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Donald Lawrence is one of the most influential figures in modern gospel music Tags: donald lawrence true worshipper word life production new quality entertainment

Grammy-winning producer, composer and recording artist Donald Lawrence is one of the most influential figures in modern gospel music. After a stint as music director for soul legend Stephanie Mills, Lawrence made a splash in the gospel world by reshaping the regional Tri-City Singers in the 1990s and transforming them into an internationally acclaimed choir. As a producer, Lawrence has collaborated with artists as diverse as Mary J. Blige and jazz pianist Ramsey Lewis, Hezekiah Walker and the legendary Clark Sisters.

Donald accepted and was instrumental in signing the Tri-City Singers to their first major-label recording contract which yielded the 1993 hit album, A Songwriter's Point Of View. Nominated for several NAACP Image Awards, that debut was followed two years later with Tri-City's No. 1 breakthrough album and stage production, the Grammy-nominated Bible Stores. 1997 saw the Tri-City Singers offer their growing fans a warm holiday greeting with the top-10 hit, Hello Christmas, followed by the year 2000's quarter-of-a-million-selling tricity4.com with its electrifying crossover dance-chart, "Testify."

Donald and Tri-City followed it up with the release of Go Get Your Life Back in 2002, which became one of the year's best-selling releases. In addition to kickin' jams familiar to all Tri-City fans, Donald carefully crafted a shining veneer of gentle acoustic and orchestral sounds that movingly portrayed his and choir's deep commitment to the new material, produced and almost all of it-as on every Tri-City project-written or co-written by Donald.

Together some of their other releases include Bible Stories (2003), A Songwriter's Point of View (2005), Finale Act I (2006), and Finale Act II (2006).

After a very successful Finale CD/DVD release and farewell concert tour with the Tri-City Singers, Lawrence retired from the group in 2007 to focus on personal and solo pursuits.

Own his own Donald released I Speak Life (2004) and more recently, The Law of Confession Part 1 (2009) Enhanced.

Inspired by the forthcoming book “The Law of Confession” by Bill Winston ( Lawrence ’s pastor at Chicago ’s Living Word Christian Center ), Lawrence has crafted an epic recording that revolves around a simple Biblical tenet. “A law is simply a principle, based on the predictable consequence of an act,” Lawrence says. “Confession in the Greek language is homo-logeo which means to say what has been said. There is a spiritual law for confession: you just say what God has already said...`Speak The Word.’”

Lawrence and his ten-plus member backing ensemble, The Co. (which backed him on his Grammy-nominated 2004 I Speak Life solo CD debut), create a warmly engaging atmosphere on this stellar project. “I picked lead singers based on the feel and color of the song,” he opines. “Since I've worked with so many singers and I believe some of the best singers on this planet - I'm extremely picky when it comes to lead vocals. They must have a lot of heart!”

On The Law of Confession Part 1, the set opens with the jubilant, up-tempo tune "The Word of the Lord".   It feels like Sunday morning aerobics, ready to bring every listener to his or her feet.

"Back 2 Eden " is an upbeat, funky anthem with retro soul horn lines exudes a bounce that will make the numbest of feet spring into dance. The Co. does a vibrant call and response with the listener as Floyd Wilkinson (one of the Windy City ’s finest tenors) adlibs on the tail end of the track. “The message of this one is clear,” Lawrence offers. “This is pushing people to get back to our original design. God deemed for us a life of family, good health, wealth, spirituality and love. . I’m reminding us of this principle and saying what are you waiting for? Let's get back to our original purposes.”

"Citizens of the Kingdom" draws on the vibes of Donald's  childhood musical heroes Walter Hawkins and Andrae Crouch & the Disciples, Lawrence delivers this churchy, old school traditional-styled number. “This reminds everyone of the benefits of being a child of God and being a part of his kingdom,” Lawrence explains. “God created us to replenish the earth with light after Satan had plagued it with darkness.”

