I recently listened to Aretha Franklin’s captivating album, “Young, Gifted and Black” while paying tribute to the “Queen of Soul” and her global influence. She paints a beautiful picture of what it means to be black in America.
Yes, it’s often a difficult journey because we face trials and experience pain. However, African-Americans are substantial contributors, innovators and achievers.
This is the first Women’s History Month since the death of Aretha Louise Franklin in her Detroit, Michigan, home Aug. 16, 2018. She died from pancreatic cancer. Born in 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, she would have turned 77 on March 25.
Her talent knew no limits. She was a pianist, songwriter and singer. Aretha also was an actress, civil rights activist and a loving mother and so much more.
Aretha’s “crown” of musical jewels include:
Aretha’s life and legacy showed me how to fight proudly for what I believe in. This is the year I start creating my delicate, yet fierce marking for the world: I intend to honor my ancestors while creating my own identity, take calculated risks and raise my voice in favor of issues and causes I believe in, just like Aretha did. She was an iconic pioneer whose proud, powerful gospel and soul music influenced generations of performers and fans.In fact, her influence can’t be measured. There’s no doubt about it: She changed the world.
Why do I say all of this? Because I, too, am young, gifted and black.
Regina L. Burns contributed to this blog post.
(c) March 2019. Harvest Reapers Communications. All Rights Reserved.
"I am a demanding administrator and she has gone over and above. I give you an example -- she has increased the number of parents who are involved in Parent Portal (a Dallas Independent School District online resource that allows a parent to follow their child's academic progress). Prior to my arrival, the percentage was very low. Thanks to her involvement, the number is 71 percent."
He ticked off a detailed list of Watts' other key accomplishments. All said, her work is driving academic progress and community involvement. And, he praised her hidden talent -- being great with crafts and decorating the school.
"She is a wonderful individual. I wish I could clone her. If I had three or four of her, it would really make my job easier," Welch said.
As a native Memphian, I have known Paula Casey for a long time. Her amazing work is inspiring.
Pan Awsumb has been a dear friend for many years. She and husband Carl have demonstrated integrity and determination and are making a difference in the lives of many in Memphis, Tennessee, and beyond.
Marilyn Calhoun is one of the first people I met when I originally arrived in Dallas. We had the pleasure of working together on various projects and I continue to be enlightened by her compassion and lifelong love of learning. She is also a breast cancer survivor. In 2011, I videotaped her story of breast cancer awareness.
Dr. Mary F. Crawford was my dentist and I am so thankful I was her patient. She saved my smile. And, she became one of the early clients who hired me for marketing projects in Memphis. Beyond that, when I asked for help with the long distance care of my mother in Memphis, she immediately rearranged her life to support me in Dallas. Not only did she help me locate a new Memphis care facility, but she regularly visited my mother and provided me with telephone updates. Months later, when I called her from the Memphis hospital room where my mother had just died, she came to the hospital, immediately, and provided AMAZING support afterward. Thank you, Mary, for helping me when I needed it most!!!!
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Mahalia Jackson’s vibrant gospel singing uplifted thousands of WDIA-AM listeners in Memphis, Tenn., back in the day. I was reminded of that when I saw the talented Ledisi portray Jackson in “Selma.”
In the movie, Ledisi sang "Take My Hand, Precious Lord," which Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. frequently asked Jackson to sing during the battle for civil rights. Ledisi’s “Selma” performance has awakened interest in Jackson and her music, rightly so.
I remember hearing Jackson’s singing on WDIA, the first radio station in America with an all-black format, when my late father, Prince Whiting Jr., used it as a get-up-and-go-to-Sunday-School-alarm-clock. As a child growing up in Memphis, I did not know the extent of Jackson’s dynamic contribution to history or that the “Queen of Gospel Singing” recorded work composed by Memphis pastor Rev. William H. Brewster and Chicago composer Thomas A. Dorsey, among others.
According to Women'sHistoryMonth.gov, "The Library of Congress, National Archives and Records Administration, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Gallery of Art, National Park Service, Smithsonian Institution and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum join in paying tribute to the generations of women whose commitment to nature and the planet have proved invaluable to society."
You can read more about Jackson's legacy in the resources below. Check out my previous Women's History Month blog posts.
What's your favorite Mahalia Jackson song?
