The Philadelphia Tribune, the nation’s oldest and Philadelphia’s largest newspaper serving the African-American community, honored 10 people who have been named Philadelphia’s “Most Influential” African Americans, at a private reception for 400 guests on Thursday evening at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. The guest list included elected officials, education leaders, businesspersons, community activists and labor leaders.
“It is a significant opportunity for us, because we are the only people in this town to recognize men and women who make the contributions to this city, and frequently this nation, who go unrecognized,” said Tribune President and CEO Robert W. Bogle.
“And so we made a commitment to make sure we are included - all those who are entitled to equal access and opportunity, and those who make an impression and influence the decisions that make us a better community.”
In addition, Rev. Dr. Kevin R. Johnson, pastor of Bright Hope Baptist Church, and Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller, pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, received special recognition for their impact on the community at large. The Philadelphia Tribune also commemorated Cheyney University for its 175th anniversary.
“We have been doing this for more than 10 years,” said Tribune Magazine Editor Shonda McClain. “This is a great event for us to honor our own, and to celebrate their accomplishments. These are the people that people don’t always know about - the people in the trenches – that are doing the hard work everyday, and this our way of saying, thank you, and honoring those people for the work that they do and the contributions that they make to our community.”
On Sunday Sept. 16, the Tribune will publish a special edition of Tribune Magazine, featuring its annual list of 10 People Under 40 to Watch, African-American Leaders, and Movers & Shakers of the Delaware Valley, who demonstrate leadership beyond their positions.
Joy Linn, 46, a Rittenhouse Square resident, is a single Black female and a member of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church where the Rev. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor. Linn, a motivational speaker and author, is full of optimism and positive energy.
A gifted writer, Linn has a passion for prose.
“My first book was (entitled) ‘Growing Into Your Purpose, Becoming the New You!’ Basically, that book really dealt with the fact that purpose is not exclusive, it’s really waiting to be acknowledged,” she said.
Linn’s philosophy can be thought provoking.
“From the time we are children, we really know what we want to be, but somehow life beats it out of us,” she said.
Earlier this year, Linn issued a 14 Day Positive Attitude Challenge to her family, friends, and virtual friends on her social network sites. This motivational challenge required the throngs of participants to intentionally embrace a specific-daily positive attitude trait (i.e., peace, courage, maturity, humility, motivation, etc.).
Linn said, “It was a refreshing journey,” and reassures that the experience is still reminding her, “how I can live with Godly intent.”
Linn invites others to take the challenge.
“While journaling some things about myself, I realized that through the process of prayer and self-assessment and reflection, they were keys to me understanding myself better,” she said. “As I began to share [my journaling experience] with other people, they seem to find it valuable as well.” After about a year and a half of journaling, it was then that she had the epiphany, “Maybe my journal should become a book.”
Her next book is entitled, “The Purpose Experiment, Six Simple Steps to Jump-Start Your Purpose.”
She said the book is about, “understanding where you been, where you are, and where you’re headed. So that you can authentically know your calling in life.”
Her second book is scheduled for a late September release date, followed by a book tour to promote it.
“I’m really trying to dare people to live a great life,” she said. “I think that the essence of being in the mission of God is adventurous, and it’s exciting. It really pushes you to live a life that’s amazing.”
Linn, an adjunct professor at Eastern University, conducts workshops and motivational speeches for corporations, non-profit agencies, and universities, but her preferred target audiences are church congregations.
For information about Linn’s blog, 14 Day Challenge, upcoming book, seminars, or speaking engagements, contact her at: www.joylinn.com.
Enon pastor sends letter criticizing Pedro Ramos
School district officials have expressed a willingness to work with Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church senior pastor Rev. Alyn E. Waller in response to a letter from the pastor which blasts School Reform Commission Chairman Pedro Ramos.
The letter references Waller’s characterization of Ramos as “arrogant” and that he “cannot be trusted.”