“There’s a King in You’ is my favorite song on the project,” Lawrence confesses of the rousing track. “Pastor Winston gave a sermon on this topic. It was an amazing experience for me. Life has caused us not to dream as we once did and our speaking has changed. Why is the lender speaking like the borrower? Why is the head speaking as if it's the tail? We come from royalty and there is a King inside of us all. Embrace your inner King.”

Source: ChristianMusic.com

Charles Jenkins-Gospel Legend Tags: charles jenkins true worshipper gospel music word life production new quality entertainment

Faith Leader, Social Engineer, Entrepreneur, Idea Maker, Communicator, and Friend are just some of the words that describe Charles Jenkins who is a leader widely respected and revered for his generous heart, innovative thinking, contemporary leadership, diverse influence, business savvy and holistic approach to social change and large-scale community development. Jenkins lives a lifestyle of giving.

For 15 years Jenkins has been widely known as the Senior Pastor of the historic Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church of Chicago, a rapidly growing multi-location congregation founded by civil rights pioneer Reverend Clay Evans. Under Jenkins’ leadership at Fellowship, each year thousands of individuals in need are fed, clothed and impacted through various outreach efforts.

Jenkins is also Founding President of Fellowship Educational and Economic Development Corporation (FEED), a 501c3 that focuses on education, community development, job creation, public safety, and urban renewal in Chicago inner-city neighborhoods. FEED is currently leading a multi-million dollar expansion effort known as The Legacy Project estimated to education 1500 inner city students, and produce 400 new jobs creating a socioeconomic oasis to enhance Chicago’s Southside. Jenkins is also the founder of Gladiators, a mentoring program that focuses on teaching young African-American men how to fight to win in life. Additionally among many efforts to curb Chicago’s violence, Jenkins convened street gang founders to broker strategies for intervention and peace.

Jenkins’ service to others spans beyond his local context to global efforts. He has traveled internationally serving the poor alongside leaders of Charity Water, who build clean water wells around the world, World Vision who feed and educate millions globally, and Compassion International an organization that transforms the lives of poor children. In 2010, along with award winning artist Donald Lawrence, Charles convened recording artists such as Common, Lalah Hathaway, Marvin Sapp and others along with national leaders for a benefit known as Chicago’s Hope for Haiti which raised over $150,000 for victims of the devastation.

Jenkins is also a multi award-winning songwriter, 5 time Stellar award-winning recording artist, music producer, author and connector. Jenkins is the founding CEO of Inspired People LLC, a music company conglomerate committed to globally inspiring people through music, fashion, resources, and enriching events. In 2012, under his indie label, Jenkins spun the company’s first project “The Best of Both Worlds,” which debuted the #1 Christian Album in America on iTunes and Amazon, while also debuting as the #1 gospel album on Billboard remaining for 3 weeks. Additionally, from this highly acclaimed album came the global mega hit “Awesome” penned by Jenkins which remained #1 on the Billboard Gospel Song charts for over 5 amazing months becoming an international anthem being translated into multiple languages around the world. In 2015 Jenkins produced and released his sophomore album “Any Given Sunday” which was his second consecutive album to debut at #1 on the Billboard gospel album chart spawning his latest Billboard chart topping hit “WAR”.

Jenkins’ leadership further extends to the public sector where he serves on a number of community, corporate, educational and governmental boards. Jenkins has served on The Board of Trustees for The City Colleges of Chicago, The Advisory Board of The Illinois Attorney General, The Advisory of Chicago’s iHeart Media, and The Advisory Board of The Illinois State Treasurer. Jenkins also served for served for 3 years as an Illinois State Commissioner for The Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission and as a member of The Presidential Steering Committee for President Barack Obama. Furthermore as a sought after voice Jenkins has been a featured speaker on widely respected stages including the International Business Dinner during 2011’s National Prayer Breakfast Week at The White House, The Inauguration of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, and The Inaugural Prayer Service of President Barack Obama in 2013.

