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Saturday, July 10, 2010


Caesar, Franklin and Morton honored at EMF

By Mona Austin
Church fans, devotion, an overflow room, spirit-lifting preaching and an all star gospel music line up: It’s Sunday Morning worship a la Essence Magazine's 16th Annual Essence Music Festival All Star Gospel Salute (EMF) . 
Gospel music sometimes gets pushed to the sidelines of major events, but here it had headline status, adding sparks to the fest's Independence Day activities.
After two days of empowerment and partying, thousands packed an exhibit hall in the New Orleans Convention Center to praise.
The program had the feel of mega church with world class gospotainers in tow to pay tribute to the legendary Shirley Caesar, gospel music innovator Kirk Franklin and founder of the Full Gospel Baptist Church Fellowship, Bishop Paul S. Morton and his wife Deborah.
Kirk Franklin’s words were filled with emotion as he accepted the honor with his wife, children and in-laws on the stage. Franklin shared that he was adopted, has no relationship with his biological family and those who stood beside him are all he’s got. (The couple participated in a relationship seminar on the first day of the 3-day fest.)
“I live to be a good father to my children,” the contemporary gospel hit maker said exposing another layer of his life. 
From the mind blowing vocal acrobatics of Tyronne Foster and the Arc singers, Ledisi’s flawless execution of “Thank You,” and the “sunshine” the Clark Sister brought, Marvin Sapp's powerful delivery of "Never Would Have Made It," to  Mary Mary’s crowd pleasing “God In Me” all performances were first rate.
A 15-year Essence Fest vet from Atlanta, GA said, “I enjoyed all the performances,” while noting the overall growth of the  fest.  “Essence has definitely stepped  up their sponsorship game.”
Pastor Marvin L. Winans preached the sermon titled, “Same City, Different Street.”
The last day of the cultural celebration has always been designated a day of faith, which “goes along with our brand and that's what we're about," the magazine's Editor-in-Chief, Angela Burt Murray said.
Watch the video recap to hear Pastor Paul S. Morton’s gospel version of “Purple Rain”, then take a look at some of the stars who attended the event in our photographic highlights:
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Friday, July 9, 2010


Weekend-long program will feature top industry talent and executives including Suzanne de Passe, Pauletta Washington, Niecy Nash, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tia Mowry, Kirk Franklin, Hezekiah Walker, Chrisette Michele, J. Moss, Brian Courtney Wilson and more
(Los Angeles, CA – July 9, 2010)  -- Following the great success of last year's inaugural conference, Relevé Entertainment announced today that THE MERGE SUMMIT 2010 will return to the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, CA, Thursday, August 26 through Saturday, August 28, 2010.  THE MERGE SUMMIT’s founder, Dr. Holly Carter, serves as chairperson and Robi Reed as co-chairperson of the event.  The three-day conference integrates faith and entertainment and provides a platform and educational forum for men and women of faith to interface and partner with executives and talent in the entertainment industry from New York to Hollywood (see full schedule below).
The multifaceted program will cover the spectrum of music, television, film, content, development, production, and management.  General and focused breakout sessions are designed to educate and empower attendees in their respective fields.  The Summit will also feature keynote addresses, presentations, and interactive panel discussions.  Throughout the event, actors, directors, producers, writers, and industry executives will share insights and give feedback, as well as lend inspiration for the individual journey.
“This is a way in which to pay it forward by giving opportunities to those who are aspiring in the areas of arts and entertainment,” commented Dr. Holly Carter, President and CEO of Relevé Entertainment and founder/chairperson of THE MERGE SUMMIT.  “The ultimate hope is that along with their aspirations to enter into the business, the attendees will possess a heart and desire to impact Hollywood for the Kingdom of God.”

Confirmed celebrity presenters include Suzanne de Passe, Pauletta Washington, Niecy Nash, Wendy Raquel Robinson, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Tia Mowry, Harry Lennix, Kirk Franklin, Hezekiah Walker, Chrisette Michele, J. Moss and Brian Courtney Wilson.  Entertainment executives include: Pearlena Igbokwe (Senior Vice President, Production, Showtime Networks); Devon Franklin (Vice President, Production, Columbia Pictures); Felicia D. Henderson (“Soul Food the Series”, “Fringe”); Leotis Clyburn (Senior Creative Director, East Coast Urban at EMI Music Publishing); Todd Black (“The Back Up Plan,” “Seven Pounds,” “The Great Debaters”); James Dubose (President, Dubose Entertainment); Ralph Winter (“X-Men,” “Fantastic Four,” “Star Trek”); John Dellaverson (“Diary of a Mad Black Woman” and “In The Mix”); Zola Mashariki (Senior Vice President, Production, Fox Searchlight Pictures); Ava Duvernay (Writer/Director, President, The Duvernay Agency), as well as executives from top industry companies including Columbia Records, EMI Publishing, Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor Entertainment, BET, ABC Networks, Lionsgate Entertainment, and more.
The event will kick-off on Thursday, August 26 with OPENING NIGHT AT THE MERGE, a VIP reception hosted by Pauletta Washington. On Friday, there will be a talent showcase, hosted by Hezekiah Walker.  Saturday evening will culminate with FREEDOM, a special concert experience featuring Kirk Franklin, J. Moss and other special guest artists.
THE MERGE SUMMIT official sponsor partners are Kaiser Permanente, Johnson Products, Columbia Records, Wellness Interactive and UPSCALE magazine.

