Fueled by the tremendous crossover success of the 1968 recording "Oh Happy Day" by Edwin Hawkins, the era of large choirs exploded onto the gospel music scene. Hawkins, his talented siblings and other family members broke the dominance of Chicago as the gospel music capital of the world and eclipsed James Cleveland's reign upon the music style and repertoire of the genre.
As a musician in a community gospel choir and founder of a university gospel choir at the time, I was drawn to the music of Walter and Edwin Hawkins because it seemed to blend together the soulful Motown and Philly R & B sounds, the introspective genius of a Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack, classic and contemporary jazz harmonies and even Latin and African rhythms and syncopations.
This new emergent gospel style, pioneered by the Hawkins, ultimately became known as contemporary gospel. Not only did the music possess more contemporary rhythms and fuller orchestration but the lyrics were like sermons set to music, being deeply rooted in scripture unlike the "7/11 (seven words sang 11 times over and over) songs" so prevalent even today.
The musical offspring of the Hawkins' creativity and spirituality include several contemporary performers who have prospered including the Winans families, Fred Hammond, Donnie McClurkin and Yolanda Adams and more recently Kirk Franklin, who have all become internationally renowned artists.
Since the early 1970s when I was a church musician and Minister of Music until now as a Pastor, the music of Walter and Edwin has been the standard of excellence for me and I have always included one or more Walter or Edwin Hawkins musical compositions in the church order of service. They make up a substantial majority of our repertoire of praise and/or worship music even to this day.
RIP Bishop Walter Hawkins. What you have done is MARVELOUS!
The election of Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States was THE sign, many proclaimed, that the long, torturous climb toward the pinnacle of racial equality had finally been conquered.
The election of thousands of black legislators and public administrators along with the appointment of countless private industry CEO’s, corporate officers and executives, able to walk through doors opened by unprecedented grassroots political mobilization and the protest demands of the Civil Rights movement, also seduced us into thinking that the war against oppression had come to an end.
And more recently, an educational crisis representing what is arguably the most formidable challenge facing the African-American community in the 21st Century, was met head-on locally when a minority-majority public school board with three of the five members being African American and another being Hispanic, was elected in Toledo.
Yet the progress at TPS has been much like that elsewhere – symbolic only. With expanded black access to school board seats in a district where the majority of students are of color, it is reasonable to expect to see policy changes resulting in higher percentages of black teachers, more African-American male teachers, a larger proportion of blacks attending college, fewer minorities suspended, dropping out or in special education classes and more students of color in gifted programs and enriched classes.
And with an $821 million building construction program, you would also expect to see a drastically larger share of contract funds going to minority businesses as well as the establishment of a relevant minority supplier program.
Yet, despite the black leadership presence, there has been a lack of responsiveness to minority concerns such as the racial academic achievement gap, a need for a higher proportion of students going to college, the disparity in resource allocation resulting in vulgar inequities between schools within the same district. The election of the black board members appears to have had very little if any impact.
Why isn’t the community getting the results that we expect?
Male, Afra-feminist, Liberationist, Doctor of Ministry (DMin), Pastor/Social Activist of an urban, inner-city church offering a theological perspective on the day to day issues faced by a marginalized people.