Graduating with a Bachelors of Science in Christian Education from Moody Bible Institute and a Masters of the Arts in Urban Ministry from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Jenkins has also received countless awards and citations for his service including being inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers and Scholars at Morehouse College, being selected as one of Black Enterprise Magazine’s Urban Business Game Changers under 40, a GRAMMY® Certificate, BMI Song of The Year Award, and many more. Jenkins is also a recipient of Illinois’ Gift of Hope’s highest honor, The Lifesaving Partner Award for leading thousands of African Americans to become organ donors in Illinois saving countless lives. A man of balance, Jenkins is married to Dr. Tara Rawls Jenkins and has 3 beautiful children Princess, Paris, and Charles III. Jenkins loves Jesus, loves his family, loves serving and helping others and enjoys a good cup of coffee. Charles Jenkins lives by his own personal mantra “Don’t Box Me In!”

Source: Official Website

Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr Singers Tags: kurt carr kurt carr singers true worshippers word life production new qulaity entertainment featured

Just the Beginning Gospel music has its fair share of mainstays and superstars, but only a fraction has been gifted with the higher calling of leading the saints in song. Even fewer have been commissioned with the task of breaking through denominational and ethnic backgrounds, while still maintaining an in-demand career that includes performing, composing, arranging, and producing for the biggest acts in the genre and beyond. Kurt Carr is one such minister.

JUST THE BEGINNING, his latest release on his newly minted Kurt Carr Gospel imprint in association with Zomba Gospel, is a testament to this industrious spirit. The album is a capstone that is bound to extend the reach of Carr’s growing legacy in contemporary gospel—a celebrated repertoire that, in less than a decade’s time, has left an indelible imprint in the sacred-music canon. “God has called me to preserve the music of the church,” Carr says, matter-of-factly. “There are people, there are ministers, who are called to go into the world and evangelize it. I feel that I am called to perpetuate the music of the church so that there’s substance to feed seasoned saints, and new converts once we catch them. That summarizes my calling.”

In light of Carr’s already extensive résumé in gospel music, JUST THE BEGINNING may sound like a non sequitur, but the artist truly believes he’s turning a page. “I feel it’s the beginning of many new horizons,” says the psalmist, who recently moved his quarters to Houston, Texas, after a 20-year tenure in Los Angeles. “God wants us to know that there’s so much more in store for us. People have seen great things, but they haven’t seen the greatest yet.” For those keeping tabs on Carr, it’s been almost four years since he turned heads with his chart-topping One Church project, but this time around the multiple Stellar recipient says he’s not looking to replicate the genre-bending eclecticism of that recording. In many ways, JUST THE BEGINNING is about him stripping things down and going back to the basics.

“The last album was a thematic album; it was a stretch. We had bagpipes, accordion—sounds that have never been associated with gospel music,” Carr says. “These songs are very singer-friendly, very congregational. This time, I’m going back to my roots—church music.” (more) Kurt Carr/Just The Beginning/2 That’s good news for the church. A protégé of not one, but two gospel legends—he was mentored by both Richard Smallwood and James Cleveland—Carr has carved a niche of his own in Sunday-morning liturgies, blessing worshippers with his unmistakable knack for choir-friendly melodies and a cross-cultural appeal second to none. For proof, one needs not look further than Carr’s signature song, “In the Sanctuary”—also the centerpiece of his breakthrough, gold-selling recording Awesome Wonder—to realize his keen ear for the corporate.

To this day, millions continue to sing the song across the globe every week, in no less than nine different languages. “After the success of that song, I knew that God had called my music ministry to reach people of all races and all people who have an open ear for God’s message,” says Carr. Through the years, this calling to reach anyone with ears to hear has led Carr to write an armload of instant classics and standards for the modern church, including the bona fide hits “I Almost Let Go;” “For Every Mountain;” “Kumbaya;” “God Great God;” and “God Blocked It,” as well as “The Presence of the Lord,” the song that put Byron Cage on the map. Kurt Carr has ministered in over 20 countries and was recently named honorary principal of a Gospel music school in Japan that boasts a “Kurt Carr” class of gospel music production!

A renaissance man in every sense of the term, Carr has used the last few years to continue to write and produce for various heavy-hitters, develop his own music label, nurture new artists, and perform all over the world with his inimitable Kurt Carr Singers—Yvette Williams, Michelle Prather, Troy Bright, Timiney Figueroa-Caton, Nikita Clegg-Foxx, Nikki Potts, and Vonnie Lopez.

