- Created on 25 February 2013
On the heels of being invited guests of First Lady Michelle Obama for the first inaugural concert dedicated to military families and the children of Sandy Hook to address violence, Walt Whitman and the Soul Children of Chicago choir are not slowing down.
“Go where you’re celebrated and not tolerated,” is Whitman's mantra.
They were indeed celebrated on several occasions in the nation's capital. On January 19 the choir shared the stage with R&B singer Usher, pop stars Katie Perry, Mindless Matter and the cast of Glee. The Soul Children’s performance was in collaboration with Black Violin for Whitman’s arrangement of “Come Together” by the Beatles.
“We had classical hip hop, rock and gospel combined on one show. We did a new song that Darren Criss wrote called “You Are Not Alone,” said Whitman. “We were the only gospel group on the presidential playlist. I couldn’t believe our song, “Higher Higher,” was played on Pennsylvania Avenue during the (inaugural) parade.”
Former members of the Soul Children work at the White House for the Obamas. Johnny Wright is a hair stylist to the first lady and Lavenia Lavelle serves as a makeup artist.
Recently, the Harris Theater in Chicago’s Millennium Park selected the choir for its Family Series concerts. The productions are designed to familiarize kids with the arts. The Soul Children performed as part of the Black History Month celebration.
“We were the first gospel group to sell out the theater,” said Whitman.
On April 7 the group will return to Harris Theater for the Ronald McDonald House Fundraiser.
“(This week) I leave for Barcelona, Spain to train a choir called the Cor Carlit Gospel, which is the oldest gospel choir there. I’ve been mentoring them and training them for the past three years and conducting a seven-day workshop,” said Whitma.
In June the Soul Children will host auditions. For more information visit www.soulchildrenchicago.org
“Remember you are Blessed by the Best!”
- Created on 22 February 2013
In 2007, the world wept along when they learned of Robin Roberts' cancer battle. They were devastated when the co-anchor of Good Morning America announced she had been diagnosed with a rare form of breast cancer, when she subsequently was diagnosed with MDS, and when she underwent a live-saving bone marrow transplant.
Years later, Robin has made a victorious return to Good Morning America. While the world marvels at her grace and indomitable spirit of optimism, African-American women proudly celebrate her sisterhood.
For many African-American women, when Roberts was diagnosed, breast cancer finally had a face....and it was as devastating as if a friend or family member had been diagnosed.
Two years earlier, in June 2005, after a 5-year stint as an ESPN sportscaster, Robin was promoted to co-anchor of GMA. Like a bright smile rapidly spreading across the face of the nation, Robin, along with co-host George Stephanopoulos, became a friendly, familiar, trusted face on the popular morning show.
Never was Robin's strength more apparent than when she vowed to beat it and return to her GMA chair. Quietly turning tragedy into inspiration, Robin allowed the world to watch as she bravely underwent surgery, before going on to complete chemotherapy, followed by radiation treatments.
Robin's gift to women all over the world was her teaching – by example – the importance of early diagnosis in improving your chances of surviving breast cancer.
- Created on 11 February 2013
VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI announced Monday he would resign Feb. 28, the first pontiff to do so in nearly 600 years. The decision sets the stage for a conclave to elect a new pope before the end of March.
The 85-year-old pope announced his decision in Latin during a meeting of Vatican cardinals Monday morning.
"After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths due to an advanced age are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry," he told the cardinals. "I am well aware that this ministry, due to its essential spiriual nature, must be carried out not only by words and deeds but no less with prayer and suffering.
However, in today's world, subject to so many rapid changes and shaken by questions of deep relevance for the life of faith, in order to govern the bark of St. Peter and proclaim the Gospel, both strength of mind and body are necessary — strengths which in the last few months, has deteriorated in me to the extent that I have had to recognize my incapacity to adequately the ministry entrusted to me."
The last pope to resign was Pope Gregory XII, who stepped down in 1415 in a deal to end the Great Western Schism among competing papal claimants.
Benedict called his choice "a decision of great importance for the life of the church."
The move sets the stage for the Vatican to hold a conclave to elect a new pope by mid-March, since the traditional mourning time that would follow the death of a pope doesn't have to be observed.
There are several papal contenders in the wings, but no obvious front-runner as was the case when Benedict was elected pontiff in 2005 after the death of Pope John Paul II.