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Tonya Baker's Live Recording
 FRIDAY, JULY 23, 2010 @ 7:00 PM
At The Ginghamsburg Church Near Dayton, OH
Chicago, IL: Kingdom Records has tapped Grammy-winning producer Myron Butler to produce Tonya Baker’s first live recording. The Dayton, OH native made her national debut with the acclaimed CD Special Friend in 2008 and she has been critically-praised for her unique blend of jazzy vocal riffs with a straightforward gospel message.
“I would be lying if I said I weren't a bit nervous,” the singer confesses. “…I've been asked for several years, `When are you going to do a live recording?’  Well, I guess this is the time and I pray that God will be pleased with our offering and the people will be blessed and encouraged.  There's nothing like the live experience.  You feel the energy from the people and the presence of God in the place… Most importantly, I don't want the people to just come looking for a great show - but an encounter with God.”
Butler has produced gospel luminaries such as gold-selling artist Smokie Norful and Tamela Mann from TBS’s “Meet The Browns” series. He’s also made a name for himself as an EMI Gospel recording artist with hits such as “Stronger,” “Set Me Free,” and his current single, “Revealed.” Baker adds, “Myron Butler is an incredibly anointed and gifted artist, songwriter, and producer.  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to work with him.  I’m equally thankful that Kingdom Records’ A&R director Michael Weatherspoon was able to make it happen.”
The live recording takes place Friday, July 23, 2010 @ 7:00 p.m. at The Ginghamsburg Church, 6759 County Road 25A, Tipp City, Ohio 45371. Admission is free. For further information about Tonya Baker’s recording, call(708) 339-9301 or visit www.kingdomrecordsinc.com.
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fHammond Family Entertainment Label Signs with Universal Music Christian Group

Fred Hammond Presents Inaugural Project
"Life in the Word" In stores July 27

"Life In The Word" Pre-sale Campaign Kicks Off  This Week at
Walmart's MP3 Store

(New York, NY - July 9, 2010) -- As a pioneer and one of the foremost exponents of urban praise and worship, Fred Hammond continues to push the bounds. Hammond and philanthropist Roy Campbell, his business partner, entered into an exclusive distribution agreement with Universal Music Christian Group (UMCG) for their new label venture, fHammond Family Entertainment.  The inaugural CD project, Life in the Word will be available in stores and online everywhere on July 27.
"We are honored that Fred Hammond chose UMCG as the place where he could develop and unfurl his vision," said Rhoda Lawrence, Vice President of UMCG. "People are thirsty for music that tackles everyday issues in their lives and they want it delivered in a way that speaks to them. Fred Hammond has the talent and the vision to propel gospel music to new heights; appealing to and inspiring music fans of all age groups and walks of life. Fred is passionate about artistry and about his lifelong mission to transform people's lives. When you have the opportunity to play a part in something of this magnitude, first you pinch yourself and then you get to work."

"The opportunity to form my label couldn't come at a better time," said Hammond, President and CEO of fHammond Family Entertainment. "Out of the box thinking and creativity is what we are producing here.  The projects that we have in development will further my artistic expression and expose my devoted music fans and beyond to another dimension of the Fred Hammond brand."
Starting off this week, fans can pre-order the digital version of Life In The Word at Walmart's MP3 store, http://mp3.walmart.com/store/home as part of an instant gratification promotion. Each week leading up to the July 27 release date, consumers will be able to download one piece of new content before the album in store date. Fans will be reminded via email when the content is ready for download.

Hammond, a GRAMMY®, Stellar, and Dove Award-winner with nearly three decades in music and ministry has produced a concept recording unlike any other in recent gospel music history." Life in the Word offers  something a little different." says Hammond, whose songs have, over the years, become a vital component of Sunday morning praise services. "It's easy for my audience to know where I'm coming from as an artist. They don't want a lot of tricks, they don't want to just listen-they want to participate. "This is the other side of my style."

fHammond Family Entertainment allows the gospel veteran to work on recorded projects, audiovisual products, and other kinds of media aimed at bringing gospel to the masses. Indeed, Life in the Word sees Hammond stepping away from the microphone and into the role of mentor, visionary and producer, guiding a fresh ensemble of young singers, worship leaders, and vocalists as they sing songs of devotion, commitment and worship lifted directly from Scriptures.
From a stylistic standpoint, Hammond knows he's taking chances, but he doesn't get caught up in the guesswork of how the public will respond. "My core will like it," he says. "I've known my audience for a long time, so I understand what they want; I've learned what I can do with my people. I believe that there are a million people who will buy good gospel music, and millions that love the Word of God. And they'll go right where it is and they'll get it."

