When the multi Grammy Award winning gospel group, The Clark Sisters, performed at the Dell Entertainment Center on Aug. 2, The Tribune went backstage for an exclusive interview with Karen Clark-Sheard, the youngest sibling of the group.
“Philly is like our second home, we’re always excited about coming here, because Philly give us so much love,” said Clark-Sheard.
Clark-Sheard said when she and her sisters take the stage, the fans in Philly, “Ignite the fire and give us so much support and love. Most of all we’re here to see a life changing experience take place through what God has given us,” [the ability to exalt Jesus through the gift of singing.]
The Clark Sisters include Jacky Clark Chisholm, Elbernita “Twinkie” Clark-Terrell, Dorinda Clark-Cole, and Clark Sheard. The four women are the daughters of the late great gospel musician and choral director Dr. Mattie Moss-Clark. Moss-Clark, twice divorced, raised her children in their hometown of Detroit. Moss-Clark is credited for creating the three-part harmony performance — the separation of vocal parts into soprano, alto and tenor — a technique that has become quite chic among many gospel choirs and groups today.
“It’s just very, very exciting to be here. I don’t know if I’m more excited about having the opportunity to minister, or if I’m going to run into [The Clark Sisters] back here,” said Rev. Alyn Waller, senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, one of the local headlining gospel performers for the Philly concert.
The Clark Sisters are famous for their unique vocals, incorporating a sophisticated soulful blend of harmonies and riffs, each contributing a distinctive harmonious sound. Twinkie is commonly considered the leader of the Clark Sisters. She has served as the group’s chief songwriter, music and vocal arranger, and producer.
One of the many gospel music artists that Clark-Sheard admits that she listens to is Maurette Brown, a New York native and singer of the gospel hit “It Ain’t Over.”
“Maurette is so anointed,” said Clark-Sheard. “Actually, I’ve been following Maurette Brown before she became really big. She’s an anointed writer, so, I give her much respect.”
Among the many artists she enjoys listening to, Clark-Sheard loves Mary Mary, Donald Lawrence, and her cousin James Moss (aka, J. Moss), a famous gospel singer-songwriter, composer, arranger, and producer.
“My cousin J. Moss, he’s exciting,” she said. “He’s my blood. We know each other and so we come together and gel together. He writes and produces my records — it’s like a ball of excitement.”
Clark-Sheard is the mother of two extremely talented children, Kierra “Kikki” Sheard (25), who is also a famous gospel artist, and John Drew Sheard II (23), a young musician and music producer. Kiki has four albums. Clark-Sheard is married to Bishop John Drew Sheard of Greater Emmanuel Institutional Church of God in Christ, in Detroit.
In 2001, Clark-Sheard had a near death experience resulting from a blood vessel that burst during her hernia surgery; she fell into a coma that lasted for several weeks. Her doctors only gave her a 2 percent chance of survival. This tribulation gave birth to her hit album “Second Chance.”
Conquering the music world with multiple Grammys, as a solo artist and as a member of The Clark Sisters, Clark-Sheard said that more is in store for the expansion of her artistic expression, “God, He is just an amazing God … maybe you’ll see me in movies,” she said.
Clark-Sheard added that she would use that for ministry. A film crew was taping Clark-Sheard behind stage for a possible TV pilot.
Clark-Sheard confirmed a Hollywood rumor that a bio-pic about Aretha Franklin’s life is being planned.
“Well, it’s in the making, I don’t think I’ll be playing her role, but I was asked by Aretha to be a part of a role she played in a gospel group before she went secular,” she said.
Franklin, who also lives in Detroit, and the Clark Sisters are close. The sisters are annually invited to perform at Franklin’s father’s church for a Christmas holiday fellowship.
The Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church found a way to present Charles Dickens' classic with a contemporary twist.
“A Christmas Carol Urbanized” drew a full house to the church’s east campus at 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave. last Thursday. It was presented by the congregation’s Integrated Arts & Music Ministry (IAMM).
“This is really so nice,” said Denise Williams of Mount Airy, who brought along her 8-year-old granddaughter Jada to the holiday performance. “This is a way for parents and other family members to get away from the hustle and bustle of shopping and decorating for something positive. I think it brings home the understanding that Christmas is really about the Lord.”
Robert Beale of Wyncote concurred. He has been a member of Enon for the past nine years. He said the play was not only well-executed and entertaining, but also emphasized the reason for the season.