In between travels, listeners and congregants alike have continued to reap the benefits of Carr’s prolificacy, as recent songs and albums by the renowned Tramaine Hawkins (her highly applauded ‘comeback’ CD “I Never Lost My Praise”) and Bishop Paul S. Morton (his seminal “I’m Still Standing”), with whom Carr teamed up in the aftermath of Katrina, have made waves in airplay charts and houses of worship throughout the nation. In fact, Morton says all the time that Kurt Carr “is a genius and has found a way to tailor make songs that completely express my heart;” and Hawkins has said the single “I Never Lost My Praise” was a song that she’d been waiting on for over 20 years- while critics compared it to her legendary classics “Changed” and “Going Up Yonder.” JUST THE BEGINNING is all set to further this tradition.

Right out of the gate, the CD gives listeners a trip down memory lane as a high-powered medley of Carr’s greatest hits reminds us of the scope and breadth of his heritage in gospel music. Deftly sequenced and rearranged, this retrospective montage is simply a primer for what’s to come: one of the most tautly conceived gospel recordings of 2008. In grand Carr fashion, the first single “Peace and Favor Rest On Us” stands tall as one of the most energetic calls to worship in the artist’s songbook, a lively corporate number that, once again, asserts Carr as one of the most culturally relevant worshippers of this generation. One of Carr’s favorite moments on the CD is 89-year-old Narcissus Hinton-Brown – a traditional soloist from Carr’s hometown in Hartford, Connecticut and one of his mentors – singing “This Little Light Of My Mine” as a prequel to the affirming “Don’t Let Your Light Go Out.”

“I have friends from all walks of life,” says Carr, “and my whole purpose is to be a light to them…that’s how I live my life and that’s what I am encouraging and reminding others on this song.” (more) Kurt Carr/Just The Beginning/3 Nikita Clegg-Fox leads on the soaring “Spiritual Makeover Extreme,” an ultra-contemporary uptempo track with a “never ending hook” proclaiming “I’m so glad I don’t look like what I’ve been through;” while the lively “Right Time, Right Place” delivers a foot-stomping frenzy like only Kurt Carr & The Kurt Carr singers can. For those who have relied on Carr to offer songs of encouragement, Just the Beginning is brimming with a thoughtful parade of ballads, like the faith-filled “I Believe God;” the reflective “Sanctuary (God Is a Healer),” which Carr says is a song for this hour; and the empowering title track, a tender motivational piece where the singers proclaim “you haven’t seen your best days yet” and push believers to name and claim with authority the totality of God’s unfailing promises.

By the time the song reaches its praise-filled climax, it’s evident “Just the Beginning” is more than just a song - it’s a prophetic word that Christ followers are called to make their own. All of these set the stage for “My Shepard (Psalm 23)” featuring the dynamic vocals of top-selling Christian group Avalon. The track is one of Carr’s favorite songs on JUST THE BEGINNING and undoubtedly a composition that will permeate Christian circles. The song almost didn’t make the album, but, at the 11th hour, it made the cut after Carr played it for his vocal ensemble and they immediately loved it. As JUST THE BEGINNING unfolds and moments like the majestic, worship inspired “I Exist to Give You Praise;” the worshipful “Great Jesus (God Has Done Great Things);” the powerful Ten Thousand One Million led by Vonnie Lopez; and the swaying, Nikki Potts-led “I Am the One” join the processional of hits-in-the-making, the 2-disc project is already an absolute triumph—yet another milestone from the pen and the heart of this consummate champion of church music. Carr, who has a love and passion for preserving the gospel sounds of African-American heritage, could not complete the CD without delivering gems such as “I Am The One” and “Blessed Be The Rock” that, in Kurt’s own words, are “Sunday morning, choir robe, march down the aisle, sit down if you can songs!”

