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Recap

#UPFRONT attends ESSENCE Festival + Radio Row + Premieres + More

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

It gives me great pleasure to share my amazing coverage of the 2017 ESSENCE Festival. My arts and entertainment radio magazine—UPFRONT—was there to capture all of the sights and sounds of this year’s festivities as part of Radio Row.  My four-day weekend began on Thursday (June 29) with a special meet & greet + reception with the cast of the indie film, “STEP.”

“STEP” is the true-life story of a girls’ high-school step dance team in Baltimore, whose teachers, counselors, coaches and families, help them achieve their dreams of going off to college. It also takes viewers into the personal lives of three of the dancers— Blessin Giraldo, Cori Grainger, Tayla Solomon—and their coach, Gari McIntyre.  The film has received rave reviews and was the winner of the Documentary Special Jury Award for Inspirational Filmmaking at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

On Friday (June 30) #UPFRONT began its three day stint on Radio Row. It is one of three areas that celebrity attendees can meet press and conduct interviews. I was truly blessed to have interviewed so many people including cast members from the hugely popular “Orange Is The New Black,” TNT’s new breakout series, “Claws,”  FOX’s “Empire and Star.” I also got a chance to chat with the cast of FX’s “Snowfall” and the new series “The Mayor” and “Ghosted.”

Music divas CeCe Winans, Anita Wilson and Chanté Moore stopped by the table to discuss their new projects. Winans album, Let Them Fall In Love has been killing the gospel charts and is her best work to date. Wilson talked about covering the classic jazz tune “Here’s To Life” for her new album and Moore dished about her album, Rise of the Pheonix and recording her first Christmas CD this fall.

#UPFRONT also chatted with actress and singer Lil Mama (who is going by her real name Niatia) as well as celebrity stylists Mushiya Tshikuka, Razor Chic of Atlanta and Melvin Styles. However, the highlight of Radio Row was talking to New Thought Leader, Life Coach and TV Personality—Iyanla Vanzant. She opened up about her last season + why she continues to participate in the ESSENCE Festival. She also talked about what she has learned personally from doing her award winning show, “Iyanla Fix My Life.”

“What I’ve learned personally is how powerful God is. As Black people were taught, ‘don’t tell your business in the street.’ (LOL) But when there’s a call on someone’s life to serve God, these people are showing up in amazing ways. I’ve also learned how difficult a healing journey can be. People don’t want to suffer. They don’t want to hurt. They don’t want to destroy themselves. But if they don’t have the tools and the information to heal, that’s what they do. I’ve also learned that I don’t have to be ‘on’ all the time. I’m human. I can have my time off…my days off and I don’t have to be who people expect me to be.”

In addition to Radio Row, #UPFRONT was able to attend and capture images from the night time concerts. This year’s ESSENCE Festival theme was all about female empowerment, sisterhood and “staying woke” and the entertainers who performed were true reflections of that. Friday’s show included Rhonda Ross, India.Arie, John Legend and the Queen of Motown—DIANA ROSS.

This was Miss Ross’ first time appearing at the Festival since its inception in 1995 and she didn’t disappoint. Other performances included Jazmine Sullivan, Jill Scott, Chaka Khan, Solange, Monica, Lalah Hathaway, Remy Ma, Xscape, Master P, Chance the Rapper and Mary J. Blige.

Other highlights throughout the weekend included the NOLA premieres of “Girls Trip” featuring Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith, Regina Hall and Tiffany Haddish. FX also screened its new drama, “Snowfall” which included appearances by the show’s cast + the creator and award winning director John Singleton. #UPFRONT also captured images of the casts from “Detroit,” OWN’s “Greenleaf” and “Queen Sugar” + Ava DuVernay and the “WOKE Women Awards.”