“After the turmoil and controversy that surrounded the previous SRC and the School District of Philadelphia’s leaders, several community leaders, including myself, determined that we should be more helpful to you as you worked to get the schools back on track,” read a portion of Waller’s letter. “In very short order, however, many of the same concerns and complaints began to surface. Giving you the benefit of the doubt instead of joining in with the cries of discontent, we assumed the posture of communication leaders. Perhaps you were not hearing/understanding what was being said. To that end, the Enon Town Hall Meeting was set up and crucial questions needing responses from you were developed and very specific questions would begin an honest dialogue and the development of trust that has long since eroded between you and the community.”
Waller was referencing a recent meeting in which SRC members appeared flustered by the probing questions from the community members in attendance.
“I believe Pedro Ramos to be a good man, and I’m engaged in the critique of the process and product, not of him personally,” Waller said, when contacted by The Tribune Friday evening, June 8.
“We know that we have to right size. We recognize that at some point, some schools are going to have to close — demographics have changed in Philadelphia. We recognize public education will not look like public education that many of us in our 40 and 50s grew up with, and so all of that is clear.”
“Reorganization is a necessary part of the health of any institution, and we just want to make sure that this process has been informed by as wide an investment in the community and we don’t think that the best efforts have yet come out in terms of community engagement and trust,” Waller added.
It’s no secret that the SRC is reeling from intense community pressure. It has authored a series of unpopular cuts to staff and school resources, while also making a series of public relations blunders in regard to school closings and the scuttling of several programs.
“I listen to the consequences of your behavior daily as members of my congregation and our community laments the failure of public education and the negative impact on the future of our children. We hear the helplessness in the voices of parents and others who worry about the viability of the city, as the less than well-educated populous tries to make Philadelphia stronger but are ill-equipped to champion necessary change,” Waller’s letter concluded.
“Yes, we can see the consequences of your lack of effective action and stand together to let you know our resolve. We will challenge your lack of effectiveness and marshaling the citizens of this city in ways you have never seen, as we protect and defend our children’s right to a good public education.”
In an emailed response sent by school district spokesperson Evelyn Sample-Oates, officials indicated that they intend to work cooperatively with Waller.
“Chairman Ramos and other officials at the School District of Philadelphia have received the letter and intend to work closely with Reverend Waller and members of the Education Committee from Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church to help the public school students of Philadelphia,” the email stated.
“Our number one goal is to make sure that our children have safe and high achieving schools. The School District of Philadelphia will engage the entire community to transform our schools, realizing that this is a matter that involves the whole city of Philadelphia. We appreciate the feedback from Reverend Waller and look forward to working closely with him and his team.”
Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church celebrated its youth during their most recent service in honor of their recent accomplishment.
The Enon Eagles, the church’s 135-pound Junior Midget Division 2 team, defeated the Bridgewater-Raritan Panthers, 22-16, last Friday for the chance to play in the Pop Warner Super Bowl in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., in December.
The team and its cheerleaders are going to Disney World to try and win it all, but the Enon congregation wanted to recognize their efforts thus far.
“I’m really excited for the kids and for the whole program. This is our seventh year and to produce an Eastern Region Champion in seven years, that says a lot about the program,” the Rev. Alyn E. Waller said, senior pastor of Enon.
“That says a lot about the program, the coaches, the staff, the parents, the kids and so we’re very, very excited — and so because this is a ministry, it’s not just about the church. It’s about the whole community.”
Waller brainstormed the idea of the Enon Eagles with Redell Crabbe who serves as the church’s athletic director. They wanted an initiative that rewarded good behavior, good grades and an outlet that would support them spiritually, intellectually and physically.
“I believe fundamentally that sports, done right, teaches children and people how to live in the world. It is inherently humanizing and … in the name of Jesus connects people to the ultimate reality which is God,” Waller said.
“We say that we’re unapologetically youth oriented. There’s a war in the streets for our kids. And we’ve got to do what we have to do, and this is our approach. It may not be everybody’s approach, but this is our approach and we believe it’s working.”
Crabbe was just as pleased about the strides that the Enon Eagles have made in just seven years, which has included other championships under the leadership of coach Ray Wright.
