Gospel singer Marvin Sapp has secured his place in music history.
His breakout chart topper, “Never Would Have Made It,” holds the record for the longest running No. 1 single on the radio and in the history of the Billboard charts — lasting more than 43 weeks at the top.
Sapp’s current CD, “I Win,” is the number one Gospel CD and the ninth-ranked album overall in America, according to Billboard charts.
His current single, “My Testimony,” is on the radio airwaves in heavy rotation on R&B and Gospel radio stations.
“Thank you, Jesus,” Sapp said. “I’m just appreciative that people have gravitated to my music.”
His CD “I Win” was highly anticipated. It’s his first project release since wife, MaLinda, succumbed to cancer in 2010. America, and fans worldwide, grieved the death of MaLinda. Prior to her death, the Sapps were happily married for 18 years.
Commenting about his grieving process, Sapp shared, “I’m a strong believer that the best way to honor the life of somebody that you love is to live.”
Sapp admitted that many people criticized him for not taking more time off to mourn. “Everybody has a process of mourning that they go through,” he shared, but staying busy immersed in his music and ministry was a process that worked best for him. “I challenge (grieving) people to live.”
Sapp is no stranger to the Philadelphia region.
Minister Bill Davis of Covenant Fellowship Church in Glen Mills can recall when Sapp used to perform annually at a church in Maryland. Davis is very impressed with how Sapp’s music is resonating with youth.
Local TV news reporter Dray Clark of CBS 3 is also a personal friend of Sapp.
“Marvin and I have been friends since 2004 when we first met in Grand Rapids, Mich., where I used to work and where he lives now,” Clark said. “His music, quite frankly, is a reflection of his musical gift vocally, but more importantly, it's a reflection of God's hold on his life.”
Sapp has had a tremendously powerful impact on gospel music that transcends gospel's typical audience to music lovers all over the world, according to Kanita Davis, vocalist with the Stellar Award-winning Gospel group, Lonnie Hunter & Structure.
“Song after song, he has delivered the message that, ‘I, too, can overcome and be victorious no matter what I've gone through.’”
Native Philadelphian, Jillian Pirtle, the reigning Miss Pennsylvania Essence 2012, believes Sapp’s music resonates deeply because it’s anointed by God.
“It is the message and encouragement in Minister Sapp’s music that means more to me than anything else,” she said. “I appreciate and encourage him to continue to touch the masses with his music and his (Godly) message.”
Brian Carter, weekend radio personality at WBLS/107.5FM in New York, gave Sapp a huge compliment by comparing him to one of the greatest Gospel artists of all time, “(Marvin Sapp) is one of the new-school of gospel artists to come up in the last few years. He has certainly given us instant classics with ‘He Saw the Best in Me’ and ‘Never Would’ve Made It’ — he is this era’s James Cleveland.”
Waverly Alston, a Gospel music composer/choir director/sacred jazz artist and Philly resident is also a fan.
“I sense his sincerity in his delivery and the lyrics that he chooses to sing are Biblically based,” he said. “I recently listened to the title track of the ‘Never Would Have Made It’ album ‘Thirsty’ — what a wonderful album.”
And local radio celebrity Patty Jackson of WDAS summed the singer up by offering words about Sapp’s music ministry.
“He has great music that touches your soul!”
Sapp’s music transcends musical genres; his music has such wide appeal because of its heart-felt lyrics. His breakout hit, “Never Would Have Made It” was a song he wrote as an ode and eulogy for his father’s funeral.
“It was birthed out of my pain,” he said.
The song made Sapp a superstar within the music industry and with millions of adoring fans worldwide.
Being a widower, a father, a music mogul, an active member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and a full time senior pastor and founder of Lighthouse Full Life Center Church, in Grand Rapids, Mich., would be a daunting task for many men, but Sapp appears to remain focused.