See all of the rest of the images below and click here to listen to the first of two radio shows featuring exclusive coverage of the ESSENCE Festival:

The Cast of “STEP”

Ray Cornelius on Radio Row

John Singleton and Damson Idris from FX’s “Snowfall”

Ray Cornelius with “Snowfall” actors Isaiah John + Malcolm M. Mays

“Claws” stars Niecy Nash + Karrueche Tran

+ showrunner Janine Sherman Barrois

“Claws” cast with Ray Cornelius + UPFRONT Talent Producer Jess Manning

ESSENCE talking to “Black Panther” actress Letitia Wright 

Ray Cornelius with FANDANGO Correspondent Chris Witherspoon

“She’s Gotta Have It” actress DeWanda Wise 

Ray Cornelius with “Empire” stars Ta’Rhonda Jones and Bryshere Y. Gray 

India.Arie

John Legend 

John Legend

John Legend 

DIANA ROSS

Ray Cornelius watching DIANA ROSS 

Ray Cornelius with the cast of “Detroit” – Jacob Latimore, Nathan Davis Jr., Algee Smith, Ephraim Sykes,  Joseph David-Jones

“The Haves and the Have Nots” Tyler Lepley,

Angela Robinson and Gavin Houston

Ava DuVernay during the “WOKE Women Awards” 

Jazmine Sullivan 

Tank + Angel Love + Angel Saunders

on the red carpet of the “Snowfall” NOLA Premiere

Remy Ma performing with her husband and rapper Papoose

Lalah Hathaway

Ray Cornelius with Iyanla Vanzant 

CeCe Winans talking about her new album, Let Them Fall In Love 

Ray Cornelius with CeCe Winans 

Ray Cornelius with Anita Wilson 

Ray Cornelius greeting “cousin” Chanté Moore

Ray Cornelius with Chanté Moore

Ray Cornelius interviewing Miss Lawrence of “STAR”

Ryan Destiny of “STAR”

Ray Cornelius with Miss Lawrence 

Issa Rae, Kofi Soriboe and Larenz Tate at “Girls Trip” NOLA Premiere

Queen Latifah and Jada Pinkett Smith at “Girls Trip” NOLA Premiere

Ray Cornelius with the cast of “The Mayor” – Brandon Michael Hall, Yvette Nicole Brown and show creator Jeremy Bronson

Ray Cornelius with Nicci Gilbert 

XSCAPE after their Super Lounge performance

Elle Varner

SHAGGY

Ray Cornelius with Craig Robinson of “Ghosted”

Ray Cornelius with Melvin Styles and Razor Chic of Atlanta 

Mushiya Tshikuka talking to #UPFRONT

Ava DuVernay with the cast of “Queen Sugar”

Ray Cornelius with “Snowfall” actor Damson Idris 

Chanté Moore with June’s Diary

Ray Cornelius with Common 

Ray Cornelius with Big Freedia 

Shirley Jones of The Jones Girls 

Ray Cornelius with “Insecure” actress Yvonne Orji

Ray Cornelius with Tamika D. Mallory

Ray Cornelius with the fabulous Candace Ledbetter

Ray Cornelius with “Snowfall” actors Isaiah John + Malcolm M. Mays

Common with cast of “Detroit” – Nathan Davis Jr.,

Jacob Latimore and Joseph David-Jones

THANK YOU ESSENCE FESTIVAL AND SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!

Photo Credits: RayCornelius and Mark Angel for RayCornelius.com

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RC Exclusive - Music

Broadway star Billy Porter drops new CD featuring Ledisi, India.Arie & more (VIDEO)

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Tony winning actor Billy Porter has put his spin on some classic Broadway tunes on the new album, Billy Porter Presents: The Soul of Richard Rogers.  It debuted yesterday (Friday, April 14) and has already reached the No. 2 spot on the iTunes R&B charts according to Playbill.com.

The 12-song project includes “new, soulful” takes on familiar show tunes featuring Porter and such artists as Tony and Grammy Award winner Cynthia Erivo, who sings on the sultry, My Funny Valentine.”  Ledisi with Zaire Park covers the Ella Fitzgerald favorite,”Bewitched” and India.Arie teams up with Porter on “Carefully Taught.” The album also features “Hamilton” star Leslie Odom Jr. on “My Romance” and YouTube sensation Todrick Hall with Porter on “I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair.”

The project also includes songs with Grammy nominated vocalist Deborah Cox (The Bodyguard: The Musical); Tony and Grammy Award winner Renée Elise Goldsberry (Hamilton & The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Tony Award-winner Patina Miller (Pippin), Grammy Award winners Pentatonix, Tony Award nominees Brandon Victor Dixon (Motown the Musical & Shuffle Along), Joshua Henry (Violet) and Christopher Jackson (Hamilton).