“Number one, it’s a tremendous blessing. It’s a testament to the volunteers that work really hard. We always adopted a philosophy where we wanted to grow but not swell … not be able to control or manage what we needed to,” Crabbe said.
“Coach Ray is a tremendous friend and a wonderful guy, loves football — is passionate about football and has worked really hard.”
Crabbe also spoke highly of the commitment that the kids have put into the team.
“As much as the coaches like to think that they’re the reason why the kids are there, the kids are gifted in themselves,” he said.
Wright echoed the sentiments as the proud coach. He said he felt like a proud father as the kids have grown and developed over the years.
“The sky’s the limit for these kids because they don’t give up,” Wright said.
“They are well behaved and they are champions no matter what happens from this point on.”
Wright credited running back D’Andre Swift for helping the Enon Eagles advance.
“He’s special. All these kids are special, but he’s been with us for about 6 years,” Wright said.
“He literally just put the team on his back.”
Swift, 12 years old, was happy to be a part of his team’s success.
“I think I did well because when I started, I was kind of small. I was really small. I wasn’t that good. My coach had to teach me how to be better. I got better as I kept playing,” Swift said.
Swift started playing on the team when he was seven and had high hopes over the upcoming Super Bowl playoff.
“It feels good because we’ve never made it this far,” Swift said.
“I hope we win down there.”
The Enon Eagle cheerleaders will be there for their team as they have been all season.
“They’ve been great. They’ve been with us through the whole step of the way. People don’t think cheerleaders are important but they are,” Wright said.
“They cheer us. We hear them and no matter what the score is, no matter how the game is going, they’re still cheering for us to keep us going and uplifted.”
Monet Bunch, 12 years old, is a cheerleader, and shared her excitement over the trip to Disney.
“We all have a lot of spirit,” Bunch said.
“And even though sometimes we might have our little moments and everything, we still get back on track. We still have fun.”
The Pop Warner Super Bowl National Tournament will be from December 3 to 11.
The African American Museum in Philadelphia’s 36th Anniversary Heritage Gala was held on Thursday, March 1 at the Marriott Hotel-Center City to honor Artistic Director Judith Jamison of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Philadanco founder Joan Myers Brown, state Sen. Vincent Hughes and his wife activist/actress/author Sheryl Lee Ralph.
The evening began with a silent auction reception featuring music from “A New Perspective,” a Delaware Valley-based youth jazz ensemble. Other entertainment included dance performances from Rennie Harris Puremovement and Philadanco. The program highlighted the museum’s theme, “Breakthrough Black Culture,” for an audience of 600 guests.
Philadelphia Representative Melanie Johnson spoke in lieu of Mayor Michael Nutter, who indicated in a prior statement: “This evening you will celebrate the theme ‘Breakthrough Black Culture’ which reflects the challenges and triumphs African Americans have experienced in American history. It also showcases the Museum’s history of presenting educational and cultural experiences for the hundreds of thousands of visitors that have attended the Museum over three and a half decades.”
Upon accepting the 2012 Community Service Award, Sen. Hughes and his spouse underscored the importance of HUV/AIDS Awareness, with Ralph providing a heartfelt song upon acceptance of their award. In introducing the honoree video presentation, it was announced that Jamison, 68, was ill and would not be in attendance. NBC10’s Lori Wilson conducted a warm conversation with Brown while the attendees dined on beef, chicken, mashed sweet potatoes and asparagus.
The selections of Judith Jamison and Joan Myers Brown as honorees made the 2012 Gala particularly meaningful for Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown, a former professional dancer who has deep admiration for both of these talented women. “Judith Jamison opened the doors for many African-American dancers to not just be employed, but to become the industry standard bearers for excellence,” said Reynolds Brown. “She turned the eyes of the world to her studio, and shined a laser beam on her dancers and their work. Joan Myers Brown has been Philadelphia’s cultural ambassador for over 40 years. As a former dancer in her company, Joan and Philadanco allowed me to travel the world to promote Philadelphia and the art of dance — an experience I will never forget. I am indebted to Joan Myers Brown, affectionately called ‘Aunt Joan.’”
