*There was a lot of hype leading up to the September 13 Verzuz Battle between veteran R&B legends Gladys Knight and Patti Labelle. (Watch it go down via the YouTube player above.)
There was competition before the competition, with both legends, who are also known for their cooking abilities, whipping up something in the kitchen and showing it off on Instagram.
By the time the ladies appeared together at the Fillmore in Philadelphia, the fans were revved and ready, waiting to hear their favorite songs, by their favorite legends.
The evening began with Gladys and Patti reminiscing, like the two old friends that they are. They talked about their early years, growing up together, having children at the same time, their shared love of cooking, which they learned to do on the road, their grandchildren and great-grandchildren (Gladys) as well as their losses; Gladys’ son and Patti’s sister. They urged people to vote, and although they said they were not going to get into politics, a little crept in anyway. It was obvious these two women have nothing but love and admiration for each other.
I think many will agree that, to a certain extent, legends have earned the right to a little latitude in their speaking, which explains why most of the audience didn’t gasp (via the comment field) when Patti said, “that heffa sang me under the table” referring to Jennifer Hudson or when she said, “gay people keep us pumped” or when they told Monica and Brandy to, “stop it!”
The battle began, with Patti going first and then the two legends going back and forth. From Patti’s catalogue, we were treated to, “If You Ask Me To,” “Stir It Up,” “When You’ve Been Blessed,” “Love, Need and Want You,” “Right Kinda Lover,” “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” “Somebody Loves You,” “New Attitude,” “On My Own,” and “Lady Marmalade,” among other hits. Gladys countered with, “You’re the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me,” “Make Yours a Happy Home,” “On and On,” “License to Kill,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Neither One of Us”, “Friendship Train” and “Love Overboard,” among others. Patti dedicated, “You Are My Friend” to Gladys, one of the best songs of the evening. The absolute highlight of the songfest was when another legend, Dionne Warwick, joined them to sing, “That’s What Friends Are For” and “Superwoman.”
These two women, who are now deep into their 70s, can still sing! Gladys’ tone was incredible, and Patti was hitting those high notes as good as ever. They both had their moves together, with Gladys and her bop and Patti with her signature arms flap when she sang, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” We will not mention when she did her trademark kicking off the shoes, she kicked herself in the leg. The only singing drawback, if it could be considered one, is they were singing with the songs and sometimes they did not know the words and other times they were singing over or under the song. Patti mentioned she could not remember the words and stressed that they needed to be put on the teleprompter. Gladys then admitted she too cannot recall the words to some of her songs. I don’t think anyone cared; we were all too busy enjoying the love, camaraderie and authenticity of these two beautiful legends.All the listeners were in awe and the flurry of comments were extremely complimentary, mentioning the joy the evening was bringing.
The verzuz battles typically bring out its share of celebrities lending their support to the featured artists, and this battle was no exception. Some of the people who checked in included Jill Scott, Snoop Dogg, Brandy, Monica, Missy Elliott, DJ Khaled, Fat Joe, Diddy, Tyrese, Viola Davis, Queen Latifah, Niecy Nash, Gabrielle Union, Mariah Carey, Oprah Winfrey and Michelle Obama. Patti Labelle told Michelle Obama she is, “married to the best man in the world.”
By the end of the night, Patti had changed shoes three times and said, “They can have these,” as she left her shoes on the stage when she was leaving.
Who won the battle? Gladys Knight’s tone and clear, clean vocals impressed me enough that I am giving her the nod. That is not to say Patti Labelle did a bad job; Gladys Knight was just vocally better and more prepared. The fans, however, were the biggest winners, because we were treated to two hours of some of the best music ever made, by two of R&B’s iconic treasures…make that three treasures. We are so lucky to still have them.
Yep, there really were no losers in this battle.
Marilyn Smith is a Los Angeles based writer/reviewer. Contact her via [email protected].
Pastors of Different Races Merge Churches and Release New Book to Help Heal Racial Divides (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*In 1960, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “11 ‘o’clock on Sunday morning is one of the most segregated hours, if not the most segregated hour, in Christian America.”
The civil rights leader’s famed quote was in reference to of course just how segregated church services were, and in many cases still are, across the United States.
Hoping to bridge this wide gap, in 2016, Pastors Derrick Hawkins (African American) and Jay Stewart (Caucasian American) decided to merge their racially separate congregations into The Refuge Church in North Carolina.
The recently released book, “Welded: Forming Racial Bonds That Last,” co-authored by the pastors, chronicles their relationship and what led to this racial reckoning. (Buy book now).
“We are living in a time where there still is much division, anger, and confusion in our nation especially as it relates to racial unity,” Pastor Stewart said in an EUR phone interview. “The bottom line is that we have a very unique story and God has chosen to write a better narrative in the midst of all the confusion and anger.”
Pastor Stewart continued, “So, we have an opportunity to share our story but to also give practical guidelines for how people can build relationships with people who look different than they do. The subtitle of the book is ‘forming racial bonds that last’ and that’s really the reason we’ve written this book.”
Pastor Hawkins blames the media partly for the racial strife and sees their story as a positive alternative.
“I think there are so many different narratives going on across the media,” Pastor Hawkins told the EUR. “There are so many things that the enemy is trying to spread. We wanted a better narrative and not just a better story and to let people know that there are amazing things happening with the body of Christ that are positive.”
Guidelines in the book to start racial healing include practicing understanding others, respecting others’ opinions, getting out of one’s comfort zone, and committing to unity.
“We seek to understand more than we seek to be understood,” said Pastor Stewart. “So, we have to lay down our own agenda and really come to the table with the goal of understanding the other person. Secondly, we value the relationship more than being right. We live in a day where everybody feels that they have a right to their own opinion. One thing we’ve learned is that we lay down our rights because the relationship is more important.”
