Charles E. Blake
Bishop Charles E. Blake, Sr. is a man of character, integrity and wisdom. And determination. Given his commitment to the struggle, it’s easy to image him as Charles Atlas, trying to lift up Africa on his shoulders. Blake is senior pastor of the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles. He’s also on a mission that has been recognized by world and religious leaders alike. In 2001, Blake founded Save Africa’s Children. To date, SAC has assisted over 320 grassroots and faith-based projects in Sub-Saharan Africa, helping over 90,000 AIDS-affected children.
“You’ve got to be determined to do as much as you can,” says Blake when asked what motivates his efforts. “Hopefully, others will do as much as they can, continue to stress the message, and the tide will turn.”
Save Africa’s Children strives to increase awareness of the plight of Africa’s orphans and vulnerable children within U.S. faith communities and is committed to helping Africans help themselves through the pandemic. With extensive contacts in some of the most heavily AIDS-affected African countries, Save Africa’s Children has direct links to a growing base of African churches that play key roles in mitigating the AIDS orphan crisis, providing resources to groups and individuals who are knowledgeable about local conditions.
Ninety percent of children orphaned by AIDS globally live in sub-Saharan Africa, including more than 17 million children under the age of 15. In response, Save Africa’s Children is out to expand the scope of education and care, and strengthen the capacity of families and communities to provide care for AIDS-affected children. SAC also seeks to reduce the number of children growing up in unsafe environments by partnering with the existing efforts of African nationals who serve on the frontlines of the epidemic, providing safe, compassionate, and productive alternatives through residential care and community-based programs.
“The biggest challenge is to educate and motivate individuals in the United States regarding the terrible impact of the pandemic on Africa and the needs of those affected,” says Blake when asked about the continent’s plight, which he has seen firsthand. “Many [Africans] have no voice outside their city or area. We try to connect them with the individuals and resources in the U.S.A.”
Through an annual appeal to 61,000 churches, SAC has raised over $4 million in generous gifts from churches, individuals and corporate donors. Scores of orphan care projects in sub-Saharan Africa have received grants. Additionally, SAC has led four high-profile delegations to sub-Saharan Africa, visiting with grantees and meeting with community leaders and student groups to discuss the impact of HIV/AIDS. In 2004, Blake hosted Pan-African Weekend at the West Angeles Cathedral, where members of the African and African American diplomatic community and over 80 religious, political, business and community leaders gathered for a weekend of dialogue on forging stronger links between the Black church and Africa.
“The response has been tremendous,” says Blake. “A host of churches and individuals have come forth. And we’re determined to reach many, many others.”
In the words of his friend and SAC honorary board President, Oscar-winning actor and humanitarian, Denzel Washington: “Bishop Charles E. Blake is my pastor, spiritual mentor and a man of great integrity. I can personally state my utmost confidence and trust in this fine organization of Save Africa’s Children.”
Many Fortune 500 companies and highly recognized entertainment associations have become part of Save Africa’s Children, including the Grammy Association. Most recently, Bishop Blake was a recipient of the Trumpet Award, given out by Turner Broadcasting. One of the highest honors given to an African American, the award is given to persons who augment “the richness of this great global society by partnering the cause of justice and equality for all.”
And still, the work is not done. Recently, SAC launched a new strategic marketing campaign on network and Christian television stations across America, featuring Natalie Cole, Denzel Washington, Stevie Wonder, Kanye West, Lou Gossett, Jr., Ray Romano and others. In addition, People magazine traveled to Africa with Save Africa’s Children for a feature story—yet another way in which Bishop and Save Africa’s Children are trying to get the message out.
“It is powerful to see that Africa has a heart for their children and love for their children,” says Blake of his experience on the continent. “When I see the commitment of those working with the children, it is joyous. When I see the children on the street still in need, it is heart-wrenching.”
Bishop Blake is the son of Bishop J.A. Blake and Mrs. Lula Champion Blake. From a young age, Blake felt the calling to a God-given mission of ministering to the “whole man”—the spirit, mind and body of the individual. He brought that passion to the 50-member West Angeles Church of God in Christ in 1969 and has seen his ministry catch fire, setting a new standard for ministry. In his 30 years in the pulpit, West Angeles has grown into one of the largest churches in the United States with over 25,000 active members. Still, Bishop Blake clearly believes there’s more work to be done. He dreams of an unlimited pool of funds to deal with the crisis and a global, pan-African union that would work for the advancement and uplifting of the children of Africa.
“Africa has given so much to the world,” says Blake, “its people, its minerals, its resources, yet they have received so little from the world in return. It’s time to invest back in Africa and lift Africa up to its proper place in the world.”