“I found it to be very touching,” he said. “It just reminded all of us that God has a hand in our lives and there is a reason never to give up. In these hard times sometimes people can get cold-hearted or want to turn away from God, but this play showed us all the reasons we need to come back home.”
Clifford K. Flood had the crowd engaged in emotional outbursts during his performance of Ebenezer “Rock” Scrooge.
The 21st Century Scrooge was transformed into the owner of Columbus Boulevard Records. He drew spontaneous laughter as he reiterated that he was the “golden glove boxing champion of 1988” and felt smug about giving his employees a $5 holiday bonus.
Among the contemporary issues brought up in the play were Scrooge’s nephew Thomas’ dilemma when his health insurance was discontinued just as one of his four daughters needed an operation. Thomas also was faced with paying back half his wages to his uncle in repayment for his college education. In addition, his base salary did not reflect the fact that he had an undergraduate career and a professional job.
Jason Bell did an energized performance of the son of Scrooge’s only daughter. Other actors in the play included Steffany Hendon, Yolanda Williams, Camari Fitzgerald, Arthur Poole, Amina Lecato, Amiya Fitzgerald, Iyani Midgette, Randy and Angie Goode, and Yvesmark Chery.
“A Christmas Carol Urbanized” was written and directed by Chanta N. Barrett. Errica Gardner served as assistant director.
Production assistants included Sheena Banks, Damien Brown and Olivia Jackson. IAMM seeks to pursue ministry through the arts.
During this season of goodwill, a local church has blessed others with a sizable donation.
Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church donated $66,000 to pay off layaways at the Burlington Coat Factory located in Cheltenham Mall.
The donation benefits some 800 Burlington customers who had items on layaway.
“We did it for a couple of reasons. Number one, it’s the love of Jesus Christ, and it’s the season to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and number two, we hope that people who are blessed by this will then use what they didn’t have to spend on themselves to be a blessing to someone else, and pay it forward,” said Rev Alyn E. Waller, Enon’s senior pastor.
“We just want to model what a church can do for its near community when we pool our resources and when we work together — and we think that is an answer for these times.”
Waller was spurred to encourage Enon to make the donation after recently viewing a Secret Santa story on 20/20.
“I’m just grateful that we could be a blessing. That’s what the church exists for. We preach Christ, and I believe in him fully — but we’re also here to give a tangible expression of that. When times are financially hard that expression needs to look financial,” Waller added.
Enon’s donation comes at a time when Secret Santas are paying off layaways at various retailers around the nation during this holiday season.
Burlington has been calling customers to inform them that they can come pick up their layaway items.
“It’s an extraordinary act of generosity. It was a remarkable act of Christmas spirit,” said Neil Penz, regional vice president of Burlington Coat Factory.
“We’re very grateful. Many of our customers had gifts on layaway and they were overjoyed to know that they could get them in time for Christmas. It’s really the perfect timing. It takes the stress out of their lives.”
In response, Burlington is donating 1,000 coats to Enon to be distributed to those in need.
If recent reaction to the School Reform Commission’s reorganizational blueprint serves as any kind of indicator, the SRC will have a long way to go to convince neighborhood residents and parents of the merits of plan.
The latest meeting — held on Tuesday at Enon Baptist Church — drew an estimated 2,500 concerned individuals, along with a bevy of elected officials; SRC officials were asked to participate and given questions in advance in order to be prepared to answer them.
“The purpose of the meeting was to let the community hear from SRC and school district leadership about the search for a new superintendent and the proposed plan for restructuring the school district,” said Enon pastor Alyn Waller. “But it was also for the district leadership to hear from the community our displeasure on how the process is going and an opportunity for the [community] group to come together is smaller discussion groups on the answers we received from the SRC.
“It was more about the district’s plans for decentralization and school closings.”
The school district’s Blueprint for Transforming Philadelphia’s Public Schools is a reorganization plan submitted to the SRC by Thomas Knudsen, the district’s chief recovery officer. The plan calls for a drastic change in the structure of the district by eliminating up to 64 schools, privatizing crucial services and continued cutbacks in after school, weekend and alternative programming.
The plan itself hinges on the district receiving $94 million from City Council through the controversial Actual Value Initiative. That plan reassesses homeowner property value, and theoretically, the new tax revenues from the new assessment will go to the school district. But so far, the AVI issue has been bogged down in Council hearings, and Council has shown it will be diligent and take its time in deciding the AVI matter.