New Mahalia Jackson Biopic to be Filmed in Chicago
Mahalia Jackson: The Library of Congress
TV One: Ledisi Dishes On Selma, Readies For Hello Beautiful’s ‘Interludes Live’
Snubbed by Grammy telecast, Ledisi keeps her head up
The Mahalia Jackson Story's Facebook Page
Mahalia Jackson: Historyswomen.com
"Imitation of Life" FAQ
Mahalia Jackson Quotes
NPR: Mahalia Jackson
“The poor man is not he who is without a cent, but he who is without a dream.” –Kemp
Since 1999, Madden has been writing proposals and scripts, locating talent and other resources as director of Irving’s MLK tribute, held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day or a date close to the federal holiday. Madden is special events supervisor for Irving’s Parks and Recreation Department, which oversees the MLK series, a unique, thought-provoking, and creative experience in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
“We have a rehearsal on the day of the event. In total we get to have eight hours of rehearsal. And that's because of funding. It's kind of stressful because we don't know how something is going to look,” said Madden during a telephone interview.
“The money comes from the city of Irving and this year we got $10,000” of which $3,500 paid for a facility (rental) fee to the Irving Arts Center, where the performance is held, she said. “Ideally I would like to get a title sponsor for this event. I would like a title sponsor to put its name on it because I think that is a good show.” Each year the Greater Irving Las Colinas Chamber of Commerce provides a dessert reception after the show.
No Charge, ‘Quality of Life’
“I have people tell me they can't believe it's free. The city provides a service and it is available to the general public. I think that's to be commended,” Madden said.
Irving Parks and Recreation Director Ray Cerda wants it known that “this is not a revenue-generating program” because the purpose is to celebrate King’s life. Assistant Director of Parks and Recreation Joe Moses backs him up: “When you look at the Parks and Recreation Department, we want to enhance the quality of life. What's more fitting than to honor the philosophy of Dr. King for our residents?”
Moses said the MLK program started in the mid-80s at what is now the Georgia Farrow Recreation Center. At that time it was community-based. In the mid-90s, the performance moved to the Irving Arts Center and became a citywide event, he said.
Madden gets ideas for the show from King’s life.
“When I start reading about him I find something new to talk about. The script has already been preset. It's just a matter of researching his life and finding what new thing we are going to share. Isn't it amazing that we are still talking about this man and coming up with something new?” Madden said.
Back to King’s Ministry
She said she asks for “divine guidance” each year in preparation for the MLK performance and believes Irving’s commitment has generated “some good friends over the years such as Dallas Black Dance Theatre and (nationally acclaimed gospel singer) Brenda Ellis.” The audience echoed Madden’s belief by showing its appreciation for Ellis’s dynamic performances.
Madden traveled to Memphis last April and for the first time toured the National Civil Rights Museum, which includes the Lorraine Motel, where King stayed during his efforts to help striking Memphis sanitation workers. King was assassinated on the Lorraine’s balcony April 4, 1968.
“I got inspired from going to Memphis on a personal trip and visiting the Lorraine Motel. I got inspired that somebody had to talk about the preacher in him. At the core of everything he has done, he was a preacher. I proposed the idea in May after I figured out (how) to work it out. I wanted to go to Atlanta, but it didn't work out.”
Madden’s research, travel and inspiration were delivered in the Jan. 19 tribute “The Ministry of Dr. King: From the Pulpit to the Nation.” Throughout the event, video clips of King played explaining his ministerial and civil rights journeys. And, the opening act danced the show right into Madden’s mandated “back-to-the-church” setting.
DBDT II’s rip-roaring, foot stompin’ performance to “Long as I Got King Jesus” by gospel recording artist Vickie Winans stirred things up.
“I thought it was fabulous (laughs). I thought the talent in the entire show was wonderful,” said Ray, a 25-year veteran dancer who previously danced in Irving’s other MLK programs with DBDT’s main company.
“It is always a pleasure for us to come out to the collaboration. It's wonderful to have been a part of it for all these years. Jackie Madden is such a wonderful woman. We love her,” Ray said.
It’s been a busy month for DBDT II. On Jan. 12 at the Dallas Museum of Art, the company premiered a Ray-choreographed new piece based on the work of contemporary artist Jim Hodges. Dancers in Ray’s opening sequence used colored flashlights to reflect her vision of Hodges’ The Subtle, The Sum…Give More Than You Take. And the piece concluded in a flourish with members of the audience responding to Ray’s request to speak aloud a word of their choice. Simultaneously this month, DBDT hosted the 26th annual conference of the International Association of Blacks in Dance, Jan. 16 - 19 in Dallas.