Check out the making of the album below which features Porter and friends:

Photo Credits: BillyPorter.com

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RC Exclusive - Music

Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, John Legend & Solange to play ESSENCE FEST

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The BOSS is coming to the BAYOU!

ESSENCE has announced today that legendary music and film icon Diana Ross is coming to the 2017 ESSENCE Festival for the very first time!  The Queen of Motown will headline the main stage along with “My Path to Strength” – a curated evening of performances by Mary J. Blige that will include Chaka Khan, Jazmine Sullivan and Erykah Badu.

Also gracing the stage is Atlanta’s Queen of Soul music India.Arie,  fashion icon and singer Solange, Grammy winning crooner John Legend and Nawlins native sons Master P. and Trombone Shorty.

Other performers include Sir The Baptist, Kelly Rowland’s girl group June’s Diary, Doug E. Fresh, The Jones Girls, Lalah Hathaway, Ro James, Teyana Taylor, Total, Tweet and more yet to be announced.

“This year’s Festival lineup puts women at the forefront of an incredible weekend of entertainment featuring more than 40 of the world’s most gifted artists and performers,” ESSENCE President Michelle Ebanks says. “It is an honor to welcome the inimitable Diana Ross to the Festival for the first time. Plus, Festival veteran Mary J. Blige is back to share ‘Strength of a Woman’ with her most passionate fans.”

Tickets go on sale Friday, December 16. Click here to purchase.

The ESSENCE Festival is June 29-July 2 in New Orleans, LA!

Photo Credit: ESSENCE.com

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RC Exclusive - Music

TAKE A LOOK ~ Anthony David ‘Beautiful Problem’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Check out the video for Atlanta’s own Anthony David titled “Beautiful Problem.” The singer-songwriter posted it on his social media pages Tuesday along with a black and white photo of him with Grammy winning-singer and friend, India.Arie.  “Beautiful Problem” comes from David’s current CD, The Powerful Now. Tell us what you think!

Photo Credit: Instagram/Anthony David

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RC Exclusive - Ent

India.Arie, Audra McDonald, Billy Porter and more to perform at ‘Broadway for Black Lives Matter’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

Some of Broadway’s biggest stars are coming together for one night of performances on August 1st at New York City’s Columbia University. “Broadway for Black Lives Matter ” is a concert and conversation that will include appearances by Tony winning-actress Audra McDonald, Grammy winning singer India.Arie, “Color Purple” star Danielle Brooks and Tony winning-actor Billy Porter.

Black Lives Matter for BroadwayThe evening was inspired by a Facebook post that “Shuffle Along” actress Amber Iman wrote on July 7 after the fatal police shootings of two African-American men—Alton Sterling and Philandro Castile.

“There’s Broadway for Thanksgiving, Broadway for Shark Week, Broadway for Trader Joe’s, Broadway for Ben & Jerry’s, Broadway for this Mosquito bump on my arm…….Broadway for Black Lives,” said Iman. “Who’s ready? How long will it take to organize? Cuz clearly there’s NO REASON this can’t happen….. ‪#‎LetsGo‬”

Since that post, Iman and six other Broadway actors—Aisha Jackson, Mykal Kilgore, Britton Smith, Douglas Lyons, Andrew Shade, Jacquelyn Bell—formed The Broadway for Black Lives Matter Collective. According to Playbill, the group is presenting the free event in collaboration with the Columbia Law School, The Oneness Project and Broadway Black, a digital platform that recognizes the achievements of Black theater stars. It also plans to stream the concert that day.

“ARE YOU READY?!?! My heart is FULL,” said Iman Friday night on her Facebook page. “From a simple Facebook post, the outpouring of love and support has been overwhelming. THANK YOU, THANK YOU to everyone who is working around the clock to birth this movement. ITS TIME!!!!!! POST, REPOST, SHARE, BRING A FRIEND. It’s time for ALL of us to come together as one, to have a conversation, to ask questions, and BE the CHANGE!!!!!! ‪#‎BWAY4BLM‬

CONGRATS!!