Waller said the meeting as whole was a positive one, but he also wishes the SRC panel had been even better prepared to answer some of the tougher questions.
“The meeting was very structured and orderly because we designed it so. The community was very respectful, although we have, and I have, some very serious questions on how they handled it and answered questions,” said Waller, who also serves as assistant wrestling coach and King High School. “For me, the question will always be not if we have good public, private and charter schools, but what is going to happen to our neighborhood schools and what is the district’s commitment to them?”
Waller said the community also has questions regarding the criteria used to select a new leader, accountability, the degrading of public space that the district controls and the massive school closures.
“We believe fundamentally that public education is the Civil Rights issue of the day,” Waller said. “Information is the divide between the haves and the have-nots.”
Philadelphia Federation of Teachers President Jerry Jordan attended the meeting at Enon and also provided testimony during a City Council hearing last Thursday that dealt with the budget crisis. He, too, thought the turnout would send a clear message to the SRC.
“It was very evident by the number of people that attended the town hall meeting, many after work, indicates the level of interest in what’s happening in the public school system, and that they are concerned,” Jordan said. “It shows the plan [the SRC] presented, one that has already been written, has raised a lot of concerns of a variety of stakeholders and other people with investment I education.
“The plan is now out there, and people are reacting to it.”
Jordan implied that the blueprint is essentially beyond the stage of rectification, and that the SRC will enact it — as is.
“I’m hoping that at this point, many parents have an understanding of the language used in education,” Jordan said, referring to his perception that instead of answering the questions in a direct manner, SRC leadership often danced around the issue. “‘Eduspeak’ scares a parent, because [the parent] doesn’t want to appear dumb, but they’re not.
“The SRC needs to speak plain English to parents, and I think that was done on purpose.”
With the start of the new school year, there is a lot of conversation about bullying. This type of aggression is not new, but it is different. And it calls for a different response.
While some adults find nothing wrong with bullying, 70 percent of students view it as a problem. And research suggests that young bullies may be charting a troubling course. A recent study revealed that 60 percent of boys who bullied others in middle school had a criminal conviction by the age of 24. There also is a significant connection between bullying and suicide. Last year’s suicide of a Rutgers University freshman led New Jersey lawmakers to strengthen the state’s anti-bullying law.
Certainly parents play a key role in addressing and preventing bullying; however, research suggests that bullying may be indicative of a larger, societal problem. Studies confirm that among the risk factors for bullying are neighborhoods that are unsafe, violent and disorganized. Conversely, when young people live in safe, connected communities, they are less likely to engage in bullying.
This scholarship underscores the importance of the great work of organizations like 100 Black Men and Mothers in Charge, as well as the mentors, coaches, Scout leaders, teachers, school administrators, the church deacon, the lady on the porch who watches out, and others who are actively engaged in the lives of our children. A number of businesses, schools and faith-based organizations in Northwest Philadelphia have formed a partnership to help keep our children safe. The first initiative is the Safe Haven Program. Participants display a Safe Haven poster in the window of their establishments. The poster tells children traveling to and from school that the building is a refuge from danger.
In addition to these efforts, we need to learn different ways of responding to aggression. Jesus, for example, grabbed a whip and fought the money-changers in the temple. However, he retreated in Bethany in the face of those trying to stone him. And most important, he laid down His life for us at Calvary. Likewise, simply walking or running away may be the appropriate response in a particular situation. And that should not be viewed as weak. As an instructor in one of the martial arts disciplines, I help my students understand that fundamentally we fight because we’re scared or angry. When we are confident and balanced, however, there is no need to prove what we know to be true. Rather, we learn to operate from a position of strength and make the choice not to cause the aggressor harm although we have the ability and means to. Instead, we demonstrate our strength by walking away.
On Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church hosted an anti-bullying workshop. We shared important information and strategies to address bullying. This was just one step in what I hope will be an ongoing effort to combat this problem. I look forward to your participation in upcoming events.
The Rev. Dr. Alyn Waller is the senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church.
Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church ran for faith and fitness in its Eighth Annual “Fit for Eternity Run and Walk” on July 27. More than 1,000 members and friends took part in the 4.5 mile race, which was created to celebrate the anniversary of Enon moving from its first location on Coulter Street to its current location on Cheltenham Avenue.
The Rev. Leroy Miles, associate pastor of Pastoral Care and Counseling, explained the event was Enon’s “new twist on an old tradition,” referring to a traditional Baptist practice in which the congregation walks to a new building from an old one in an act of worship.
