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The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook

Religious leader and corporate entrepreneur Suzan Johnson Cook was born January 28, 1957, in New York City. Her mother was a schoolteacher and her father, a trolley car driver. They founded a security guard business that moved the family from a Harlem, New York, tenement to a home in the Gunn Hill section of the Bronx, New York. Cook was one of the few African American children to attend the Riverdale Country Day School in the Bronx, and her parents helped to organize an African American Parent Teachers Association. Cook studied acting and singing at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she received her B.S. degree. She has also received her M.A. degree in education from Columbia University, her M.Div. degree from Union Theological Seminary and her D.Min. degree from Ohio's United Theological Seminary. She is also a graduate of Harvard University’s President’s Administrative Fellows Program.

In 1983, Cook was appointed pastor of the Mariner’s Temple Baptist Church in lower Manhattan, becoming the first African American woman to be named pastor by the American Baptist Association in its two hundred year history. At Mariner’s Temple, she inaugurated the Wednesday Lunch Hour of Power. After thirteen years of service, in 1996, she became the founder and senior pastor of the Bronx Fellowship Christian Church. In 1990, David Dinkins appointed Cook as the first woman chaplain to the New York Police Department. She was also the first woman to be elected president of the Hampton University Minister’s Conference.

Cook served on the Domestic Policy Council in the White House in 1993, and with HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros as a consultant on Faith Initiatives from 1994 to 1997. Then, she became the co-founder and chief operating officer of JONCO Productions, Inc., a sales, management, and diversity firm which hosts a speaker's bureau and media/book distributions. She is the author of several books including the best seller, Too Blessed To Be Stressed, released in 2002.

In 1997, Ebony magazine named Cook one of the top fifteen women in ministry in the nation, and in 2000, she was named one of New York’s top five preachers. Cook lives in New York City with her husband, Ronald and their two sons, Samuel David and Christopher Daniel.

Accession Number

A2005.251

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/1/2005

7/24/2007

Last Name

Cook

Maker Category
Middle Name

Johnson

Occupation
Schools

Riverdale Country School

P.S. 78

Columbia University

Emerson College

First Name

Suzan

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

JOH25

Favorite Season

Spring, Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Warm, Water

Favorite Quote

To Whom Much Is Given, Much Is Required.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

1/28/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Spaghetti

Short Description

Pastor The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook (1957 - ) was the first African American woman to be named pastor by the American Baptist Association and the first woman chaplain for the New York City Police Department. She is co-founder and chief operating officer of JONCO Productions, Inc., a sales, management, and diversity firm, and is the author of the bestselling, "Too Blessed to Be Stressed," released in 2002.

Employment

Mariner's Temple

Bronx Christian Fellowship Baptist Church

White House

WJLA-TV

WPLG-TV

Favorite Color

Blue, Purple

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308331">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308332">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308333">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her family homes in New York and North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308334">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her mother's family background in Monroe, North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308335">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her parents' careers in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308336">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her maternal family's history in North Carolina</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308337">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308338">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her paternal family's experiences as sharecroppers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308339">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls her parents' drive to succeed</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308340">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook reflects on how she values her African American heritage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308341">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her earliest childhood memories</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308342">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her childhood community in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308343">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls the importance of Harlem, New York in her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308344">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes the role of religion in her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308345">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls experiencing racism in grade school</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308346">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her experiences at P.S. 78</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308347">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook remembers her calling to the ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308348">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls her formative religious experiences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308349">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls attending Riverdale Country School in the Bronx</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308350">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her choice to attend Emerson College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308351">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her education after Emerson College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308352">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her job at WJLA-TV in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308353">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls traveling to Africa with Yolanda King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308354">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls her TV career in the early 1980s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308355">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her time at New York City's Union Theological Seminary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308356">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls New York City's Union Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308357">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her classmates and mentors at Union Theological Seminary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308358">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook reflects on her approach to her ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308359">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes becoming pastor at Mariner's Temple</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308360">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes her tenure at Mariner's Temple</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308361">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes the American Baptist Churches denomination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308362">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes the Lunch Hour of Power at Mariner's Temple</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308363">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls becoming a New York City Police Department chaplain</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308364">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls pastoring in New York on 9/11, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308365">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls pastoring in New York on 9/11, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308366">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook remembers meeting her husband, Ronald Cook</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308367">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls marrying Ronald Cook</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308368">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls her fellowship at Harvard Divinity School</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308369">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes becoming a White House Fellow</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308370">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook shares her impressions of President Bill Clinton</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/308371">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls moving to Washington, D.C.</a>