Photo Credits: Facebook/Amber Iman

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Recap

Radio DJ Jamal Ahmad receives Proclamation from City of Atlanta [PHOTOS]

Written by | Ray Cornelius 

Congratulations goes out to popular Atlanta radio personality, Jamal Ahmad (pronounced Ak-med). He received a proclamation from Atlanta City Council President, Ceasar Mitchell, Friday night during a surprise tribute and birthday celebration at the Museum Bar. Ahmad, who turns 39-years-old (again), was honored for his 21 years of service at Jazz 91.9 WCLK and for helping to elevate the city’s national profile as a mecca for R&B/Soul and Jazz vocalists and musicians.

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ATL City Council Pres. Ceasar Mitchell presenting proclamation to Jamal Ahmad

Ahmad’s former Friday night radio program, The Sounds of Universal Love (S.O.U.L) played an integral role in exposing Atlanta to numerous Black “underground” soul and jazz artists from the mid 90’s til the early 2000’s. Many of the singers that were birthed out of the “neo-soul” era like Maxwell, Floetry, Van Hunt, India.ArieIncognito, Jill ScottErykah Badu, D’AngeloOmar and Bilalwere first heard on Atlanta radio through his show and the late Ken Batie’s Hot Ice.

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Jamal Ahmad with singer-songwriter Algebra

His current weekly show, The Soul of Jazz, can be heard from 2p.m. until 7 p.m. on-air and online at WCLK.com. He is also a member of the music group, The Dangerfeel Newbies, whose popular R&B song, “Always with Me,” was prominently featured on the last season of BET’s Being Mary Jane.

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Justin C. Gilbert performing with Ken Ford

Last night’s celebration also served as a CD release party for noted keyboardist, Justin C. Gilbert, whose album “Aligned,” came out this week. Gilbert has worked with a number of musical heavy weights including Justin Timberlake, Jay Z, Alicia Keys, Eminem, and the “Queen of Soul,” Aretha Franklin.  He performed a few selections from the project which featured special guest appearances by electronic violinist, Ken Ford and vocalist, Latrese Bush.

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Trumpeter Joey Sommerville

Other notables that came out to celebrate Jamal Ahmad’s birthday and anniversary were trumpeter, Joey Sommerville and vocalists, Chantae Cann, Rhonda Thomas, Algebra and many more!

Check out more photos below:

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Vocalist Rhonda Thomas with DJ Rodney Love

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Jamal Ahmad interviewing Justin C. Gilbert

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Vocalist Latrese Bush performing with Justin C. Gilbert

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Jamal’s fiancée Wendi Dillard telling him with the real purpose of the celebration

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Jamal AhmadJoey Sommerville and ATL City Council Pres. Ceasar Mitchell

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Jamal being honored by Craig Garrett and Harold Watkins (WCLK Board)

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Jamal Ahmad with his mother, sisters and cousin

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Jamal Ahmad and his fiancée Wendi Dillard

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Jamal Ahmad with WCLK’s Mark Angel and Dangerfeel Newbie member

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Jamal Ahmad with artist Kemi Bennings

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Saxophonist Jon Parks performing with Joey Sommerville 

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WCLK’s Juanita Parks with vocalist Chantae Cann

Photo Credits: RayCornelius.com

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Recap

ESSENCE Festival announces 2015 All-Star Line-Up

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

ESSENCE has announced its headliners for this year 2015 ESSENCE Festival. Coming to the main stage are a variety of hip-hop and R&B titans including Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, India.Arie, Common, Trombone Shorty, Erykah Badu, Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick.
Taking over the Super Lounges are soul music and rap artists: Bilal, Leon Bridges, Tonya Boyd-Cannon, Raheem DeVaughn, Goapele, Kindred The Family Soul, Teedra Moses, Mali Music, Mystikal, Nico+Vinz, Kelly Price, Eric Roberson, Avery*Sunshine, Tank & The Bangas, Robert Glasper, Tweet, Esperanza Spalding, Kool Moe Dee, Andra Day, SZA, Jeff Bradshaw, and Dee 1.
Special guest speakers and panelists include Lynn Whitfield, Sybrina Fulton, Anita Wilson, Shaun T, Rev. Al Sharpton, Claudia Jordan, Cynthia Bailey, Kim Burrell, and The Walls Group.
This year’s Day Party Series features FunkMaster Flex, Spinderella, Biz Markie and DJ Drama.
Click here to see the full list and to purchase tickets!
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Recap

