I am.

Moreover, from a collective standpoint, and particularly as a generation, we relate to and embrace an active level of cultural and generational diversity.

Generations before, historically, sought to perpetuate structural inequities by limiting the advancement of equity. A new level of thinking is emerging towards equity and social justice in Kalamazoo County. Our narrative is an active expression of love in and for this community. A love and a sense of community that goes beyond race, class and cultural differences.


What can be improved?

I think what can be improved is within each citizen’s sphere of influence, regardless of where they work, live and play.

We all have something to contribute to someone else’s life. If each adapts the principle of “helping thy neighbor” by asking the question, “What can I do today to make someone’s life better? It’s as easy as smiling or buying someone a cup of coffee – we can make a difference. This principle is an integral part of our daily life and is of mutual benefit for all. We should consistently strive towards that being an integral part of our daily lives.


Tell us about the ministry.

I am in the process of launching my public ministry. At Second Baptist church, I conduct counseling sessions for married, single and divorced folks. This month we are featuring a women’s “one- day” only event, because there are a lot of women who are dealing with numerous concerns. Not that men aren’t, but for the opening, I’m addressing the women, and then will ask them to invite their significant others. In 2015, I am the first woman in the history of Second Baptist Church, being ordained. Second Baptist is the oldest African American congregation in this community. Pastor Strickland selected me to preached my first sermon, and that brought close to 40 people to the alter giving their life to the Lord. My ministry is bible-based and social justice focused.


What have you been jammin’ to recently?

I got Kenny Chesney, that’s my guy. I simply love and adore Lee Williams and the Spiritual QC’s, Mary J. Blige, who doesn’t love her. And I like smooth jazz, Houston Person is great.


How do you take your coffee?…or do you?

I like Americano with a lot of cream and Splenda. I love the Carmel Marvel at Biggby-Yum!


Any good books you’ve been reading?

The King James Bible, and Radio Free Dixie; that book is the bomb.


Do you have a “go to” spot in Kalamazoo?

Aside from the coffee shops, I like to restaurant hop. So, people that know me, when they want to hold a meeting, or chat-they feed me. From Brann’s to Hunan Gardens to Saffron to Burdicks.


If you could give your younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?

You’re going to be alright; it’s all going to be all right.


When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

Oh a Supreme Court Justice. I was positive that was what I was going to be.


Who would play you in a movie?

My mind goes to Cicely Tyson, kind of serious, but humorous.


What has been your favorite class in all of your education? Favorite Professor?

My favorite professor was Ben Wilson. I first met him when I was 13. I was in an upper bound program, and then years later, I ended up being his grad assistant and did some research for him and helped him work on his book. My favorite class was Black Studies, so then I became a teacher of that at KVCC.


What is your ideal Friday night?

I took a picture the other night while I was sitting by my fireplace, reading the King James Bible, and posted it on Facebook saying “enJOYing my fireplace”. I have three kids, so three different ideas of fun. The weekend activities are dictated by what they want to do.

Karika, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and sharing your thoughts! Be sure to follow us on facebook and twitter for updates.