Martin and Mahalia
During Irving’s MLK show, audience members jumped to their feet when award-winning DFW performer Sheran Goodspeed Keyton, portraying gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, sang and sang. Frequently, Jackson sang at King’s civil rights events, and, also at his funeral.
The Mahalia Jackson set included speeches by actor Donovan Wheatfall, who portrayed King. Their performances were from The Upper Room by diannetucker.
“When the actor who portrayed Dr. King spoke, he brought awe through the audience,” said Moses, who frequently sits in the audience and watches people's responses as part of his assistant director responsibilities on behalf of the Irving Parks and Recreation Department.
National Park Service Receives Civil Rights Award
Madden got the idea to give the National Park Service the city of Irving’s 2014 Civil Rights Legacy Award after “reading that he (King) couldn't go to public parks (due to Jim Crow laws). Then I thought, ‘isn't that something?’ I went to the dedication (of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial) and realized how ironic it is that the National Park Service is running the site. We don't see a lot of stuff that's in front of us.”
Russ Whitlock, superintendent of the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, accepted the award in an exuberant speech. Read his remarks.
In 2012, attendees received an oversized poster that read “Love Not Hate.” Madden said it is similar to the “I Am A Man” poster that (the sanitation workers used in Memphis).
This year’s commemorative gift was a church fan bearing the same image as the cover of the program distributed to attendees.
“(When) I think of church, (I think of) back in the day when they had fans and they were just passing the fans out. I can't imagine any black person who didn't have a fan before we got air conditioning. The stained glass window represents the church. And we also found a photo with the reflecting pool and we are reflecting between the church and the nation,” Madden said.
Irving’s MLK series was honored in 2006 with an Arts and Humanities Award, Class II, by the Texas Recreation and Park Society.
The next year the Southwest Regional Council of the National Recreation and Park Association honored Irving with another Arts and Humanities Award, Class II.
Madden said she entered the 2013 performance "Letter from the Birmingham Jail" and expects to find out within the next month whether it won an award. Ray Cerda uses an essential barometer of success to measure the series’ impact: attendees’ praise and support.
“We survey our customers. The results we get from our survey shows people want to see this year in and year out. I give a lot of credit to Jackie and her team for raising the bar, year in and year out,” Cerda said.
Madden may be reached at email@example.com.
(c) 2014 Harvest Reapers Communications; All Rights Reserved.
Cuz taught me to use a broom to help learn the keys on the sax. Then he worked with me on breathing correctly. All of that coupled with Band Director Kurl McKinney's instruction came in handy when the Lincoln Junior High School Band went to the Strawberry Festival in Humboldt, Tenn., back in the day. (See my band photo in the slideshow below).
Kenny Ray went on to become a professional horn player, performing with Rev. Al Green and The Bar-Kays, thanks in part to my mom, Mrs. Rowena Whiting, who bought him his first horn. She also prophesied that he would perform on "The Tonight Show." He didn't believe her and laughed. Years later he called my mom from "The Tonight Show" just before he performed!!
Meanwhile, in high school and college, I put the saxophone down and picked up a microphone, video camera, and other journalist’s tools. This is my Black History Month salute to my 54-year-old cousin, Kenny DeWalt, who shared insights with me about his amazing professional career during an interview Jan. 5, 2013, in Memphis.
Q: Who are some of the entertainers you have recorded or played for?
Q: What is a live recording in a studio like? Take us there.
Q: Any final words of wisdom for us?
Q: What TV shows have you performed on?
Q: Did you see yourself becoming a national and international musician when you were in school at Manassas High School in Memphis, Tennessee?
Q: What's been the most amazing experience you have had during your career?
© 2013 Harvest Reapers Communications; All Rights Reserved.
Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tenn. is the second installment in the "Social Media Trends 2013" series.
I interviewed NCRM Communications Coordinator Connie Dyson and Socially Advanced Marketing Founder Peter Hall at the museum Jan. 7, 2013. Hall assists the museum with day-to-day social media communications.
Follow their organizations:
https://twitter.com/NCRMuseum | https://twitter.com/peternhall
Q: (To Dyson) What type of results have you seen? Q: (To Hall) What's next?