“If you prioritize stuff, you won’t break it, you won’t drop it,” he said. “I make sure that I keep things in their proper place. I’m a father first, I’m a pastor, I’m a recording artist, I’m an entrepreneur, I do a whole lot of stuff, that’s how I keep things going.”
Through the years, Chester Township has managed to produce a number of notable names.
NBA star Jameer Nelson, Broadway singer Ethel Waters and the first superintendent of the United States Air Force Academy Hubert R. Harmon are just a few from Chester that have gone on to accomplish big things in their careers.
Well, don’t be surprised to see local news reporter and Chester native Dray Clark of CBS 3 added to that list. One could label him as local kid who came home to do good.
From the time he was tot, Clark appeared to have a passion for news. At a young age, Clark had his first experience with the media, after a young girl fell out of a window near his house and a reporter later interviewed his mother on the incident.
“My son was the one who told me the reporter wanted to speak to me about the incident,” said mother Terri Clark. “At the time, I told my son I didn’t want to speak to the reporter, but five minutes later there she was. After she left, Dray says ‘mom, that’s what I want to do when I grow up.’”
Born and raised in Delaware County, Clark attended Chester High Academy. He is a 2000 graduate of Lincoln University, where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in English Communications.
“Dray got his motivation from the people around him,” his mother Terri said. “He always watched the news and read books from an early age. He even made a commercial in high school where he was doing the news. I’ve always supported everything that my son has done. I’m very proud of him and excited to see him achieve his dream.”
Years later, Clark is now an Emmy-winning news reporter for local CBS affiliate Channel 3.
“I realized at a young age that I wanted to be a reporter,” he said. “I would watch the news and study people like Lisa Thomas Laury, Ukee Washington, Joyce Evans and Tracey Matisak. Those were the only people that I watched closely to try to get a sense of how they do what they do. The more I watched the more I realized I wanted to do it.”
Clark joined CBS 3 and the CW Philly as a general assignment reporter in September 2008. Clark came home to the Delaware Valley from WJW-TV, the FOX station in Cleveland, Ohio where he has been a reporter and weekend anchor since 2005.
Previously, he had served as a reporter and weekend anchor for WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids, Mich. He also worked at WMAZ-TV in Macon, Ga. as a reporter and weekend anchor.
“It’s good to be able to work in a city that you’re very familiar with,” he said. “Philadelphia is a very tough news market. It’s very fast paced and if you’re not prepared it’s the kind of market that will eat you alive. Philadelphia is the fourth largest television market in the country, once you make it to this level you need to make sure you’re prepared because the only other way to go is down. Some people elect to go back down by choice, but no one wants to go back down because they failed from a higher level.”
Clark has garnered many accolades throughout his career. According to him, that’s not what motivates the reporter to succeed.
“I like to do great things without people knowing about it,” he said. “I still have dreams that I’ve yet to accomplish, one being building a school in Chester. I already have the concept in my head. The kids in Chester deserve a better education.”
When it comes to news and Chester — news within the city limits have not been the most positive.
“A lot of the kids in Chester come from difficult circumstances,” Clark said. “They feel like they can’t make it out. When you’re constantly around death, destruction and depression you just take on that spirit and your spirit becomes broken. You don’t want to succeed or progress because you become comfortable. I want to make people in Chester understand that we are at a serious impasse here.
“If we don’t start making some constructive and positive changes in Chester we’re going to lose a lot more lives,” he added. “Kids need to see an example of someone who is positive and works hard the traditional way. I spend a lot of time in Chester to try to encourage and inspire them as much as possible. I’m here to tell them they can make it; there is a whole world outside of Chester. I’m just trying to inspire and encourage as many people as I can young and old.”
In addition to reporting, Clark is also known for speaking and hosting various events throughout the community.
“His level of excellence is what always got my attention — he’s a natural,” said Clark’s father, Isiah A. Jones Jr. “I can remember listening to him at the Martin Luther King breakfast and he had one of the most profound speeches I have ever heard. It’s a powerful feeling to wake up in the morning and see your son on TV before you go to work.