DASession

1$2

DATape

2$5

DAStory

4$3

DATitle
The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook describes the role of religion in her childhood
The Honorable Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook recalls pastoring in New York on 9/11, pt. 1
Transcript
How was faith introduced to you as a child?$$I was born into a family of faith, which I am so fortunate. Everyone was a believer, everyone was a churchgoer, and so Sunday mornings, no matter how much we hung out Friday and Saturday, Sunday mornings we dressed for church. We went as a family. Because we had moved to the northeast Bronx [New York], my mother [Dorothy Cuthbertson Johnson] wanted us to know the neighborhood children so we would go to Sunday school where we lived, but we'd take the bus down to Harlem [New York, New York]. We would go to my mother's church [Rendall Memorial Presbyterian Church, New York, New York], which was Presbyterian, and you know, they're out in an hour, and by the time we left and walked up the avenue to my dad's church [Union Baptist Church, New York, New York], which was on 145th Street, the Baptist church, we would sit in his church, or stand outside of his church and we had these two wonderful communities that embraced us. So faith was extremely important. It was also where the emerging black middle class worshipped together. We sat next to the first black judges, the first black doctors, the first black lawyers, and they would ask us questions in our faith community, "So young lady where are you going to school?" It was never a matter of do you plan to finish high school, like some people ask today. Are you getting a GED [General Educational Development]? That was not even part of the lingo. I didn't hear what GED meant until I was an adult. It was where are you thinking about college? This is like fifth and sixth grade, and you're like, "Well I'm looking at Boston [Massachusetts] and Atlanta [Georgia]," you know, and they would tell us about some historically black colleges [HBCUs] that many of them attended, or they'd tell us about the Harvards [Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts] and the Princetons [Princeton University, Princeton, New Jersey]. They'd ask us what our goals were. So what it was doing was strategic planning and goal-setting at a very young age. We didn't know that's what it was called, but they were getting us to have a vision that was larger than 144th Street, larger than the village of Harlem, larger than the world in which we lived, and because of that, when programs came up in the summer, it was our faith community that would say, "You know, this is a camp that we think Suzan [HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Suzan Johnson Cook] would like. This is a program Suzan might be interested in," and so my parents would either by reputation or by having experienced it themselves, would channel us into these. So I went to a faith camp, Incarnation [Incarnation Camp, Ivoryton, Connecticut], which is still in existence today, and my children [Samuel Cook and Christopher Cook] now go to it, so it's, you know--$$What's a faith camp?$$It's called Incarnation Camp. It's up in, where they actually worship on Sundays, you know, it's a Christian camp, but they do the regular stuff with, you know, boating and swimming, but on Sundays they stop and give thanks, and so the value system is faith. My children attend a school that's faith oriented. It's a private school, but they have chapel and so they, you know faith is very important to me as a parent, as a pastor, as a daughter of, of one who was born into a faith family. We said grace every day. You know, the food would be out on the table, but it's, we had to give thanks because we wouldn't have all of this without being connected to God. And so, we did our--my father [Wilbert Johnson], my earliest remembrance of my father and my last remembrance of my father was that every night he kneeled down and prayed, and he would pray a long time so we could go in and out the room and he'd still be on his knees. I mean it was serious, and so because you have a praying father, you feel a different sense of faith than perhaps one who didn't because you saw it in action. You saw the decisions he made for our lives as our provider and our protector, were prayed over, and so you kind of have to, because your first introduction to faith is you mimic the faith of your parents, you mimic their behavior, what they do, and then at a certain point it kicks in that I believe in what they've been teaching me. You don't know that as a child, you just know that there's a culture that says something affirming about God, and when you hear it enough, and it wasn't a lot of God talk, but there was a lot of praying and there was a lot of churchgoing. And, so by the time I became a teenager, my faith formation had happened, and it was because of my parents and my grandparents and the people I was around that faith was not a problem for me. It was actually a joy, and I captured it. I did the same thing in college [Emerson College, Boston, Massachusetts]. We partied all Friday and Saturday night, but Sunday morning, other kids were asleep in the dorm and I was like, "I'm going to church," and eventually a lot of people started going with me. But it was part of my system, and I have no regrets and I've met some wonderful people in the faith community and that's who I am, I'm a faith leader.