Friends have described her as fearless, bright, and inquisitive.
Unless LeDayne Polaski is reading or doing the daily crossword puzzle, she is rarely sitting still. One moment she could be shaking hands with church leaders and the next moment she’s conversing with heads of states as an advocate for the people.
“Peace is the presence of justice for all,” Polaski said.
Polaski is one of several religious leaders in the neighborhoods near Queens that play integral roles in the unification of the community in the wake of the Keith Lamont Scott shooting. Since 2015, Polaski has been executive director of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, a group she has worked with for 18 years.
Russ Dean, co-pastor of Park Road Baptist Church, reflected on the time he met Polaski as a freshman in college. He said her tenaciousness never faltered through the years.
One of her embraced passions is working for the inclusion of homosexual people in the church and society. She was the co-editor of “Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth,” a resource for progressive Baptist churches in having conversations about the inclusion of homosexual men and women. According to pastor Russ Dean, she is a church member who led a “Family Issues Task Force” that passed a resolution opening the door to Park Road ministers officiating gay weddings.
When describing her work, she said, “we work to empower individuals, churches, and community groups to do the work they feel called to do toward peace rooted in justice.”
She leads with an outstretched hand regionally, nationally, and internationally. Her work with BPFNA is spread across the US, Canada, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. Despite all of that, she is also active in Charlotte.
Recently, after the increased social awareness following the death of Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte in late September, she and her staff participated in the protests and offered resources, training, and opportunities for people to grow in understanding to end police brutality, and to stand in solidarity with minorities.
William Haynes Jr. III, the youth coordinator of Park Road Baptist Church said he and Polaski marched together during the demonstrations in Charlotte. He said he has admired her willingness to be present for those marginalized in society.
She is currently focused on work to combat racism both in society as well as within the organization.
“It is painful to realize the ways in which we perpetuate the very things we work against… and yet we also recognize this work as very necessary,” she said.
Last month she was awarded the Richard Furman Baptist Heritage Award, which recognizes a Furman graduate who makes life-changing commitments to develop and expand the relationship between faith and learning.
Pastor Russ Dean summed her up when he said, “she is a living example of the adage, ‘peace like war, must be waged.’”