A conversation with Rev. Dr. Alycia Alston Marcena may lead to a loss of anxiety, increased confidence and a renewed faith in your spiritual journey. Having served the ministry in many capacities (preacher, teacher, chaplain and administrator), Marcena mesmerizes listeners with personal testimonies that are bound to make one gasp, grunt or giggle while being reminded to walk by faith.
The daughter of Mudy Stone, the late Rev. Charlie Stone and the late Joyce Scott, Marcena is also goddaughter to Statesboro natives Leroy and Grace Safford.
Marcena presently serves as an Associate Professor of Religion at Shaw University in Raleigh, North Carolina, and an Associate Minister at Orange Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Durham, North Carolina. When proposed with the idea to celebrate Safford’s inclusion in Marcena’s recently released book, “REAL Life Lessons,” her response was an immediate indication of her love for “Mama Grace” and her affinity for the Statesboro community.
Although she didn’t spend formative years in the Bulloch County school system, Marcena transferred in as a junior and graduated Statesboro High in 1985.
“I was an SHS cheerleader and loved every minute of it. I loved learning new cheers, making signs for the games, and cheering for the teams,” she said.
“Alycia was an intelligent young lady, but I remember that girl used to clap and stomp every chance she got. We’d be at choir rehearsal and that child would be in the back practicing those cheers,” recalled longtime associate, Linda Douglas.
After high school, Marcena matriculated at North Carolina Central University in Durham, where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting and a master’s degree in special education. She received a Master of Divinity Degree from Shaw University Divinity School in 2013 and a Doctor of Ministry Degree from United Theological Seminary in Dayton, Ohio, in May 2018. She’ll receive a Master of Arts in Christian Leadership in May. Marcena is a proud member of the Durham Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., where she currently serves on the National Leadership Academy.
Growing up as an only child, Marcena found writing to be a consistent confidante. This creative outlet continues to serve her well. In addition to "REAL Life Lessons," she is also the author of “Freckle-Faced Poetry.” Upon release, both publications made Amazon’s Best Selling Author’s list.
“'Freckle-Faced Poetry' chronicles my life. Some poems were written when I was six years old. That collection captures the good, the bad and the ugly,” explains Marcena.
Lessons is a comprehensive collection of personal narratives that provide an inspirational guide to best practices which, when coupled with spiritual truths, result in words that match the acrostical title: revelation, edification, admonition and liberation. Marcena dedicates the book to her “Fab Five Cover Girls:” Creola Joyce Scott, Mudy Alston Stone, Alicia McCullough, Stephanie Denise Kelly and Grace Delores Safford. The special quintet appropriately surrounds Marcena’s image on the book’s cover just as they did throughout her life.
“I am ever grateful to each of them, I got the wealth of my knowledge from these women. They made me who I am today," she said. "Mudy aka ‘Mom’ took me in when I was left on her doorstep. She is not my biological mother, but a maternal aunt. She had me reading by age 3 and, as an only child, I was exposed to piano lessons, dance classes and many other cultural experiences. Because Mudy was a professor at North Carolina Central University and an active member of our sorority, I attended voter registration drives, tutoring sessions, public forums, health fairs, conferences and conventions. I learned what it meant to be actively involved in public service.”
“I have known Alycia since she was a young girl in Durham. I would describe her as having been bright and feisty. Her mother, Mudy, and my mother were close friends (and sorority sisters). She has always been involved in volunteer efforts and community activities because Mudy modeled that for her,” said sorority sister Edith Penny.
Those practices have carried over into adulthood where Marcena selflessly volunteers time with students and mentors girls through her church’s Girl Scout troop.
“They are wonderful young ladies. I recently took two fifth graders to the Delta Sigma Theta Jabberwock Tea, a cotillion scholarship program. The girls dressed up, wore hats and gloves, and really enjoyed themselves," she said.
Marcena's teaching experience began with elementary-age students and those identified as exceptional children.
"I now teach college students and offer training for adult learners. One of the most important lessons I try to instill in them is that they have the power to affect positive change. They don’t understand just how powerful they are," she said.
When asked to evaluate our country’s progress on the 60-year anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, her reply was swift.
“I believe Dr. King would be disappointed. Considering all that he started, it’s disheartening to see where we are now. The Tyre Nichols murder is particularly disturbing to me. Those behaviors speak to our lack of humanity,” she said.
Marcena declares that time spent working as a palliative care and life chaplain has been the most rewarding work she’s done.
“Every living person is going to die one day. My job was to make sure people had a good death. I helped a terminally ill grandmother record herself reading a bedtime story to her unborn grandchild. I tried to make a seemingly impossible situation a little more tolerable. That’s when I feel like I’ve made a difference,” she said.
Marcena’s present-day hobbies reflect her upbringing: crafting, dancing, singing and creative writing are the fore-runners.
Once a member of the African American Dance Ensemble, Marcena now dances with a local community group. In addition, she sings with several friends who formed a singing group while in college. The “Inspirational Voices” reunite once a year to perform at a local church.
“Some group members now have children who are singing with us. That’s how long we’ve been together,” she said.
Ticking items off her bucket list, Marcena has already gone horseback riding in the water and swam with sharks and stingrays.
“I still plan to swim with dolphins and try indoor sky diving. If I could impart words of wisdom they would be to ‘find you’. Seek what makes you happy. Make adjustments or move away from it if it’s not right. Look for the positive and move toward it,” she said.
Note: Marcena will deliver 8:30 a.m. sermon on Feb. 19 at Original First African Baptist Church. A book signing and Black history recognition honoring Grace Safford will follow in the fellowship hall.