Tribute to Fannie M. Lewis and Stephanie Tubbs-Jones
Nov 16, 2008 | 3:31 PM
Category: Entertainment , Community
Last night I participated in a musical tribute to Councilwoman Fannie Lewis, and Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs Jones at Tri-C Metro Auditorium. It was a joyous and reverent affair put on by Herb Thomas and The Prayer Warriors, a contemporary gospel group based here in Cleveland that combines the spirit of the church with soul, funk and jazz. Able to perform modern r&b songs and classic soul hits as well as traditional gospel standards, The Warriors never fail to connect with their audience, no matter what age, race, or religious affiliation. Their sound elevates the Spirit in every individual and the whole room fills with their energy as "Praise The Lord' meets "Pass The Peas"!
Also on the program were two magnificent guest vocalists, Ceco Selinas, and Me'Na'. I have known Ceco for many years, and have had the pleasure of working with her on many occasions. Every time I hear her sing, I get a rush of energy. Her voice soars and soothes, and carries you away into the story she tells. Her sense of melody, harmony and rhythm is as good as it gets, and her voice is rich and powerful. Ceco performed a rendition of Jennifer Hudson’s “Spotlight” lyrically tailored for the event, and “Eee Shay”, an African Traditional.
It was my first time hearing Me’Na sing, but it was a revelation! She has a voice that is sassy and soulful that moves as easily through jazz as it does gospel and soul. The first comparison that came to mind was Nancy Wilson, but Me’Na has a style and range all her own that puts her in the top echelon of contemporary vocalists. The meditative and spiritual “Angels Standing By” was chilling and could move you to tears. Her jazzy version of the Gershwin standard, “Summertime” was lively and cool. I look forward to hearing more and possibly even working with her in the future.
There was an outstanding youth group that sang "We Who Believe", and a young modern dance troupe that did a moving interpretation of "Wildflower" by the O'Jays. Poet, Bashir Jones recited an original poem that brought people to their feet, and I had the honor of being able to debut my original song "Fill Those Shoes", written in tribute to these two great women, with the help of my good friend, Arlene Bowie, and backed by the Prayer Warriors. It was a night of celebration and remembrance that warmed our souls even as winter was blowing into Cleveland with a vengeance. FOX 8's Kenny Crumpton hosted the event with great aplomb and humor and there were also comments by City Council members, Stephanie Howse and Martin J. Sweeney. Also, the director of NEON (Northeast Ohio Neighborhood Health Services, Inc.), which sponsored the free event addressed the crowd and thanked everyone for attending. www.nhlink.net/ClevelandNeighborhoods/hough/neon/N
FOX 8 anchorman, Wayne Dawson spoke in remembrance of his personal relationships with the two honorees, and brought the loudest audience response of the night with his reflections on this past election which resulted in Barack Obama being elected President of the United States! A touching video presentation produced by Herb Thomas, founder and director of The Prayer Warriors, was screened to a hushed room, which added to the reverence and respect due these two great people. A solo performance by an actress portraying Fannie Lewis in action drew laughs and was uncanny in its dead-on accuracy of her mannerisms. I'm sure that those who knew her were struck by how much the woman looked and sounded like "Mother Lewis." It was part of a play produced by a local playwright, whose name I do not recall at the moment, but if there were any justice, his play would be turned into a screenplay, and eventually a movie.
Throughout the evening, the whole program was kept flowing under the expert direction of Clifton Beasley, the Prayer Warriors’ musical director. Like a captain at the helm of a ship, from his piano he kept things on course, providing cues, intro’s, outro’s, and segues that made all the pieces fit seamlessly, and kept the show at pace that never dragged. The band consisted of a coalescence of some of Cleveland’s top musicians, including my own former First Light band mates, Chopper (guitar) and Rod Reisman on drums. Also on hand was lovable Norm Tischler (of Blue Lunch) on sax, whom I’ve known for many years as well. Rounding out the ensemble was Jeff Domzalski on bass and a flautist (whose name I need to get) who provided some beautiful solos and accompaniment. Founder, Herb Thomas on congas and percussion kept things percolating from the other side of the stage, acting as host, emcee and co- director while keeping the crowd engaged and involved. It is Herb’s infectious energy that drives this whole machine forward.
Of course, the voices of The Prayer Warriors themselves are a force of nature that sweep you up and carry you along like a whirlwind of joy. That is the only word to describe how it makes you feel when these ladies and gentlemen start to whip up the energy and raise up the Holy Spirit. Their version of “A Change is Gonna Come” is guaranteed to give even the most hardened heart hope. Their rendition of “Movin’ On Up”, the Jefferson’s Theme, will have you dancing and clapping in the aisle. I feel so fortunate to been brought to cross paths with these Brothers and Sisters and be enriched by what each of them brings to the table, and I’m extremely honored to have been welcomed into their midst with warmth and acceptance. It’s inspiring to watch experts at work, and these folks are the real deal – down to earth, while reaching for the sky, and working to build our community. The Prayer Warriors are just that.
I’d be willing to bet that Mother Lewis and Sister Stephanie were enjoying the show as well. It was a tribute that was fitting and well needed. I give my heartfelt thanks and congratulations to all involved in putting this program together. It was well thought out, planned and executed. And it was a GOOD TIME! I know Mother Lewis and Sister Stephanie would have approved. They, like so many others, have blazed a trail for each one of us to follow and have lit the way. It’s up to us to try and carry on the legacy they have left. They are now our angels standing by.
Carlos Jones - The Peace Love Unity Syndicate
, shot with HP Scanjet 4800