Although it isn’t the full alternative plan to School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Dr. William Hite Jr.’s “Action Plan v 1.0” — that will come later — longtime Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church Senior Pastor, the Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller, is set to present the church’s Summary Report on the school closure plan to City Council’s Education Committee on Tuesday.
Titled “Voices From the Inside: Heart, Soul and Mind,” and crafted by church’s nine-member education committee, the summary breaks down the process so far, along with outlining five broad recommendations.
Those recommendations include publishing the capital improvement recommendations and all related data on every effected school; excluding high schools from the original list of closures recommended in the Facilities Master Plan; considering alternatives proposed during community meetings; implementing an inclusive, community-driven engagement scheme and finally, modifying and reforming what factors will be considered when deciding to close a school.
“We have a report coming out that raises very serious concerns about the process, and the outcomes from that process, that has been used to start what is called ‘right-sizing,’ but is in fact school closings, reported as 37 school closings — but really impacting 67 schools,” Waller said during Monday’s editorial board meeting at The Tribune. “And this is just the beginning a process of school closings, but it is a process that has been disingenuous. The reason I am in it is because, for the last 19 years as pastor of Enon Tabernacle, we’ve been involved in public education.”
Although Waller said he doesn’t have an acrimonious relationship with the district and the School Reform Commission. He did say that at a previous meeting which the superintendent attended, Hite had endorsed several aspects of the plan, which will be unveiled after the SRC completes its session of six community meetings and three SRC hearings on the matter.
While complimentary of Hite — and noting that Hite walked into a virtually untenable situation, and that the financial morass the district is trying to work its way out of existed long before his arrival — Waller said there is no denying a racial component in the manner in which the schools were selected.
“The way they have gone about making the choices shows a racial disparity. In the [forthcoming report], we will show that there is underutilization in the Northeast that was not addressed at the same rate, and a preponderance of underutilization in the North and Northwest, but seemingly, that’s where all the impact happens,” Waller said. “We show in the report that, by using the school district data, that something should have happened in the Northeast that did not. So, that racial implication — for those of us who have been in Philadelphia — it’s fair to raise questions around that.”
According to Waller, the district used low attendance as one of the main factors in determining which schools to close, but that a proper right-sizing of the district would require the district to look at overpopulated schools as well. The summary report lists 13 over-capacity schools that were not included in Action Plan v.1.0. For his part, neither Hite nor the SRC ever mentioned overcrowding as one of the factors to shut down a school.
For Waller, race and overcrowding are but two components, and there’s also the very real issue of safety and students — some as young as first-graders — being forced to cross turf, neighborhood and gang borders to attend school.
“Safety is a critical issue,” he said. “One of the challenges of that area, of shutting down Germantown High School and adjusting some of the elementary schools, or that a child will have to walk through [neighborhoods like] Brickhouse, Dogtown, Haines Street, Pulaskitown. Those things were not considered in the district’s plan, because quite frankly, they do not know that culture. So, safety needs to be considered. Then there’s the amount of traffic guards, school guards, crossing guards, safe corridors and the needless crossing of Broad Street by an elementary school student.
“We are arguing that, because not all of the [concerns] were considered, the district needs to take a little bit more time, and give Dr. Hite the room and resources to do his job. I believe Hite has been brought and is hamstrung. Now we put his face on the [Facilities Master Plan], but those of us who has been invested in the education conversation know that this plan looks like and smells like things we’ve heard way before Hite got here.”
Local pastor was recently featured at the Dell Music Center
The Dell Music Center Summer Concert Series recently held an extravaganza featuring The Clark Sisters, Vicki Yohe, E. Daniels and the Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller Sr., pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.
A familiar face — and voice — in the community, Waller is gaining quite a reputation as a singer.
In 2005, he released a CD titled "With His Permission," and recently performed at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside.
Waller is not only excited about singing for members of his massive congregation who are certain to come out that evening, he is also looking forward to the fellowship of gospel enthusiasts throughout the city.
What can a concert attendee expect to see from Waller in such a setting?