While each track demonstrates Carr’s penchant for sophisticated, neo-classical arrangements and the Spirit’s unbridled touch, JUST THE BEGINNING still marks the start of an exciting phase in Carr’s storied trajectory. Among various other ventures, the gospel heavyweight is in the planning stages of developing new projects from established and up-and-coming talent through his new imprint, as well as mapping out future recordings for soul divas Gladys Knight and Natalie Cole. But regardless if Carr is guiding the careers of others or carrying saints in the wings of praise, the minstrel is quick to not attribute his gifting to anything but God’s incomparable anointing. “Most times when I sit down to write I go, ‘Oh, God, I don’t have any songs. I can’t hear anything,’” Carr confesses. “And then as I pray and seek God, He gives me ideas. I definitely know that it’s a gift from Him. I’m so appreciative that He’s chosen me to share it with the world.”

Source: RCA

True Worshippers - Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir Tags: true worshippers gospel mass choir agmc word life production new quality entertainment featured blog

In April 2004, Charles Moore, relocated to Bentonville Arkansas from Douglas, Georgia.  After 14 years with the Georgia Mass Choir, Charles went on the search for a similar choir to be a part of. However, there was none. During the following year, God inspired Charles to put together a Mass Choir for the State of Arkansas. 

After many months of resistance to this idea, Charles decided to follow this inspiration. From November 2006 to February 2007, after many phone call, emails and car trips across the state, the vision began to come together. A committee was formed which consisted of a very dedicated group of men and women and from there, the leg work began.

On March 17, 2007 the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir held its first Workshop Concert at Valley Harvest Ministries in Bentonville. Approximately 132 voices came together from cities such as: Jonesboro, Ft. Smith, Pine Bluff, Bentonville, Springdale, Fayetteville, Siloam Springs, Rogers and Tulsa Oklahoma.

The DVD from the March 17th event was distributed to Bobby Jones, Savoy Records and EMTRO records. The choir received an invitation from Bobby Jones to appear in November 2007 at an event held in Hollywood, Florida for a new artist. The choir did not feel a release to attend this event and declined to do so. Several weeks later, Troy Sneed took a look at the project and came to NW Arkansas within 3 weeks to hear the choir in person. Less than one month later a marriage took place between T Records and the Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir.

We give God glory for his favor and look forward to a long term relationship with Troy Sneed and T Records.  Now we have three CD Projects! God is Good!

The Arkansas Gospel Mass Choir (AGMC) stands for diversity, tolerance and unity and spreads this message through its music. The choir is now a Arkansas institution known for its concerts throughout the state and the nation.  The choir has toured several states to include: Georgia, DC, Missouri, and appeared National C.O.G.I.C. Convention in Memphis Tennessee.

The AGMC performed on the prestigious 17th Annual Trumpet Awards Ceremony, January 2009 in Atlanta Georgia. The annual Trumpet Awards acknowledges the accomplishments of men and women who have significantly contributed to enhancing the quality of life for all…individuals and/or groups who augment the richness of this great global society by partnering with the cause of justice and equality of all.  The event featured well known celebrities such as Co-Host  of The View "Sherri Sheppard" ,  Actor from Law and Order "Anthony Anderson", Regina Bell, Raven Symone, Chris Tucker, and Pastor Paula White.

They also were selected to perform on the Black Entertainment Television's (BET)

Source: Official Website

As Good as Her Word - Shirley Caesar Tags: shirley caesar true worshipper word life production new qulaity entertainmnet featured blog

On a Sunday morning in Raleigh, a small woman with a big voice leads dozens of people praying and swaying in a service that is half-spoken, half-sung and goes on well into the afternoon. Pastor Shirley Caesar, the reigning Queen of Gospel, is preaching the Word.

Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church, with a congregation of about 1,500 people, is in Raleigh, but it's Durham that holds the pastor's heart. "Durham is home," she says. "Not was, but is. Durham is my home. I was born here, went to school here, got in trouble here. Durham is home."

And Durham is grateful: Pastor Caesar, winner of 11 Grammy Awards for her gospel music, will be honored for her life's work in service of the city at the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau's annual tribute luncheon on April 24.

Caesar was born in 1938, when "the tobacco factories were blooming," she remembers. "As a child growing up, we still had dirt streets. And potholes." She remembers being carried to church; church has been one constant in Caesar's life, and singing has been the other.