OWN presents Bill Duke’s Colorism Documentary ‘Light Girls’ (VIDEO)

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Oprah Winfrey’s Network (OWN) will air the world premiere of “Light Girls” on Monday, January 19 at 9 p.m. – 11 p.m. ET/PT.  The critically acclaimed documentary “Dark Girls” aired on the network last year, and award-winning filmmaker Bill Duke continues the conversation on colorism with “Light Girls,” sharing an in-depth study of the advantages and disadvantages of being a lighter-skinned woman as seen through the eyes of notable entertainers, educators and everyday people.

The film highlights and questions the notion that “light skin makes for an easier life” and provides a global analysis of skin color and its relationship with societal values. It boldly dives into topics such as bullying, skin bleaching and the trending social media separation, #teamlightskin versus #teamdarkskin.

The documentary features interviews with Russell Simmons, Soledad O’Brien, Diahann Carroll, India Arie, Iyanla Vanzant, Michaela Angela Davis, Essence Atkins, Kym Whitley, Salli Richardson-Whitfield, Raven-Symoné and more.

Check out the trailer below:

[youtube id=”_NXK-hJ0kq0″ width=”600″ height=”350″]

Photo Credit: Oprah.com

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Recap

Concert Review: My ‘Wonderful’ Evening with Stevie [PHOTOS]

Stevie Wonder performing at Philips Arena in Atlanta, GA/Photo Credit: Moses Robinson-Linx Images

Written by | Ray Cornelius

As much as I hate to admit this, last Saturday night was my very 1st Stevie Wonder concert. While I had the pleasure of meeting him in 2006 at the Trumpet Awards, I had never seen him perform live. Naturally, I jumped at the opportunity to see the Motown legend as this was indeed the concert to experience his musical genius. This tour is dubbed “Song in the Key of Life Live” and is a nod to his iconic 1976 Grammy-winning LP that is considered by many as one of the greatest albums ever made. Not to date myself but I was only one-years-old when the project was released but I can remember hearing a lot of the music in my household growing up since my dad was a night club singer and my mother an avid Wonder fan.

I arrived at Philips Arena around 7:30 p.m. and seemed to one of several thousand Atlantans trying to get a $10 burger and fry combo before taking my seat. I ran into a number of Atlanta notables like DJ Salah Ananse, Khari Simmons and NBAF Board Chair Sonya M. Halpern, who had detailed memories associated with this particular album. For Halpern, it was hard to pick just one song but did note that “As” and “Joy Inside My Tears” as favorites. Halpern’s starry eyed look and wide smile reminded me of the face I make when I think about my own favorite album, Thriller.  There were also countless others in the audience who had a “Stevie story…”—recounting where they were when they first heard “Sir Duke” or the lover in their life when “Knocks Me off My Feet” was a hit on the radio.

Stevie with India on stage

 Stevie Wonder was escorted on stage by his sons and India.Arie/Photo Credit: Moses Robinson-Linx Images

And then it happened! The lights in Philips Arena went out and the crowd erupted into cheers and thunderous hand claps. Almost like magic, Stevie Wonder appeared on stage in a sparkling burgundy suit escorted by his two young sons and Atlanta’s soul music queen, India.Arie. The talented vocalist and #1 fan of Wonder appeared like the sun in a radiant orange dress with yellow gele adorned with colorful butterflies. Arie was having a Diana Ross “moment” as she changed at least six times throughout the show, each dress and coordinating gele more spectacular than the one before.

Wonder started the show by greeting the audience with a faux Southern accent since he was in the “South.”  He reminisced about taking his first plane ride from Detroit to Atlanta and bragged about listening to Aretha Franklin on the way down. He also said that Atlanta represented many pleasant memories for him throughout his career. Arie then helped him to his seat and show formally began at 8:27 p.m.