"They'll hear me sing the stuff they hear me sing in church [and] some things that I have written, so it will be more of a 'greatest hits' type thing," he said. "I am excited because it gives me an opportunity to do ministry in a different way, because the impetus for me is not as much about the performance as it is about the opportunity to minister, and hopefully to minister to some people who don't normally come to church.”
Given the tradition of singing pastors such as James Cleveland, Rance Allen and Fred Hammond, who have forged noteworthy careers in gospel music, one might wonder if the engaging and inspiring Waller, who earned a Bachelor's Degree in Music Business (B.G.S) from Ohio University, has similar aspirations.
He immediately put all such speculation to rest.
“I'm living what I want to do, and this is one of the things that the church knows, so we get very excited when I get a chance to do this,” he said. “The Lord has made it very clear to me that I am not to pursue being an artist, so I am not trying to do anything. I'm living my dream. This is all gravy.
"My goal is to be the pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, and serve the Northwest community of Philadelphia," he added. "I am absolutely living my dream, and doing what the Lord has called me to do. When I get the opportunity to do music like this, it's the gravy on the meat, it's the icing on the cake, and I receive it as a gift from God to be used. I'm not trying to do my next CD, I'm not trying to sell a CD. I have one out that came out in 2005, and that's it. I'm not approaching this as a step to anywhere. It's fun. It is hopefully a blessing to people and when it's over, it's over.
"I love it, and I'm free to love it, because it doesn't have to pay a bill, it doesn't have to get me to the next place,” Waller said. “If it happens again, it'll be wonderful. If it doesn't, I will not mourn because it's over, I will smile because it happened."
Maureen Fleagle finds solace in the knowledge that her son has given someone else a second chance at life.
Her son, Brian James Fleagle, was only 17 when he died due to a drug addiction on Dec. 11, 2002. Fleagle describes him as being “a great kid” who was athletic, had a great sense of humor and loved family activities.
When Fleagle and her husband were approached about donating Brian’s organs after he was declared brain dead, they didn’t hesitate.
“My husband and I stood there and without even looking at each other, said ‘yes.’ If his death could free someone else to live a longer life, yes we will,” she said.
Brian’s heart, kidneys and liver were harvested and given to those waiting for organs. A few weeks later, the Fleagles received a letter from the Gift of Life Donor Program informing them about the recipients of Brian’s organs. Fleagle kept feeling the urge to contact the recipient of Brian’s heart — a 47-year-old man named B.J. who hailed from Scranton.
“I just wanted to tell him everything about Brian — what his favorite foods were and what kind of sports he was involved in, what kind of things he liked in school and what his family was like,” she said.
Fleagle wrote a letter to B.J., and six months later she received a response from him, his mother and his girlfriend. When the Fleagles met their son’s heart recipient for the first time, it was a very moving experience.
“It was the most incredible experience that I could ever explain — to be able to be in the room with a man whose life has meaning. He’s going on with his life, and it’s because of my son’s heart,” says Flegale.
These days, the Fleagles and B.J. correspond frequently and visit each other twice a year.
“It has been a very healing, humbling experience for me to be able to be a part of this whole process,” Fleagle said.
She shared her story during an educational session hosted by the University of Pennsylvania and the Gift of Life Donor Program. During the “Power of Giving: Organ and Tissue Donation” learning session, ministry leaders were briefed on the organ donation process and encouraged to spread the message about the need for donors to their congregations.
The move to get the faith-based community involved comes at a time when there is a growing need for more organ donors — particularly from the minority community.
According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, more than 112,000 people are on the waiting list for an organ transplant. Approximately 19 people die every day while waiting for a life-saving organ. More than 6,500 people are waiting for organs in Pennsylvania.
During the session, Amy Craig Martiner, Gift of Life Hospital Services Coordinator, gave an overview of how the organ donation process works. As the region’s organ procurement organization, Gift of Life works with 130 hospitals in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware to make organ donation an option for families.
The process starts when Gift of Life is contacted by the hospital about a patient with a poor prognosis who could be a potential donor. Gift of Life personnel are charged with approaching the families of potential donors to obtain their consent.
