The Defender Network, “Houston’s Leading Black Information Source,” recently hosted its inaugural Juneteenth Faith Leaders’ Breakfast sponsored by KelseyCare Advantage.

The event was designed to introduce the new Defender Community Central Channel and other digital products while focusing on the benefits of the Medicare program KelseyCare Advantage.

“This was an awesome time to come out with my colleagues and other pastors to celebrate Juneteenth and the Faith Leaders’ Breakfast put on by the Defender,” said Linda Davis, pastor of Boynton Chapel United Methodist Church. “The Defender does such excellent work in the community. They’re always available to share our stories.”

HOUSTON, TEXAS – JUNE 16: Dr. Michael Bowie (SBC21), Sonny Messiah Jiles (Houston Defender), Rick Nance (St. John’s Downtown) attend the Houston Defender Faith Leaders Breakfast held at Davis Street on June 16, 2022 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Jimmie Aggison/Houston Defender)

The breakfast was held at Davis Street at Hermann Park, an upscale, Black-owned restaurant headed by the world-renown Executive Chef Mark Holley.

The festivities were kicked off by a live rendition of “Amazing Grace” on saxophone by Pastor John Murray of the Refreshing Church, followed by Defender Network board member Jodie Jiles offering a word of prayer, along with his traditional “dad jokes.”

Sonceria “Sonny” Messiah Jiles, publisher and CEO of the Defender Network, listed three reasons for the event: building a stronger relationship with the attendees to expand coverage of the faith community, showcasing the Defender digital products and introducing the KelseyCare Advantage Medicare program and how the community can benefit.

Defender Juneteenth Faith Leaders’ Breakfast a huge success
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Dr. George Adesina, a cardiologist at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, provided the harrowing statistics about Blacks and healthcare, laying out the evidence of the existing healthcare disparities that exist, along with the critical need for Blacks and Latinx persons to access efficient and effective health insurance plans. Adesina really hit a nerve when he shared the statistic that 72% of men would rather do household, “Honey-do” chores than go to the doctor.

“Brothers, I can relate,” Adesine shared. “I’m a Black doctor, and I don’t like going to the doctor.”

His point was that whether Black men want to or not, doctor visits, especially annual visits, should be a standard operating procedure.

“Men, we take better care of our cars than we do our bodies. But going to the doctor is like regular maintenance on your vehicle, to make sure all systems are in working order, and to check to see if anything needs service,” said Adesina to the packed house of faith leaders, which happened to be a good mix of males and females.

Community Central Publisher Aswad Walker presented the Defender’s digital offerings including its Community Central Channel with its focus on the faith community, business community, and community organizations, be they social, educational, justice-focused, etc. Walker also highlighted the other online Defender channels, Black Women and Under 40 channels found on the Defender Network’s website (, and the benefits of pastors and their congregations, getting on board.

He went on to outline the new features coming in the fall to the Community Central channel — “Milestones” offering individuals the opportunity to share with the online community their successes (graduations, ordinations, promotions), couples’ stories (engagements, weddings and anniversaries), and memories (obituaries).

“We know it costs big money for people to place wedding, anniversary, and obituary announcements in local papers, so we are offering that service to you and your congregations for free beginning in the fall of 2022,” said Walker of just one of the advantages of individuals visiting and contributing their information to the Defender’s Community Central Channel.

Walker then emphasized the importance of other Defender digital offerings, including the digital version of the weekly paper, the Defender’s e-edition, and its ever-popular Top-5 newsletter which is shared Monday through Saturday with all who sign up for it, free of charge.

KelseyCare Advantage representatives Brian Ventre and Lloyd Wiles also made presentations about the benefits of joining their network.

“I know that your congregation is having a lot of issues in regards to trying to navigate Medicare, and the reason why I’m here is to give some solutions,” said Wiles. “It’s important for us to reach out and to give back to the community that serves us a lot.”

However, it was testimonies from event-attending faith leaders that had the biggest impact, as they shared personal stories of the benefits of joining the KelseyCare Advantage plan.

Dr. D.Z. Cofield, pastor of Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church, called the gathering of faith leaders a blessing.

“This moment of encouragement is just a blessing. Some of us haven’t seen each other, literally, for the last two and a half years, so it’s just a blessing to be able to come out and do that,” shared Cofield.

Needless to say, a great time was had by all, thanks in large part to the organizing work of Jiles and Emelda Douglas (the Defender’s chief development officer), and the work of the entire Defender staff on hand, including ReShonda Tate (managing editor and publisher of the Black Women Channel), Laura Onyeneho (education reporter and publisher of the Under 40 Channel), Clyde Jiles (strategic alliance manager), Jodie B. Jiles (high school sports editor), Jimmie Aggison (photographer extraordinaire) and David Wall (videographer).

Photo Gallery by Jimmie Aggison and Video by David Wall