From the first stroke of his keys, the audience was under his spell and the 60-something year old musician proved why his last name is Wonder. The show started with the album’s first song, “Love’s in Need of Love Today.” Arie, now in gown number two, joined him on vocals for “Have a Talk with God” followed by “Village Ghetto Land” and then “Contusion.” Fan favorites “Sir Duke” and “I Wish” brought the sold out crowd to their feet in one big sing along. At times, the 40 + crowd sounded louder than Wonder and his nearly 30-piece band. I noticed that acclaimed musician Lil’ John Roberts assisted on drums. He is best known for his time with another music icon, Janet Jackson. From there, Wonder segued into the romantic classic, “Knocks Me Off My Feet,” which had some of the audience members waving their cell phones from side to side as if they were holding a candle. Wonder’s voice, still in top form, harmonized perfectly with Earl Klugh’s melodic guitar.

AishaIt wasn’t until 9:15 p.m. that Wonder brought his signature harmonica and began to boogie with his band saying that “players love to jam.” From there he launched into “Pastime Paradise,” “Summer Soft,” featuring background vocalist Keith John, and “Ordinary Pain” which featured Arie in costume number three.

Wonder also took this time to address the controversial “gun problem” we have in the U.S. and asked the audience to stand if they agreed with him of which 90 % stood on their feet. “We have the power to end the problem,” said Wonder. “The government needs to make people accountable!”

After that Wonder returned to the music for “Saturn” and “Ebony Eyes” which he performed again with Arie, who by this time was in costume number four.

After a brief intermission, Arie emerged on stage again in an all-white number along with Wonder, who began talking about his next song, “Isn’t She Lovely.” The tune was written for his then unborn daughter, Aisha Morris (pictured above), who now travels with her dad as one of his beautiful background singers. He also joked about the bet his mother made with Berry Gordy that he would regain his sight by 2017. After singing “Isn’t She Lovely,” Wonder performed soul stirring versions of Joy “Inside My Tears” and “Black Man.”

By this time in the show, Wonder had brought out another Atlanta musician, Ryan Kilgore to assist on saxophone. He was later joined again by Arie for “Ngiculera” and an impromptu version of Michael Jackson’s “The Way You Make Me Feel.”

We were now near the end of the show and Wonder gave the audience some more backstory on the album including recognition of the late Dorothy Ashby, the original harpist on the song, “If Its Magic.” This was the only song of the evening where Wonder performed without his band.

From there, he was joined again by Klugh and Arie for the climactic songs, “As” and “Another Star” which also included guest appearances by Atlanta vocalists, Chantae Cann, Algebra Blessett, Janelle Monae and film director and friend, Spike Lee.

Oh but wait, there was more!

After singing for what appeared to be 2.5 hours, Wonder transformed into his alter ego, DJ Tick Tick Boom and performed snippets from other classic songs like “Do I Do,” “Master Blaster,” “For Once In My Life,” “Happy Birthday.” He teased the audience by saying, “If the price is right, I’ll play all night.” He finally ended the show with full versions of “My Cherie Amour” and “Superstition.”

After the show, I was able to join my good friends from UPtv, David Gardner and Chelsye Burrows, who had backstage access to meet Mr. Wonder. Because there were so many of us in the holding space, his PR team decided to break us up into groups of six for photos. Either way I was thrilled to see him up close again and had experience way more than I had anticipated. It was moments like this that can’t be explained in a text or captured on an Instagram post. You simply just had to be there and I thank God I was blessed to be in that ‘Wonderful” number!

Stevie addressing the audience

Stevie Wonder talking to backstage guests/Photo Credit: Wonder Productons, LLC

Spike Lee with Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder with filmmaker and friend Spike Lee/Photo Credit: Wonder Productions, LLC

India.Arie and Janelle Monae with Stevie Wonder

Stevie Wonder with India.Arie and Janelle Monae/Photo Credit: Wonder Productions, LLC

Group photo with Stevie Wonder

Here is my group shot with Stevie Wonder/Photo Credit: Wonder Productions, LLC

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Recap

BLUE CARPET PHOTOS from Steve Harvey’s ‘Neighborhood Awards’

Written by | Ray Cornelius

Comedic actor and award-winning talk show host Steve Harvey rolled out the ‘Blue’ Carpet last night for his annual Neighborhood Awards in Atlanta, GA. The event, also known as the “Hoodies,” took place at Philips Arena and honored local businesses, religious and neighborhood leaders, churches and high school for their contributions as well as excellence within their own neighborhoods.