Martiner said there are two main types of organ donors — those who have been declared brain dead and people who have died from cardiac death.
She noted that HIV and cancer are the only health conditions that could exempt someone from being a potential organ donor.
Martiner said people have many wrong ideas about organ donation - such as concerns that medical personnel won’t save their lives because they are registered organ donors; the process goes against religious beliefs, or the donor’s body would be disfigured.
Vanessa Duvert, Gift of Life multicultural outreach coordinator, spoke about the need for people from the minority communities to become organ donors. She addressed the link between the high rates of diabetes and kidney disease in the African-American community and the high percentage of Blacks on the waiting list for a kidney. Duvert noted that African Americans represent 44 percent of those who are waiting for a kidney in the Pennsylvania region.
“There is higher rate of success when someone from the multicultural community receives an organ from someone in that community, this is because there are genetic similarities that will make it an easier process for a person’s body to accept that foreign object coming into it,” said Duvert.
“In simpler terms, an African-American organ is going to be a better match for an African-American patient.”
Heart transplant recipient Janet Dennis shared the impact that having a new organ has made on her life. Six years ago, Dennis underwent a transplant after a virus caused heart failure
After receiving the heart transplant and undergoing rehab, Dennis turned to swimming for her physical exercise. This would eventually lead her to become a competitor in the U.S. Transplant Games, Olympic-style competitions for people who have undergone organ transplants. She’s amazed at becoming an athlete in her 50s. She’s netted a number of medals for dragon boat racing, swimming and javelin throwing.
Dennis, 56, has given the medals that she won from the Transplant Games to her donor family.
“Giving my medals to my donor family is so small in comparison to what they have given me. My gold medal is sitting inside of my chest,” says Dennis.
Dennis, who is a social worker, leads a very active lifestyle, which includes volunteering with the Gift of Life, being a spokesperson for Women’s Heart and participating on a local dragon boat racing team.
“I am having the time of my life, and I owe it all to Jesus Christ and my donor family,” she says.
Rev. Alyn E. Waller, senior pastor, Enon Baptist Tabernacle Baptist Church, told the clergy leaders that they are in the position to encourage others to become donors.
“As a pastor, I believe that we have the greatest opportunity to address the issues of stigma and mythology as it relates to this issue of organ donation, but I think it comes from us creating some things — a good conversation about being healthy communities of giving overall,” said Waller.
“So that giving an organ is just another side of giving, because you also give money, because you also give time, because you also give talent.”
The Gift of Life encourages faith-based leaders to tap into its “It’s About Life” grant program. Through the program, grants are awarded in amounts of up to $2,000 to local, tax-exempt, nonprofit organizations and houses of worship that are committed to developing educational programs designed to increase education and donor designations of organ and tissue donation.
Faith-based institutions can plan events such as donor registration drives, donor education workshops, health fairs or organize a candle lighting ceremony to honor donors, donor families and recipients.
People can sign up to become registered organ donors when receiving or renewing their driver’s license at Pennsylvania driver’s license and photo centers.
During this season of goodwill, a local church has blessed others with a sizable donation.
Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church donated $66,000 to pay off layaways at the Burlington Coat Factory located in Cheltenham Mall.
The donation benefits some 800 Burlington customers who had items on layaway.
“We did it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s the love of Jesus Christ, and it’s the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and number two, we hope that people who are blessed by this will then use what they didn’t have to spend on themselves to be a blessing to someone else, and pay it forward,” said Rev Alyn E. Waller, Enon’s senior pastor.
“We just want to model what a church can do for its near community when we pool our resources and when we work together — and we think that is an answer for these times.”
Waller was spurred to encourage Enon to make the donation after recently viewing a Secret Santa story on 20/20.
“I’m just grateful that we could be a blessing. That’s what the church exists for. We preach Christ, and I believe in him fully — but we’re also here to give a tangible expression of that. When times are financially hard that expression needs to look financial,” Waller added.
Enon’s donation comes at a time when Secret Santas are paying off layaways at various retailers around the nation during this holiday season.