Pastor Stewart added, “We also have to break out of our comfort zones and be willing to inconvenience ourselves for the sake of others and if we do that we discover the most greatest and thrilling adventures in our relationship with Christ.”
Pastor Hawkins said of people coming together, “I live by the motto in Ephesians 4:3, just making unity a priority. We know that we don’t have the ability to create unity, but it is our job to project unity. Pastor Jay always said we want to take every opportunity to make unity a priority but also preserve it.”
“Unity doesn’t mean there’s an absence of disagreement, but we have the ability to protect unity at all costs,” added Pastor Hawkins. “And there’s a way to look at your own echo chamber to see what you can do to make sure you are building healthy relationships with people who don’t look the same as you.”
The recent presidential election and election in general showed that most white Christians favored Donald Trump and Republicans. This support has led many in the black community to believe that white Christians overwhelmingly support racism and other ideologies that divide the races. The pastors said political views should have no place in the church.
“The kingdom of heaven trumps any political party,” said Pastor Hawkins. “Our job is to always align people to the kingdom and those things that we know are biblical truth. That’s why Ephesians 4:3 is so important.”
“We’ve only chosen to focus on the things that we share in common,” said Pastor Stewart. “And those are the things that unite us in the word of God. Bottomline, our loyalty is to Jesus Christ and our loyalty is not to some political party or to some person and that’s the thing that unites us.”
Pastor Stewart and Pastor Hawkins met in 2014 and two years later the two merged their churches. The Refuge Church has three campuses in North Carolina- Kannapolis, NC (main campus), Salisbury, and Greensboro. Plus, an international location in Brazil.
Pastor Stewart heads the main campus, while Pastor Hawkins leads the Greensboro location. They often lead together in the church as one unit.
Here is a video clip regarding the merging.
If you have not noticed, the pastors are also of different ages. They maintain a close father-son relationship because, “I’m just incredibly cool,” said Pastor Stewart. “I just have a heart for the kingdom and age doesn’t matter to me. God just knit us together in a really special way. It’s never been an issue for me, and I don’t think it’s been an issue for him.”
“I grew up around my grandmothers and older individuals and I love gleaning from the wisdom from the generations,” Pastor Hawkins said. “There’s no future without the shoulders of the previous generations. Outside of white, black, political differences, chaos, and challenges, this man has poured into me and my life has been better because of his core and his relationship with the Holy Spirit.”
Actors Dexter Darden and Belmont Cameli Talk About Their Roles in The New Saved By The Bell
*The 90s sitcom “Saved by the Bell” is returning to TV. The revised Saturday morning favorite will be airing on NBC’s new streaming service Peacock.
The show will focus on a new generation of Bayside High students along with some old favorites. Zack Morris (Mark-Paul Gosselaar) is now the governor of California and come under heat as he is blamed for the closing of many low-income schools. To rectify the situation he proposes those students attend Bayside High.
The transferred students find themselves adjusting to being out of their element, while the Bayside students try to play nice and make room for the new kids. We spoke with Dexter Darden and Belmont Cameli about their characters.
“It really is important to show that just where you are doesn’t necessarily have to be where you’re going to go. For Devante to come to Bayside and meet Jamie Spano and Mac Morris and have the opportunity to interact with all these kids who aren’t like him and not what he’s used to, it’s really special,” is what Dexter had to say about his character Devante.
Belmont Camelin plays Jamie who is the son of Jessie Spano, played by Elizabeth Berkley. As a true fan of the original, you have to wonder if the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree? Is Jessie’s son a passionate outspoken book worm kind of kid? Well only somewhat according to Belmont:
“I don’t think he’s as strong about his academics but he’s certainly passionate and he’s a very expressive person. His mom has made him very aware of his feelings and relationships,” says Belmont.
Not only was Jessie a straight-A student she was also vocal about anything she felt wasn’t right, so it’ll be interesting to see her son be just as vocal as the show covers topics that the 90’s version didn’t cover.
Check out the new generation of “Saved By The Bell” November 25 on Peacock.
Young Filmmaker Kalia Love Jones Evokes ‘Power of Hope’ and A Bright Future
*Kalia Love Jones is a young filmmaker who has taken the transformative words of former First Lady Michelle Obama to another level.
At just fourteen years old, she is now the writer, producer and director of an animated short called “The Power of Hope.” Kalia got the idea for the film when she was twelve.
Her parents supported the idea but encouraged her to earn her own money to finance her film. Kalia rose to the challenge and a year later her film was complete thanks to the funds she acquired from recycling.
“The Power of Hope” depicts a young girl who aspires to be a renown architect. When she encounters obstacles, she commits to staying focused on her goals and working harder while remembering the words of Michelle Obama. The six minute animated short is on par with the work of seasoned filmmakers, layered with emotion, vibrant cinematography, a lyrical score and anchored by a beautiful aspirational story. Well Hollywood, make way for a new femme fantabulous in the field of animation. Kalia is currently on the festival circuit with “The Power of Hope” and it is evident that the sky is the limit. Visit www.ThePowerofHopefilm.com. For info on Kalia Love Jones contact: Yvonne Gilliam [email protected] or call (214)336-1583.
LaRita “Jazzy Rita” Shelby is a writer & entertainer and Director of Digital Strategy & Sales for EURweb.com, newly branded Everything Urban & Radioscope. Winner of MIMPA’S 2020 Entertainment Journalist of the Year Award & Proud member of Sigma Gamma Rho. LaRita is the author of The Brand Beside the Brand and On My Father’s Side. Check out her new single on iTunes “Goodbye 2020.” Chat, swap ideas & vision at [email protected]
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