“I’m real proud of him because I really had the desire to do it myself as far as news or radio, but I just didn’t have what he had, which is the presence of mind at a young age and to prepare for what you want to do and stick to it,” he added.
Clark has received numerous accolades through his career.
His reporting has been honored with a 2004 Michigan Emmy Award for Best Health and Medical Series and two awards from the Press Club of Cleveland for Spot News and General News.
“I watched Ukee Washington for years and to be able to be friends with him is a dream coming true,” Clark said. “If you have that kind of friendship with people you grew up watching it’s a blessing. Every time I see that three on that building I say ‘wow, I get to work here.’ This is such huge blessing for me and I don’t take it for granted.”
The Media Area Unit chapter of the NAACP recently honored its “Foot Soldiers for Justice” during the organization’s Annual Freedom Fund Luncheon at The Oaks Ballroom in Glenolden.
Hosted by Chester resident and CBS 3/CW Philly on-air reporter, Dray Clark, the luncheon honored the work of several of the area’s influential figures.
“It’s important to understand the sacrifices of those in the past,” Clark said to about 200 people attending the celebration and main fundraiser for the chapter.
“It was a wonderful event,” said six year chapter president and Glen Mills resident, Dr. Joan Duvall-Flynn.
Lawyer, author and pastor Rev. Vincent S. Gallagher, of Life Counseling Services/Rehab After Work, was the luncheon’s keynote speaker sharing “the only way that social change can occur is through the change of laws and the change of hearts.”
With the nationally polarizing circumstances surrounding the death of Florida teenager Trayvon Martin, Rev. Gallagher and many of the luncheon’s award recipients seized the opportunity to voice their opinions with respect to injustice. Gallagher’s spirited speech reflected the spirit that has guided the NAACP to be a forerunner for advocacy throughout Delaware County and the state.
“I see the value of the NAACP,” said former chapter secretary Patricia Coiner. “They were very helpful with identifying resources to get our situation resolved.”
Coiner became an active member of the NAACP Media Area Unit after receiving aid from the chapter while assisting a friend address an injustice some years ago.
Along with Coiner, Ernest Derrickson Jr., Anna Fisher, Ann Geers, Ethalene Jackson, Marjorie Anne Moat, and Media Mayor Bob McMahon all received the President’s Recognition for Meritorious Service.
Mayor McMahon’s commitment to historical legacy, particularly the Tuskegee Airman, led to one of the luncheon’s highlights. Four members of the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen attended to accept the Foot Soldier for Justice Award.
Aaron Watkins, Bertram Levy, Delaware County native Roscoe Draper and Dr. Eugene Richardson were “charming” and well received.
“We owe the NAACP quite a bit, they went to bat for us in the 1930s,” Richardson said. “We sued the U.S. Army to allow us to fight for our country and the NAACP was in the forefront of the law suit back then.”
Recognized for his years of tireless work for the chapter, where he held many positions and has overseen the organization’s annual banquet, John H. Stokes was presented a Lifetime Achievement Award.
State Representatives James Roebuck Jr. and Ronald Waters received awards for their support and activism on an array of legislative initiatives, namely education.
“I’ve worked with Rep. Roebuck on several occasions fighting for all children,” said Flynn, who also sits on Pennsylvania’s Education Committee.
Awards were also presented to Ralph Brown for his contributions throughout his career with PECO Energy; Lawrence Feinberg, a Haverford School Board director who has worked diligently in the legislative area; and the Media Providence Friends School for its commitment to diversity and equity in independent education.
“Addressing education through policy is one of our main focus areas,” Flynn said. “We will be hosting a daylong conference on the state of education at Cheyney University on May 25 at the request of State Senator Dinniman.”
Meetings for the NAACP Media Area Unit are held on the first Tuesday of each month at the Media Fellowship House located at 302 South Jackson St. in Media.
For more information on the chapter and upcoming conference, visit www.naacpmediabranch.org.