$And can you feel the calm that you stimulate in officers [at the New York City Police Department] and the surrounding (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Without question. I can, I can remember people coming in my office, you know, I mean, crying or stressed out, whatever the job or life, what I call Life 101, has done to them, and they leave and I pray with them and we join hands and then we hug. I mean not just Christians, I've had Jewish persons. I've had women, I've had men, I've had every persuasion come in, and there is a calm, there is something that happens. We call it the anointing in the Christian church, but there is something that happens when in the privacy, and the great thing about being a police chaplain is that you don't have to do it right at headquarters. We can meet them anonymously anywhere in the city, so if someone needs me to meet them in a bar, if that's their comfort level until they're able to kind of talk it through, I'll go, no one will know it but that person and myself, but when we leave there, it's not the bar that's the dominant factor, it is, the power of the Lord has spoken in this place, and so they are able to leave a different way than they came. The most prevalent memory is 9/11 [September 11, 2001], because we were the chaplains who had to respond. There were twenty-six police officers who were lost in the line of duty, in that horrific, and the city [New York, New York] was paralyzed, you know. We had never experienced war and terrorism on these shores, and even internally, I was experiencing, you know, my gosh, but we had to rise to the occasion because we had to be the leaders for the leaders, and I think, if I can think of a time that God really used me and I knew it, it was during that time, because after I had done the Wednesday lunch hour services [Lunch Hour of Power] and I left Mariner's [Mariner's Temple, New York, New York], I created a new service called Wonderful Wall Street Wednesday, ten blocks south of where Mariner's was, people who said that they couldn't have made it in ten minutes to Mariner's were asking me, "Can you do something at lunch time?" So I created this for the Wall Street community and the small United Methodist Church, called John Street United Methodist Church [New York, New York] and we had been in our fourth year of doing it, every Wednesday, and I was like, "God why am I coming from the Bronx [New York] every Wednesday down on the subway, for a half an hour." And then 9/11 happened on September 11th, five years ago, what was that, 2002, 2001, 2001 (simultaneous)--$$Two thousand one [2001]? I thought it was 2001.$$--and we were scheduled to open our Wall Street service on September 12th.$$Oh, wow.$$Because we would take a break for the summer, so it was going to open the next Wednesday, the next day. And 9/11 happened and so New York City stopped, and we had to respond to the police families in the whole department. The next Wednesday, however, people were ordered to go back to work. They gave them a couple of days off to get yourself together, but New York doesn't just stop forever, so people had to go back to work and that next Wednesday, now which would have been September 19th, this Wednesday service that I did was right down the block from the World Trade Center [New York, New York]. It was the only structure not hit on the entire block. You could see dust and fumes and fire flames and evidence of 9/11 every other building surrounding it. This church stood there with nothing on it. So the people were able to come physically into this church, packed.$$What did you talk about that day?$$Well, there, first let me, their description was, their eyes were filled with terror and the tears were streaming because they were afraid. They were not ready to go back to work. They needed a job, but they weren't ready. The trauma that had happened, and there's a scripture that came to my mind as they came in, that is in the Bible that says, God is a refuge in a time of trouble, a very present help in the time of need, and that's the scripture that bubbled in my spirit as they came in. This place is the refuge. This is the shelter, and God said to me, that's why you come down every Wednesday, because you were supposed to be here.$$You asked.$$Yeah, you asked. You were supposed to be here for this moment. And it wasn't even about the message. We actually had a guest preacher that day. We had Dr. Calvin Butts [HistoryMaker Reverend Dr. Calvin O. Butts] that day, and the press was there, of course, to cover, you know, these people coming back to work, but that was, it was what I call a ministry of presence.