Rev. Dr. Rainey Cheeks (2007)

Rev. Dr. Rainey Cheeks is a native Washingtonian. 
Photo © Patsy Lynch

“My mother taught me: ‘If you see something wrong, do something, about it’ and, ‘If nobody else has done it, be the first one.’”

“If you learn to see God in other people regardless of who they are, you can’t hurt them.  Me loving you has nothing to do with you loving me.  My job is to love you anyway.”

“I’m in a place where I really enjoy my life ... When God asks me how my life was, I’ll say ‘Thank you for the journey.  I had a ball!’”

Few people have contributed to the community as Rainey Cheeks in such diverse ways: in sports, entertainment, HIV/AIDS support, and faith communities.

At 14, Cheeks began a lifelong career in martial arts, one for which he continues to receive awards.  Tae Kwon Do training, in which he was ranked 10th in the US and in which he currently holds a ninth degree black belt, gave him physical and mental strength and skill in movement which has helped him to accomplish much of what he has done.

From the first time he attended an event at the Third World club (221 Riggs Rd NE), Cheeks knew he was going to be involved with those running it.  When the group opened the Clubhouse in May 1975, Cheeks was part of the management team.  For the next fifteen years, he was the ubiquitous manager of the club and captain of the Clubhouse Dancers, a team that performed at the club and events around the country.  His Clubhouse years brought him connections and friendships that served him well as he began providing help to people affected by AIDS.

As AIDS’ impact on the community deepened, Cheeks and others at the club began raising funds for rent, medical care, and other needs of people living with AIDS.  By 1985, the need was so great that Cheeks led a group, including Aundrea Scott and Dr. Prem Deben, in creating the organization that became Us Helping Us, a holistic health program and one of the largest AIDS support groups in the African-American community.  When the Clubhouse closed in 1990, support moved to Cheeks’ home.  In 1993, the newly incorporated organization moved into its first home at 819 L St. SE.  He has presented papers on holistic health at three world health conferences.

In May 1993, Rev. Carl Bean, founder of the Unity Fellowship Church, called Cheeks to the ministry.  On July 4, 1993 he established Inner Light Unity Church, which first met at First Congregational.  Nine years later, he established Inner Light Ministries as an independent church which meets at St. Stephen Episcopal Church.  That same year he received his Doctor of Divinity degree from St. Andrews Seminary. Cheeks’ ministry focuses on the radical inclusiveness of Jesus, working with youth and providing them with mentors, and AIDS education.