Q: (To Hall) The museum has a separate Facebook page as part of the grant. How are you using it?
The Careers/Job Hunt edition (March 2012) of Public Relations Tactics includes an article I wrote. The path of perseverance: Carving out a new career explores the journeys of three former journalists who transitioned successfully to public relations.
Below are additional insights from some of the story's subjects and an audio excerpt of my interview with Yolette Garcia, Assistant Dean, External Affairs and Outreach, Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development, Southern Methodist University.
Ginger Anderson is a career development facilitator with RESCARE, Inc. and works
at the Richardson Workforce Center in Richardson, Texas.
Q: What are the first steps a career changer should take when beginning a job search?
A: Before you start a job search, know what your minimum personal budget is and what salary range will meet that. Don’t expect to make what you did at your last job. Ask yourself ‘what is the absolute minimum I can live on'? Anything above that is gravy.
Q: How can the career changer obtain
experience in a new industry?
A: Do volunteer work to hone the skills you need.
We have to show the employer that we are trying
to increase our skills... Then during the interview, tell the hiring manager that you are willing to learn from the bottom up—it’s the best way to learn about a new industry. Assure the prospective employer that you are there to help the company grow and obtain it goals.
Anderson is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Q: Was your faith tested [during your unemployment]?
A: Oh yes, definitely tested. I stayed on bended knees hoping and praying that the Lord would open a door for me. And He did. And it was definitely a faith-tester ... . Every time I thought I was getting close to landing a job, it failed. It didn’t come through.
And also, just when unemployment [benefits] were about to run out, that’s when I got the call from Deidre [Malone, who hired him to work for her firm, Memphis-based The Carter Malone Group LLC]. I had about a month left [of unemployment benefits]. That’s God... .
We are taught in church that God is an on-time God [and] that He was will be there when you least expect Him to be. I’m a living witness that He will be right there.
Henry is reachable at email@example.com.
Q: What advice do you have for journalists who may be considering PR?
A: Seek a mentor.
When you are a
journalist sometimes you have
an affinity to not want to deal
with public relations professionals. This is an awesome career to have … .
A great deal of what we do is strategic communications. I recommend they seek out small PR firms that may need assistance like Wiley ... . You can learn to pitch and put together a communications strategy. That’s something you can learn.
Her firm is reachable at http://www.thecartermalonegroup.com/.
Yolette Garcia left her news management job at KERA in Dallas because she wanted a new career path. She joined SMU's Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education and Human Development
as assistant dean of external affairs
Here is an audio excerpt from my January 2012 interview with her:
Anthony Hicks, APR, is director of public relations and development at Shelby Residential and Vocational Services in Memphis. Hicks, formerly a staff reporter at the Arkansas Gazette, has advice for journalists or anyone else considering a job in PR.
Q: Do you have any regrets about PR?
A: The biggest challenge is managing expectations
of senior executives. Unfortunately, public relations is a difficult field to understand if you are not experienced in it. Consequently, many organizational leaders do not have experience in public relations. That means the public relations person is expected to work miracles.
Have a thick skin. Be strategic. Always be strategic.
Q: Why get the APR (Accreditation in PR credential)?
A: I got it because I wanted to be recognized as the best in my field. I wanted to know for myself that I had the best skills that my industry required and I wanted some authentication. You have to be in PR for a while to get it. I knew it would be a valuable commodity to have. PR is highly competitive so anything you can do to differentiate yourself, the better off you are.
Q: Any other advice?
A: Before and after joining a company, learn its business thoroughly. Once hired you will consistently use your innate news gathering skills to identify programs and initiatives in the company that will make good news stories -- adapted to the press release format. A reporter’s instinct will serve you well in public relations and media relations. Understand that once you make the transition, reporters are not publicists for the company you work for.
For more information about Shelby Residential and Vocational Services, go to http://www.srvs.org/
A Timely and Powerful MLK Prayer by Rev. Dr. Thomas Hudspeth, Lovers Lane United Methodist Church, Dallas, Texas
While visting Lovers Lane United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas, Sunday, January 20, 2019, I heard a dynamic sermon by Senior Pastor Rev. Dr. Stan Copeland. Then came the call-to-action trubute to Dr. Martin L. King Jr., in the form of a wake-up-call prayer by Rev. Dr. Thomas Hudspeth, Pastor of Congregational Care & Deaf Ministry at Lovers Lane. Dr. Hudspeth's prayer not only remembered Dr. King, but also other civil rights champions, including James Farmer, Medgar Evers, Viola Liuzzo, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner.