Burlington has been calling customers to inform them that they can come pick up their layaway items.
“It’s an extraordinary act of generosity. It was a remarkable act of Christmas spirit,” said Neil Penz, regional vice president of Burlington Coat Factory.
“We’re very grateful. Many of our customers had gifts on layaway and they were overjoyed to know that they could get them in time for Christmas. It’s really the perfect timing. It takes the stress out of their lives.”
In response, Burlington is donating 1,000 coats to Enon to be distributed to those in need.
When the multi Grammy Award winning gospel group, The Clark Sisters, performed at the Dell Entertainment Center on Aug. 2, The Tribune went backstage for an exclusive interview with Karen Clark-Sheard, the youngest sibling of the group.
“Philly is like our second home, we’re always excited about coming here, because Philly give us so much love,” said Clark-Sheard.
Clark-Sheard said when she and her sisters take the stage, the fans in Philly, “Ignite the fire and give us so much support and love. Most of all we’re here to see a life changing experience take place through what God has given us,” [the ability to exalt Jesus through the gift of singing.]
The Clark Sisters include Jacky Clark Chisholm, Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark-Terrell, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Clark Sheard. The four women are the daughters of the late great gospel musician and choral director Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark. Moss-Clark, twice divorced, raised her children in their hometown of Detroit. Moss-Clark is credited for creating the three-part harmony performance — the separation of vocal parts into soprano, alto and tenor — a technique that has become quite chic among many gospel choirs and groups today.
“It’s just very, very exciting to be here. I don’t know if I’m more excited about having the opportunity to minister, or if I’m going to run into [The Clark Sisters] back here,” said Rev. Alyn Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, one of the local headlining gospel performers for the Philly concert.
The Clark Sisters are famous for their unique vocals, incorporating a sophisticated soulful blend of harmonies and riffs, each contributing a distinctive harmonious sound. Twinkie is commonly considered the leader of the Clark Sisters. She has served as the group’s chief songwriter, music and vocal arranger, and producer.
One of the many gospel music artists that Clark-Sheard admits that she listens to is Maurette Brown, a New York native and singer of the gospel hit “It Ain’t Over.”
“Maurette is so anointed,” said Clark-Sheard. “Actually, I’ve been following Maurette Brown before she became really big. She’s an anointed writer, so, I give her much respect.”
Among the many artists she enjoys listening to, Clark-Sheard loves Mary Mary, Donald Lawrence, and her cousin James Moss (aka, J. Moss), a famous gospel singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, and producer.
“My cousin J. Moss, he’s exciting,” she said. “He’s my blood. We know each other and so we come together and gel together. He writes and produces my records — it’s like a ball of excitement.”
Clark-Sheard is the mother of two extremely talented children, Kierra “Kikki” Sheard (25), who is also a famous gospel artist, and John Drew Sheard II (23), a young musician and music producer. Kiki has four albums. Clark-Sheard is married to Bishop John Drew Sheard of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, in Detroit.
In 2001, Clark-Sheard had a near death experience resulting from a blood vessel that burst during her hernia surgery; she fell into a coma that lasted for several weeks. Her doctors only gave her a 2 percent chance of survival. This tribulation gave birth to her hit album “Second Chance.”
Conquering the music world with multiple Grammys, as a solo artist and as a member of The Clark Sisters, Clark-Sheard said that more is in store for the expansion of her artistic expression, “God, He is just an amazing God … maybe you’ll see me in movies,” she said.
Clark-Sheard added that she would use that for ministry. A film crew was taping Clark-Sheard behind stage for a possible TV pilot.
Clark-Sheard confirmed a Hollywood rumor that a bio-pic about Aretha Franklin’s life is being planned.
“Well, it’s in the making, I don’t think I’ll be playing her role, but I was asked by Aretha to be a part of a role she played in a gospel group before she went secular,” she said.
Franklin, who also lives in Detroit, and the Clark Sisters are close. The sisters are annually invited to perform at Franklin’s father’s church for a Christmas holiday fellowship.