- Created on 16 January 2013
(AP) — While the nation struggles to agree on how to curb gun violence, followers of a man gunned down nearly 45 years ago think his wisdom offers an answer.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. and the role he set for churches in leading a nonviolent response to civil injustice are as applicable today as they were in the 1960s, say his younger daughter and other followers.
Bernice King, chief executive of the King Center in Atlanta, recalls a sobering statement from her father: "The choice is no longer between violence and nonviolence, but nonviolence and nonexistence."
King's lessons take on new urgency after one of the worst mass shootings in U.S. history, when a gunman opened fire at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., last month, killing 20 children and 6 adults.
Some faith leaders and others say the Newtown shooting and others justify re-examining the principles King used decades ago to bring about social justice and seeing how they could curtail pervasive violence today.
As a Baptist minister, King derived many of his principles from Jesus Christ, particularly from his Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus discussed embodying peace.
Bernice King, who is also a minister, said clergy and faith leaders may not realize it, but they have a role in curbing violence from the pulpit.
"I think churches are very critical to this," King said. "I think we need to do a better job of developing people in the body of Christ to become instruments of peace."
She said the King Center is developing a curriculum that incorporates the principles of King for teaching to students from kindergarten through 12th grade. It also plans to make a curriculum for college students.
One principle taught by King is that to attack someone, or injure someone, amounts to self-injury.
"We have to change people's mindset ... their way of knowing how to address conflict and anger and things of that nature," Bernice King said. "We can't just confine it to gun control."
Pastor Richard W. Sibert believes teaching nonviolence at an early age affects future behavior. After the shootings in Connecticut, the community activist had a program at his Walnut Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, where young members tolled a bell and read the name of each child killed. He said he wanted the youth to understand the pain violence can cause.
"They have to realize they just can't strike out at people," said Sibert, adding that parents, or guardians, need to instill the same doctrine at home. "Violence is not the way."
Lewis Baldwin, a professor of religious studies at Vanderbilt University, said ministers also have a voice outside of the church that they don't fully use. For example, he said religious leaders haven't been vocal enough on the issue of gun control.
"We need to use our influence ... to influence Congress," he said. "Churches have been pretty much silent when it comes to challenging the NRA and challenging people in the halls of government to take serious stands against the easy accessibility of guns."
Tennessee Sen. Stacey Campfield is among a number of lawmakers across the country sponsoring legislation that would allow trained teachers with handgun permits to carry weapons in school.
The Knoxville Republican said he supports the idea of nonviolence, but believes people should be able to prevent themselves from becoming victims of violence.
"If someone is trying to defend their lives or the lives of innocent people, they should have the ability to defend those lives," Campfield said.
Robbie Morganfield, pastor of St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Laurel, Md., said faith leaders should broaden their focus beyond guns and create what he calls a "partnership initiative" with other entities to improve mental health care, as well as address violence in entertainment and video games. Such issues are currently being targeted in proposals by President Barack Obama.
"There's definitely a need for a renewed discussion about violence in our society," said Morganfield, who is also an adjunct instructor of communications. "I just think there needs to be a multi-pronged approach to it."
He added that faith leaders should also emulate the boldness King showed during the civil rights era.
"I think on some level, that was the genius of Martin Luther King. The courage and the audacity he had to challenge people at a time when it really wasn't popular to do it, and it wasn't safe to do it."
This past summer, Martin Luther King's principles of nonviolence were once again heard when a recorded interview with him from 1960 was discovered in a Chattanooga attic.
During part of the interview, King defines nonviolence and justifies its practice.
"I would ... say that it is a method which seeks to secure a moral end through moral means," he said. "And it grows out of the whole concept of love, because if one is truly nonviolent that person has a loving spirit, he refuses to inflict injury upon the opponent because he loves the opponent."
An excerpt of the audio released on the Internet went viral, evoking emotions from many who said they were moved by hearing King once again talk about nonviolence.
The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with King, said the civil rights icon's basic principles "remain just as strong today as ever."
"I can't think of anything better to try," Lowery said. "What we're doing now is not working. We've got more guns than we've ever had, and more ammunition to go with it. And yet, the situation worsens."
Others who heard the King recording were spurred to action. Magician David Copperfield purchased the recording and donated it to the National Civil Rights Museum, saying he wanted to promote King's message of nonviolence.
After the recent shootings in Connecticut, Copperfield said King's practice should lead the debate on curtailing violence.
"If we stop focusing on who to blame, or what to blame, we can instead use that energy to teach our children that when we find a wrong to make right, we can reach the result peacefully," he said.