Caesar's father, Big Jim Caesar, was a gifted gospel singer. He died when Shirley was still a child, leaving behind her handicapped mother and 11 other children. Times were incredibly difficult, but Caesar says she had a wonderful childhood nonetheless, immersed in church and family life. "My brothers, they had quartets ... we were just like chips from my father's tree," she says. "It was marvelous. Pretty much all of the Caesar side of my family are singers, either singers or preachers."

To hear her tell it, Shirley Caesar has never experienced adversity: from getting a whipping to being hungry and penniless in a strange town, it's been "a blessing in disguise" to her.

"Mama told me and my sister Anne to wash the dishes," Caesar says. "I didn't want to do it, I said I'm not going to put that water on my hands. Got in trouble. After we'd gotten that whipping, I would wash and Anne would dry. We knew nothing about having air conditioners then, all we had was the big window. So, when we had the windows up, our voices just penetrated the atmosphere, into the hearts and the homes of people and passersby."

Baby Shirley Caesar, as she came to be known, would sing from then on, every chance she got, traveling on weekends to churches all over the Carolinas and Virginia. In 1957, when Caesar was 19, the premier gospel group The Caravans, headed by gospel music icon Albertina Walker, came through North Carolina to perform. Noting that the group needed a fourth singer to form a quartet, Caesar followed The Caravans to a show in Kinston. "I felt in my spirit that if Albertina Walker heard me sing," she says, "she would want me in her group."

Caesar wrote a request on a piece of paper: "Please call on Shirley Caesar to sing a solo." Walker did call on Caesar; she sang her solo, Thomas A. Dorsey's "The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow." Walker was so impressed with Caesar's performance that she asked her friend the Rev. C.L. Franklin (father of Aretha) to ask Caesar's mother for permission for her daughter to travel with The Caravans.

Having finished her first year at North Carolina College (now N.C. Central University) and unable to afford tuition for the next one, Caesar said, "I sold my biology book and caught a bus to D.C.," where The Caravans joined her the next day. Thus began her singing career and her new life on the road.

"We have far more fond memories than we do bad memories," Caesar says of touring with The Caravans and other gospel groups. She recalls singing in venues such as the Apollo, Madison Square Garden, the Grand Ole Opry, Radio City Music Hall. In Kentucky, which Caesar knew was the Bluegrass state, she looked for grass "the color of the sky or a robin's egg."

To anyone else, Caesar's bad memories would be spirit-crushing. "There have been times when I've gone to cities to sing, and while we were singing the promoter would just skip with the money," she says. She remembers being lonely, broke and hungry, occasionally, while traveling on the road; even groups as well known as The Caravans were not well paid.

"Racial discrimination kept us out of the more decent hotels and restaurants," Caesar writes in her autobiography, The Lady, the Melody and the Word, "but even if it hadn't, it wouldn't have mattered. We didn't have the money to stay in the nicer places anyway."

After eight years with The Caravans, during which, Caesar notes proudly, she never missed a single show, she decided that it was time to go solo. She wanted to minister God's word, she says, and her packed schedule with The Caravans didn't allow for that. Caesar took to the road herself, singing and preaching all over the country. She won her first Grammy in 1970. She's released more than 20 albums and a dozen singles, including one in 1984 with Al Green, "Sailin' on the Sea of Your Love."

A Thanksgiving in Florida inspired Caesar's next move. "My plate was just voluptuously fixed, ready for me to dive headfirst into, and I was watching the news. I was watching how right in our neighboring state, Tennessee, I saw little boys and girls, little kids, with pot bellies looking like kids from Africa because they had no food, starving. Tennessee! While I'm sitting there eating, I heard the Lord whisper in my ear and say 'Feed my sheep.' By that time, I'd put my fork down and I said Lord, I'm doing that."

Caesar implemented the Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries in Durham in 1969, "to provide food, clothing, shelter and emergency funds to the underprivileged and needy," she writes in her autobiography. "There is also a viable Christian outreach component consisting of radio broadcasting, revivals, crusades and gospel concerts. Our primary purpose is to minister to the total man which includes both his physical and spiritual welfare."