Award categories included “Best Hair Salon,” “Best Car Wash,” “Best Church Choir,” “Best High School Coach,” and “Best Soul Food Restaurant.”

This year’s performances featured a number of Harvey’s celebrity friends including Robin Thicke, Keith Sweat, Johnny Gill, Chrisette Michele, India.Arie, Tamela Mann and Anthony Hamilton.  Celebritiy presenters included Tracee Ellis Ross, Kim Whitley, Roland Martin, Kandi Burruss, Sherri Shepherd, Shemar Moore, Earthquake, David and Tamela Mann, Yolanda Adams, Keke Palmer and more.

Check out some of the Blue Carpet looks below:

Todd and Kandi Tucker Shirley Strawberry

 Kandi & Todd Tucker/Shirley Strawberry & guest

Rickey Smiley and Nephew Tommy

 Rickey Smiley & Nephew Tommy

Sherri Shepherd Shemar Moore

 Sherri Shepherd & Shemar Moore

George Wallace

George Wallace

Roland Martin Sommore

 Roland Martin & Sommore

Hill Harper, Wendy Raquel Robinson and actor

 Hill Harper, Wendy Raquel Robinson & ‎Dorien Wilson

Tracee Ellis Ross2 Chrisette Michele

 Tracee Ellis Ross & Chrisette Michele

Claudia Jordan

 Claudia Jordan

Kim Whitley Holly Robinson-Peete

 Kim Whitley/Holly Robinson Peete & son

Stephen A. Smith RonReaco Lee

 Stephen A. Smith/RonReaco Lee & guest

Earthquake

Earthquake

Kirk Franklin Lavelle

 Kirk Franklin & wife/Lavell Crawford & guest

 Michael Jai White and LisaRaye McCoy Eddie Levert

Michael Jai White & LisaRaye McCoy/Eddie Levert

Yolanda Adams Candace

 Yolanda Adams & Patrice C. Washington

Donnie McClurkin and Erica Campbell David and Tamela Mann

 Donnie McClurkin & Erica Campbell/David & Tamela Mann

Photo Credit: Megan Alodie for RayCornelius.com

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Recap

BET + Arise TV Present ‘Stolen Innocence: Your Daughters are our Daughters’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius 

The sexual exploitation of children has become the third largest money generator for organized crimes, exceeding the sale of illegal firearms and drugs.

BET Networks in association with Arise TV will address this global issue in the BET News Special “STOLEN INNOCENCE: YOUR DAUGHTERS ARE OUR DAUGHTERS” premiering Friday, May 23 at 7PM ET/PT on BET and Saturday, May 24 at 10 PM ET/ 7 PM PT on CENTRIC. Moderated by Lola Ogunnaike and Marc Lamont Hill, the one-hour community town hall forum will focus on the recent kidnappings of nearly 300 Nigerian school girls, the global response to this crisis and the rising exploitation of children around the world.

Taped Saturday, May 17, 2014 in Atlanta at Turner Studios, the town hall special will expand the conversation past the current headlines of the Nigerian kidnappings and explore how the human trafficking crisis is affecting our communities on a global scale and its ties to many cities in the United States, including Atlanta. Panelists include Nicole Ari Parker (Actress and Activist), Tasha Smith (Actress and Activist), Ony Nwaohuocha (Attorney and Journalist), Emelia Orubele (President/CEO American Nigerian International Chamber of Commerce), Omoyele Sowore (Journalist), Temeka Weatherly (Director at Wellspring Living), Leah Albright-Byrd (Survivor and Founder of Bridget’s Dream).

Additional participants in the town hall include Dr. Bernice King (Minister) and India.Arie (Singer, Activist). Arise TV reporter Charles Aniagolu will be on the ground in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, to provide an update on the recent kidnappings.

Click here for more information. #OurDaughters.

Photo Credit: BET.com

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Rejoice

Taraji P. Henson to host BET’s ‘Celebration of Gospel’ + All-Star Line Up

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

BET has announced that Oscar-nominated actress Taraji P. Henson will host this year’s 14th Annual Celebration of Gospel.  The noted actress is replacing comedian Steve Harvey, who served as show’s host for for 13 years.

“I am thrilled to join the BET “Celebration of Gospel” family.  I look forward to a great evening of incredible music and continuing the rich history of BET and gospel music which started 14 years ago hosted by the talented and very funny Steve Harvey,”  said Henson.