“We are running from our old church to our new church, thanking God,” he said.
Although noted as being one of the essentials, “worship” is just one piece of the event. It is also a community-driven and health-focused activity.
Non-members were allowed to participate, so organizations such as Black Girls Run and Students Run Philly Style took part in the race as well.
One day before the event, the church hosted a Health Expo. Sickle Cell Parents Network and Einstein at Enon, amongst other groups, hosted information booths. Complimentary chair massages and “posture checks” were also offered.
All proceeds from the event are to be donated to charity. Miles said for this year, the Covenant House Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging Emergency Fund will each receive a minimum of $7,000.
Still, the chance for physical growth, which Enon members said was also important for spiritual growth, was the major benefit of the race.
“God is in every aspect of our lives – this [body] is our temple that God has given to us and we have to take the best care of it that we can,” said Catherine Calimer, Enon member and overall female winner of the running event.
Gregory Henderson, an Enon member and the winner of the 50 to 60-year-old male walking event, shared the same feelings.
“When we talk about fitness, we are talking about our bodies,” he said. “[God] takes care of the inside; we take care of everything else.”
For Kimberly Highsmith, a member of Enon, this insight came in 2012 when she decided to change her lifestyle and lose weight.
During Enon’s Lent-observant “Daniel Fast” in February, she lost 20 pounds. Then in September, she joined the church’s Boot Camp, a workout that includes running hills, lifting tires, and some religion. She laughed, “We calling on Jesus the whole time we lifting logs.”
And the results were real.
By 2013, Highsmith said she lost a total of 40 pounds. The lifestyle change and attitude of wanting to improve is what helped her finish Saturday’s race. As a result, she fels good about herself.
“My commitment to run my race helped me finish,” Highsmith said. “I feel so empowered and physically and spiritually stronger.”
The Second Annual “Music for the Spirit” Gospel Concert raised funds for the non-profit Center in the Park. The older adult facility located in the heart of Germantown brought together a full house to the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church West at 230 W. Coulter St. on Saturday.
Enon member Dawn Morgan Moore performed despite growing health problems. She felt Saturday’s award presentation and concert was for a worthy cause. Having recently celebrated her 50th birthday, Moore was part of the Philadelphia Alumnae Quartet and later did a few solo selections with the other group members as backup singers.
“I am so glad that my church family came out to support CIP,” Moore said. “It’s our honor to be able to give.”
Perhaps no one was more excited about the success of the CIP fundraiser than Lynn Fields Harris of Mount Airy, the executive director. She acknowledged the afternoon’s three honorees. They were Verolga Nix, the Jones Sisters gospel group and state Rep. Louise Williams Bishop.
“CIP was founded by two older women,” Harris said. “Marguerite Riegel and Laura Drake Nicols saw a need for a place that the community’s elders could call their own. (They wanted) a place where they could come together to promote positive aging, stay healthy, independent and avoid isolation. Forty-four years later we are still a gem in Germantown.
“What does CIP do?” she asked. “Think of the words to (the song) ‘If I Can Help Somebody’ because that is what CIP does. It’s what we are committed to do. We help somebody. Thank you for helping us to continue to do that with your generous support.”
The concert featured the sounds of CIP’s Songsters Unlimited that was founded in 1986, the St. Thomas Gospel Choir, Intermezzo Choir Ministry, Joy Unlimited Movement Youth Chorale, and Reginald Troy Coleman. They, along with the Philadelphia Alumnae Quartet and Moore, all received scattered standing ovations throughout the program.
There were many sponsors to make the fundraiser a success. Besides Enon, the St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, Mount Vernon Baptist Church, Mount Tabor Baptist Church, Mount Airy United Fellowship, the First Presbyterian Church in Germantown, the Grace Ebenezer Baptist Church, and the Mount Airy Church of God in Christ were sponsors. In addition, state Rep. Dwight Evans, McClain’s Unisex Salon, Anne’s Wicker Garden, Bruce R. Hawkins Funeral Home, Canaan Baptist Church pastor Derick Brennan and his wife, and others were supporters as well.
CIP’s next event will be a “Sunday Afternoon of Soulful Jazz” featuring saxophonist Brian Lanier. The event will take place at CIP, 5818 Germantown Ave. in Vernon Park on Sunday, May 6 at 3 p.m. Tickets are $15 and there will be a light fare provided. For ticket information call (215) 848-7722, ext. 225.