Click below to listen to Dr. Hudspeth's rich and timely prayer. The original text is also below.
Author's Note: The original blog post was published April 2011. I updated with new information January 21, 2019.
While many people know that Dr. Martin L. King Jr. was killed in Memphis on April 4, 1968, the reason why he traveled there gets little, if any, attention.
King had originally gone to Memphis to lead a march in support of striking sanitation workers. The black workers were upset about unfair wages and other concerns and they went on strike in February 1968, after two men, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, were crushed to death when a garbage truck malfunctioned.
The striking sanitation workers sent a list of demands to then Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb. Rev. King received a call from Southern Christian Leadership Conference Memphis representative Rev. James Lawson, asking him to come to Memphis and offer assistance.
On March 28, 1968, the strikers, led by Dr. King, began their march in the streets of Memphis. On the sidelines, violence erupted. Dr. King told Rev. Lawson to call the march off. Bernard Lee, a King aide, pulled the Baptist preacher and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner, out of the march. A Memphis youth named Larry Payne was killed and more than 60 people were hurt. King went home to Atlanta feeling defeated by this test of his non-violence philosophy.
Even though family members and aides pleaded with him not to, King returned to Memphis convinced he could lead a nonviolent march there. On April third at Mason Temple in Memphis, King delivered his prophetic last speech “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop.” The next day, King was to have dinner at the home of friend and aide, pastor Rev. Billy Kyles. As they left his room at the Lorraine Motel, King leaned over the balcony and made a request. He wanted to hear “Precious Lord” at the next rally, but he never lived to hear the hymn because he was assassinated on the balcony.
King’s death forced Memphis leaders to settle the sanitation workers’ strike. Mayor Loeb began to formulate a plan to end the strike as the Memphis' damaged reputation remained in the national spotlight. Memphis businessman Abe Plough’s financial contribution for the sanitation workers helped settle the strike, according to Joan Beifuss, author of “At the River I Stand.”
Author's note: Portions of this blog item include excerpts from the award-winning 1990 WGKX-KIX 106 documentary “Dr. Martin L. King Jr.: The Man, The Movement, The Momentum.”
Dr. Martin L. King Jr. killed in Memphis by the lack of courage, The New Tri-State Defender, https://bit.ly/2MnDcYT
Six: 01 Martin Luther King Jr: The Last 32 Hours, The Commercial Appeal, http://601.commercialappeal.com/
The Late Memphis Photographer Ernest Withers, https://bit.ly/2AXagT3
The 1964 Nobel Peace Prize, http://goo.gl/uaF90
Memphis Entrepreneur Abe Plough's Role in Getting Pay Raises for the Sanitation Workers (from Southern Jewish Heritage)
Books by Dr. Lewis V. Baldwin, King scholar and
Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, Vanderbilt University, http://goo.gl/rAQYn
The Mississippi River Valley Collection at The University of Memphis, http://www.memphis.edu/specialcollections/index.php
(Documentary) “At the River I Stand,” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xzRUwwRQzVc
(Book) “At the River I Stand,” https://amzn.to/2W77rHV
The New York Times’ obit of former Memphis Mayor Henry Loeb, http://goo.gl/yP5XO
The National Civil Rights Museum (formerly the Lorraine Motel), http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/
Memphis Sanitation Workers' Strike | Stanford University | The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute
I AM A MAN, Wayne State University, https://bit.ly/2FF81rE
"‘I Am a Man’: The ugly Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that led to MLK’s assassination" The Washington Post, https://wapo.st/2CxOsxk
About the Author:
Regina L. Burns, M.A., Project+, is an award-winning multimedia editor and journalist, specializing in Black history and African American stories at Harvest Reapers Communications. Her work has been published in Texas Highways magazine, WFAA-TV, The Dallas Morning News, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram as well as The Commercial Appeal, the Tri-State Defender and The Flyer, among others.
She previously worked for a variety of news media organizations as an editor and journalist, including The Associated Press in Mississippi and Texas. She was news director at WLOK-AM and WGKX KIX-106 FM in Memphis. Learn more
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