This year’s show promises a cool mix of contemporary gospel artists with some of today’s hottest R&B singers including Idol  winner Ruben Studdard, Sunday Best  winner LeAndria Johnson, SWV, India.Arie, Rance Allen Group and Jonathan McReynolds.

There will also rousing performances from gospel music superstars like Donnie McClurkin, VaShawn Mitchell and Tye Tribbett along with R&B Divas’  Chanté Moore and Grammy winner Lalah Hathaway. Gospel music pioneer Richard Smallwood will be honored and along with tributes from Pastor Shirley Caesar and Dr. Bobby Jones.

Audience members will experience spirit-filled performances from Yolanda Adams, Erica Campbell, Hezekiah Walker, Tamela Mann, Tasha Cobbs, Detrick Haddon, J.J. Hairston, Sunday Best  Season 6 winner Tasha Page-Lockhart and current Idol winner Candice Glover.  Additionally, R&B music legend Charlie Wilson will share his testimony in a sanctified song titled “If I Believe” that’s sure to shift the atmosphere.

“Since its’ inception, ‘Celebration of Gospel’ has brought together the best voices from both the secular and gospel music worlds to give praise like only they can,” said President of Music Programming & Specials, Stephen Hill for BET Networks. “This year is no exception because at the end of the day, everyone’s roots are in gospel music.  A gathering of powerful singers like these on one show can only happen on BET.”

BET’s annual gospel music special, “Celebration of Gospel” tapes Saturday, March 15, 2014 at 7 p.m. at the Orpheum Theater in Los Angeles, CA, and will premiere on Sunday, April 6, 2014 at 8 p.m./EST.

Photo Source: imagesbees.com

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Recap

India.Arie says Kendrick Lamar was ‘robbed’ and pens a letter to the Grammys + VIDEO

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

R&B songbird India.Arie is not happy about Kendrick Lamar’s obvious shut out at this year’s Grammy Awards. The 26-year-old rapper was up for seven nominations including “Best Rap Performance,” “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap Album” but lost all three awards to hip-pop artists, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.  For Arie, the situation is just another example of the Grammy Committee shutting out Black artists and Black music.

“If the hip hop community voted on hip hop –  r&b COMMUNITY the same –  same for each category – we’d see winners that reflect the MUSIC ITSELF. We all know that’s just not the way it goes. NOW the BIGGER losers, are ALL of black music,” says Arie.  “Where was the black music community represented in last nights #Grammy show? Performers and Winners (or not) … Where were the black artists?”

The singer also called out the Grammy Committee’s obvious favoritism toward bigger named artists and claims the show is more about “high ratings” than music.

“Though it’s called “Music industries biggest night” the #Grammys are NOT about the music, it’s a popularity contest. The voting process allows people, to vote on name recognition alone – the music industry politics is a whole NUTHER conversation.  Too much to go into here,” says the 38-year-old singer.

Arie knows a little bit about being snubbed by the Grammy organization. In 2002, her first album, Acoustic Soul was up for seven nominations including “Album of the Year,” “Record of the Year” and “Song of the Year.” Like Lamar, she too walked away from the show with nothing and recalled that night in an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Super Soul Sunday.

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Click here to read India’s entire letter.

What are your thoughts about India.Arie’s letter to the Grammy Awards? Was she correct?

Photo Credit: iloveneosoul.com

Categories
Recap

FIRST LOOK at Nia Long in ‘Single Mom’s Club’

Posted by | Ray Cornelius

Lionsgate has release a new trailer for Tyler Perry’s upcoming romantic comedy titled, Single Mom’s Club  starring Nia Long.

As previously reported, the film is centers on a group of single mothers who are brought together by a crisis and their children’s school. The cast also features Wendi McLendon-Covey, Zulay Henao, William Levy, Terry Crews, Eddie Cibrian, Amy Smart, Cocoa Brown, and Ryan Eggold.

Of course the film includes Perry, who is also the writer, director and producer.

Check out the trailer below that includes India.Arie’s single, “Just Do You”:

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Single Mom’s Club  opens nationwide on May 14, 2014.

Photo Source: iwatchstuff.com