Malcolm X charged the Black church with being a sleeping giant. Others have criticized the so-called “megachurch” for being impersonal, navel-gazing, and prideful in its largeness. Even a broken ankle can swell, but healthy bones grow in order to provide support for other parts of the body. I continually challenge the Enon Church to examine whether we are just swelling or whether we are providing meaningful support for the community.
Most recently, Enon joined the NAACP and churches all over the country in a commitment to register, educate and mobilize voters. But we knew we had to first get our own house in order. So we agreed to look at ourselves to determine how many Enon members were actually registered to vote. We were able to check records for the vast majority of the adult membership. Of approximately 11,000 members, 10,571, or 96 percent, are registered to vote. Along with a number of Philadelphia churches, we are now committed to helping others register and obtain a valid photo ID that they need to protect their right to vote.
Every individual and organization can do the same. Are you registered to vote? Are 96 percent of those in your family, neighborhood, sorority, fraternity, book club or circle of influence registered and in possession of a valid ID? Ask and then offer to help. Anyone needing forms or assistance can call Enon at (215) 276-7200 or visit the NAACP’s website (www.thisismyvote.org).
Education is the second part of the fight. Know what your community needs and how to vote to get those needs met. Everything from the level of funding for public education to sentencing laws is determined by who is in office. Don’t just talk about the last playoff game, but talk about what’s happening in the Senate as well.
Finally, mobilize. Being 96 percent or even 100 percent registered doesn’t matter if you don’t show up at the polls. Politicians know that you determine if they will hold office, but some count on the fact that you simply won’t wield your power.
The Bible is clear in terms of our purpose: First, love God and then love others. Loving others means working to ensure that our communities are strong, our children have safe and high-quality schools and our elders and poor are protected. While our purpose is the same, we’ve each been given different talents and abilities to contribute to our collective well-being. Some coach a youth sports team or conduct research that influences public policy. Others use art and music to spread a message of love and social justice. Still others use their voices to speak truth to power and communicate hope. But all of us have the ability to use the ballot to effect positive change. We must prepare now to demonstrate our power in November.
The Rev. Dr. Alyn E. Waller is the senior pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church in Philadelphia.
Parents, students, and community leaders all gave the 2012 College, Vocational & Labor Information Fair high marks.
The gathering was held at the Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church East, 2800 W. Cheltenham Ave., on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It was hosted by the office of state Rep. Cherelle Parker.
While many were visiting the tables of local state and private universities as well as HBCUs, others were checking out the labor unions’ apprenticeship programs. Information was also given on grants provided by Philly Goes 2 College, the U. S. Department of Education and the Philadelphia Education Fund.
“I wanted to bring my daughter here to find out ways for her to be able to leave Philly and go away to college,” said Jessica Thomas, who lives in West Philadelphia. “I think it’s a better experience for students to go away and then come back to this city. I know that’s what I did and I think it’s a great experience.”
Marisol Thomas, 16, already has her sights on the University of Miami. The high school junior said as part of the Say Yes Education program she hears about college fairs. “This is the second one I’ve attended and I plan to learn as much as I can,” she said.
Mike McEachin of West Oak Lane brought his daughter, Courtney Haywood, 15, to the college fair. He said since his oldest son attended Bloomsburg University he insisted his daughter begin deciding where she wanted to continue her education. Haywood readily admitted she had not given higher education much thought.
“I know she is saying that she wants to stay here,” McEachin said. “So, I said we can look into Temple University or Community College. I know they also have the vocational schools here, but I really believe that she needs a college education. In the future if you have a degree you will be in more demand.”
Nina Muto, who represented Montgomery County Community College, said she was talking to those who were on hand about the benefits of getting an associate’s degree. Muto said that the credits earned at Montco can transfer to a four year college.
“It makes economic sense since you will pay much less for those first two years of college,” Muto said.
The Third Annual Music for the Spirit Benefit Gospel Concert, hosted by Center in the Park, will be held April 27, from 3 p.m.to 6 p.m., at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, located at 230 West Coulter St.
This event will feature various performances and acknowledgements of gospel musicians who have succeeded in the past, including Fred Blain, Gospel Highway Eleven, Joy Unlimited Movement and many other groups.
This is an intergenerational event and all are welcome to attend. A major sponsor for this event, Gateway Health Plan, will be showing their support, along with all of the churches and businesses who are advertising in the event program book. For more information about this event, please visit www.centerinthepark.org, or call (215) 848-7722.