Injustice could make the Rev. Mareo Johnson bitter. Instead it spurs him to try and make life better for his community. “I have a passion to see people set free from bondage — to reach the sick, hurting and lost at all costs,” he says.
Johnson is the senior pastor of Seeking the Kingdom Ministries, which temporarily meets at Miracle Community Baptist Church. His latest project is seeking to open a community resource center where citizens can get help addressing their physical and mental health, find a job or mentor, and report police misconduct.
He says other areas of focus would be prisoner re-entry; domestic violence, gang and prison prevention; and police and community relations.
However, Johnson’s path was not always so clear. As a young Tulsan, he was incarcerated for nearly six years. While in prison, he took classes through the Victory Bible Institute, which led him to make a spiritual transformation. Two years after discharging, Johnson returned to prison as a volunteer keynote speaker at a VBI graduation. “I told (the inmates), ‘I was in that seat you’re sitting in,’” he recalls.
In 2016, after the killings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, Johnson founded Black Lives Matter Tulsa to march for unity in north Tulsa and protest excessive use of force by police.
Ironically Johnson’s good friend, the late Terence Crutcher, was a main supporter of BLMT, as well as Seeking the Kingdom Ministries. Crutcher was shot and killed by a Tulsa Police officer in September 2016. “When I heard the news I was thinking, ‘This cannot be happening,” Johnson says. “We had a lot of plans.”
Johnson says he chose to channel his anger, hurt and disappointment into making a difference. “Standing up for people who can’t speak for themselves — that gives me a drive to continue,” he says.
As a pastor, Johnson has many opportunities to encourage and inspire. His advice is something he experienced firsthand: “Make yourself available to God. He will do the changing.”