The album opener and first single, "You Do Great Things" is a great primer for those longtime Hammond aficionados. The track is a rhythmic praise jam featuring Faith Anderson on lead and an impassioned vocal coda from Men of Standard founder Lowell Pye, who later gets a second chance to shine in the celebratory "Walkin' in Victory."

From there, Life in the Word gets right down to business and settles into a more soulful, organic vibe, allowing for God's Word to take center stage. In fact, the disc is rife with scriptural interludes-spoken-word segments read by Hammond and others that further inculcate the listner importance of intimacy with the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. One such interlude, a solemn reading of Psalm 18:3-6, segues seamlessly into "Trust in the Lord," a triple-timed slow burner led by Ericka Warren that serves as a reminder that faith in God can move mountains and make a way where once there was none.

Through the vocals of newcomer Michael Bethany, the laid-back yet groove-laden "Need My Time With You" exhorts listeners to spend quality time under the shadow of the Almighty-the refuge and fortress from whence the Christian's strength comes.

Written almost 10 years ago, "Life in the Word," a midtempo number featuring up-and-comer Candace Laster, is headed straight for the charts as it echoes the blessings of living in God's Word. The same is true of "Home Inside My Praise," a lovely ballad that bids the Lord to inhabit the praises of His people.

The common thread of every song is the centrality of Scriptures in every phase of a believer's life-not a performance, a knockout vocal part, or the marquee value of the featured singers.

"The Word will never return void," says Hammond, referencing Isaiah 55:17 as he talks about the essence of Life in the Word, an album he describes as urban organic praise. "We're trying to get people to understand that no matter what we do, the songs we hear breathe life into us. I hope they are strengthened by what they hear."

Not coincidentally, the centerpiece of Life in the Word is a track that Hammond took upon himself to make his own; "Dwelling Place" has all the elements of a classic-in-the-making, a devotional piece that cleverly incorporates portions from the worship chestnut "Hiding Place," a song close to Hammond's heart.

"After so many years in this business and so many years making music, this partnership gives me another outlet to be more avant-garde, more radical, more edgy if I need to," Hammond says.

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You've gotta admit:  Dan Gilbert, the owner of the team that LeBron James left for Miami Heat, The Cleveland Cavaliers has every right to take losing James as a devastating blow. I think we can all feel the mental anguish he's experienced as he realized his sports franchise won't be what it used to be now that their "former hero" has defected. But would you go so far as to vent your disappointment in a name-calling, open letter?  That action in and of itself is as over-the-top as he paints James' exit to have been.  Lebron James announced plans to join the Miami Heat on television this week.

Read the entire letter below and feel free to post your comments.


Dear Cleveland, All Of Northeast Ohio and Cleveland Cavaliers Supporters Wherever You May Be Tonight; 
  As you now know, our former hero, who grew up in the very region that he deserted this evening, is no longer a Cleveland Cavalier.  

This was announced with a several day, narcissistic, self-promotional build-up culminating with a national TV special of his "decision" unlike anything ever "witnessed" in the history of sports and probably the history of entertainment. 

Clearly, this is bitterly disappointing to all of us. 

The good news is that the ownership team and the rest of the hard-working, loyal, and driven staff over here at your hometown Cavaliers have not betrayed you nor NEVER will betray you.
There is so much more to tell you about the events of the recent past and our more than exciting future. Over the next several days and weeks, we will be communicating much of that to you. 

You simply don't deserve this kind of cowardly betrayal. 

You have given so much and deserve so much more. 


You can take it to the bank. 

If you thought we were motivated before tonight to bring the hardware to Cleveland, I can tell you that this shameful display of selfishness and betrayal by one of our very own has shifted our "motivation" to previously unknown and previously never experienced levels.
Some people think they should go to heaven but NOT have to die to get there. 

Sorry, but that's simply not how it works. 

This shocking act of disloyalty from our home grown "chosen one" sends the exact opposite lesson of what we would want our children to learn. And "who" we would want them to grow-up to become. 

But the good news is that this heartless and callous action can only serve as the antidote to the so-called "curse" on Cleveland, Ohio. 

The self-declared former "King" will be taking the "curse" with him down south. And until he does "right" by Cleveland and Ohio, James (and the town where he plays) will unfortunately own this dreaded spell and bad karma. 

Just watch. 

Sleep well, Cleveland. 

Tomorrow is a new and much brighter day....
I PROMISE you that our energy, focus, capital, knowledge and experience will be directed at one thing and one thing only: 

DELIVERING YOU the championship you have long deserved and is long overdue.... 

  Dan Gilbert
Majority Owner
Cleveland Cavaliers

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