Megachurch preacher, Bishop T. D. Jakes embraces his Nigerian Igbo heritage

Stephen Nartey May 10, 2023
In recent times, the Bishop has visited Nigeria more often to learn about his people and their culture. Photo credit: Bishop T. D. Jakes on Facebook

The name Jakes has its roots in German culture, however, that identity is one that popular American preacher, Bishop T. D. Jakes, is no longer willing to embrace since he traced his roots to the Igbo tribe in Nigeria, West Africa.

Discovering his ancestry has helped the preacher to understand his personality traits from a broader perspective – Igbos are hardworking, industrious, and innovative, and these have always been inherent traits Bishop Jakes has exhibited all his life.

The idea to conduct the test to establish his ancestry was suggested by Harvard professor of African and African-American research, Henry Louis Gates. Since then, the experience has not only been phenomenal for Bishop Jakes, but for other celebrated figures like Oprah Winfrey, and Quincy Jones, among others.

One of the identities the Bishop finds astonishing is the fact that, though he was neither born nor raised in Nigeria, his keen interest in entrepreneurship is akin to that of an Igbo man, according to Punch Nigeria. Though he is associated with religion, he believes that is not the only attribute he is gifted with, his strong business acumen has enabled him to establish several business holdings and properties.

Born Thomas Dexter James Sr., on June 9, 1957, in South Charles, West Virginia, Bishop Jakes grew up in Vandalia, West Virginia. He is an author and filmmaker aside from his faith work, and is worth $20 million. He started serving in the faith as a pastor at Greater Emmanuel Temple Faith in 1982, which had only 10 members.

He later joined the Christian denomination High Ground Always Abounding Assemblies in 1988 until he moved to sow his church with a congregation of 300 members in South Charleston, West Virginia. His innovative shepherding brought the total number of his congregation to 1,100 when he moved across Lanes, West Virginia.

With his foothold consolidated in ministry, he extended his attention to the publishing and media space in 1995. The firm, TDJ Enterprises, ventured into the publishing of books, and is also responsible for producing movies.

Bishop Jakes has produced a number of movies through his company TDJ Enterprises, including “Woman Thou Art Loosed” (2004), “Not Easily Broken” (2009), “Jumping the Broom” (2011), “Munya” (2010), “Sparkle” (2012), “Heaven Is for Real” (2014), “Winnie Mandela” (2014), “Miracles from Heaven” (2016), and “Faith Under Fire” (2018).

He also took an interest in radio broadcasting and began hosting his own radio and television show titled “Get Ready” from 1995 to 1996. In 2009, he made the move to enter into a business deal with CBS Television Distribution, Dr. Phil McGraw, and Jay McGraw, but with little success.

With that experience in hindsight, he proceeded to run his own show in partnership with Tegna, Inc., and Denmar-Mercury which has coverage in over 50 markets. The show ran for two years and came to an end, following poor ratings. He then decided to go mega with his faith business in 1996 when he established the non-denominational church, The Potter’s House in Dallas, Texas. In 1998, his congregation grew to over 14,000 members, according to celebrity net worth.

His children have also started learning more about the Igbo culture and ancestry since the DNA testing traced their father’s roots to the Nigerian tribe. In recent times, the Bishop has visited Nigeria more often to learn about his people and their culture.

His favorite dishes are fufu and jollof rice – though the meals are hot and spicy, he interestingly has a liking for them. Memories and stories shared by his great-grandmother when he was 10 years old have been adding up for the Bishop, as well as stories of slavery.

Another thing that stands out for him is how his identity has informed how he even decorates his home – it is adorned with a lot of African art. In his mind, the narrative that Africa is a continent riddled with poverty and backward is rather the reverse.

Bishop T. D. Jakes believes he has regained a part of himself that had been chipped away for a very long time. It is that very soul that connects with the many slaves who were captured from different parts of Africa. The resilience they showed was the reason why they survived the atrocities and inhumane treatment meted out to them.

Last Edited by:iboateng Updated: May 14, 2023


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