How Sweet the Sound Gospel Festival: Gospel Gives Back

by

Christopher A. Daniel

Verizon’s How Sweet The Sound (HSTS) Gospel Celebration made its second stop in Atlanta on Monday, September 10. (Erin Kyle)

Genesis 4:9 states, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” So is that true among contemporary gospel acts? Simply put – the answer is yes.

During the Mon., Sept. 10 stop – the second of eight cities – in Atlanta for Verizon’s How Sweet The Sound (HSTS) Gospel Celebration at Philips Arena, a few best-selling, award-winning recording artists – hosts Donald Lawrence and Yolanda Adams along with judges Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Erica Campbell of Mary Mary, Fred Hammond and CeCe Winans – placed heavy emphasis on their individual humanitarian efforts, philanthropic initiatives and community outreach programs. “Most of us on this panel have our own ministries and have our own conferences,” Adams said. “We’re all doing our part to our individual areas, and then we have a chance to come together. We all support one another’s ministries. It’s being done.”

Considering the current generation of black performers and musicians across all genres are often perceived and subjected to scrutiny for their supposed lack of social responsibility, these artists believe their influence should be used to enlighten, inspire, empower, raise morale and enhance all humanity. Adams, who hosts a nationally syndicated faith-based radio show, has ventured into her own line of turkey burgers. The dietary initiative, Adams says, began as an alternative to her developing food allergies. It was through her own research she found that 40 percent of kids are allergic to something. The singer also participated in a health and wellness tour encouraging people to check their heart rate and blood pressure. “I just want to service them,” she said. “Not just with high quality food but nutritious food; they’ll develop and love good food for the rest of their lives. It’s so important when you get a certain age, you can’t do some of the things you used to do or eat some of the things you used to eat.”

Children are a major concern among the gospel community. CeCe Winans’ Always Sisters Forever Brothers, an annual youth conference in Nashville under the singer’s Sharing the Vision Foundation, integrates faith-based motivational speaking and workshops with live entertainment. This program has been in existence since 2005. Along those parallel lines, Mary Mary has a mentorship program with the purpose of being role models for young women. Hammond, the forerunner and architect behind the spiritual subgenre “Urban Praise and Worship” who in fact started his musical career as a bassist for The Winans, hosts jam sessions for young musicians with his support group, Warehouse Worship. Bishop Walker, affiliated with HSTS since its infancy — provides spiritual nurturing and mentoring to various pastors and their temples with his Covenant Keepers International Fellowship.

Lawrence – also a main fixture and spokesperson for HSTS since its 2007 origins who Adams states is always doing something connected to the church — spent three years as a music business professor at Chicago’s Columbia College. He had to sacrifice his faculty position due to his intense travel schedule. “When we get to speak to the choirs and talk to them and give them pointers, that’s a type of mentorship,” he says. “People go to the choir for refuge or some people are going through broken homes. They lean on the choir for that family thing.” Gospel artists are more than performers –they use their fame and fortune to also benefit the community — a story that is rarely told in mainstream media.

Christopher A. Daniel is a pop cultural critic and contributor to The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.

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