Corey Bizzell, sales director at the Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau and a former employee of Outreach Ministries, says the organization was the first of its kind in the country. "Everybody patterned themselves after Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries," he says. "When it started, nobody in Durham was doing that. Nobody was feeding the hungry on a large scale like that."

Outreach Ministries became a certified nonprofit in 1981, and now it operates in Raleigh as well as Durham. Caesar is still very much involved with the day-to-day running of the organization, says Bizzell. "It has been funded all these years by 50 percent of Pastor Caesar's concert sales. No grants. The other fundraiser is an annual conference in July, which started at the Durham Armory. Pastor Caesar brought people into Durham for years."

In 1981, Caesar enrolled at Shaw University to study business administration while continuing to record award-winning gospel albums. She graduated magna cum laude ("Thank you, Lawdy!" she says) in 1984, the year after she married Bishop Harold Ivory Williams. Bishop Williams, whom Caesar had met at a ministerial function in Durham, is a senior bishop in the Mount Calvary Holy Churches of America, her denomination since childhood.

Pastor Caesar decided to run for an open seat on the Durham City Council in 1987. Though she faced discouragement—people told her politics and religion don't mix and that a political campaign could hurt her singing career—Caesar says she wanted to give back to the community that has given her so much. Campaigning, too, was difficult and discouraging at times, but Caesar won the endorsement of several prominent political action groups in Durham.

Among Caesar's supporters was Paige Chargois, another female minister and chaplain at N.C. Central from 1986 to 1990, who became Caesar's campaign co-chairwoman. "We put a lot of effort in," Chargois says. "It was a jubilant campaign. The community knew her beneath the surface, they knew she wasn't a superficial politician but a genuine, caring person. She's given so much. She asked me if I thought she could win. I can't remember what I said to her, but she said from that moment, she had no doubt she would win."

Win she did, and Caesar served for four years. She was determined to fulfill her campaign promises and fought to bring jobs to Durham, to provide affordable housing for seniors, to promote business in downtown Durham and to bring more industry to the city overall. "My years on the city council were wonderful," Caesar says. "I'm grateful to have had that experience. Everybody on there had gone to college, I mean, they had all kinds of degrees. I'm so glad that I went back to school and got my degree, because I did not want to be the lowest one on the totem pole. I was able to input intelligently, and I'm glad that I was able to vote to put wonderful practices into place."

In 1990, Caesar accepted the pastorate of the Raleigh Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church, where she preaches the Word to this day. She has also spent time studying at the Duke University School of Divinity. Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries is still an invaluable resource for families in Durham and Raleigh.

"For the Christmas and Thanksgiving giveaways, the annual big signature events, hundreds and hundreds of families come through, about five or six hundred families at least, come through," says Bizzell. "During the year, she may be providing shelter for one family, or one family's lights may be getting ready to get cut off, but the thing about Shirley Caesar Outreach Ministries is, before you can get a check, you're not only given counsel on how to better manage your finances but she's giving spiritual counsel also."

The Triangle, and Durham in particular, are becoming increasingly well-known destinations for gospel. "You're talking about a Bible belt, and gospel radio and television are really infiltrating our whole area," says Caesar. "I'm so grateful that I can represent Durham from a standpoint of a gospel singer because now, we have some powerful gospel singers all over our state, and especially here in the Triangle. And good churches too."

It is likely that Caesar will represent Durham for a long time yet. Her pride and work ethic are unmatched. Caesar's colleague and close friend Carolyn Sanders says, "She can be ever so tired. She has come into services from traveling from the West Coast to the East Coast on the redeye, and be dog tired. You put her in the pulpit and give her the microphone and it's like heaven and hell."

"Something just wakes up in my spirit," Caesar says. "All you have to do is just put a mic in my hand and point the way. The Word motivates me, it really does. I said Lord, if you just put the Word in my mouth, I'll say it. I'll say it."

This article appeared in print with the headline "As good as her word."

Source: Indy Week

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