Capitol Hill may never be the same after the Gospel Music Heritage Month celebration that took place on Thursday, September 26 at the United States Capitol. WHUR radio broadcast legend, Jacquie Gales Webb served as mistress of ceremonies for the evening filled with song, remembrance and plenty of foot-stomping befitting of an event that celebrates gospel music.
The event was a celebration of H.J. Res 3 of 2019, led by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), a resolution designating September 2019 as Gospel Music Heritage Month and in honor of the original resolutions passed by both chambers in 2008. Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-AR) led the passing of that resolution. Congresswoman Karen Bass (D–CA), Congressman John Lewis (D-GA), Congressman Bobby Rush (IL), Congressman G.K. Butterfield (D-NC), Congresswoman Frederica Wilson D-(FL) and Congresswoman Joyce Beatty (D-OH) were co-hosts of the night’s festivities.
Congressman John Lewis addressed the crowd and shared a few stories of his youth and time in the movement. He recalled how gospel music played an important part in the civil rights movement. The very presence of the 17-term Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district was met with palpable reverence when champion for justice stepped into the room. Congressman Lewis was previously honored during the 2013 Evolution of Gospel Concert celebrating Gospel Music Heritage Month at the Kennedy Center.
Congressman Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.), the House Majority Whip was honored for his contributions. Each year during the Annual Legislation Conference, Sen. Clyburn co-hosts a gospel music concert.
The celebration kicked off in high gear as Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music came out and wowed the audience with “Take it to the Lord in Prayer” and a full-throttle “Kings Highway” that enthralled the audience that included members of Congress. It was a perfect opening that ushered an evening that would continue to demonstrate the diversity and transcendence of gospel music.
Anthony Brown & group therAPy, fresh on the heels of earning an R.I.A.A. Gold Certification for their number 1 radio smash, “Worth” was next performing his Gold certified song. As Brown and group therAPy and the lyrics the audience was visibly moved by the song’s meaning. “Worth” has staying power and permeated the hallow halls of the Capitol as the voices wafted heavenward. To top it all off Congresswoman Jackson Lee presented Brown the Icon Award for his contributions to gospel music.
Executive Director of the Washington, DC Chapter of the Recording Academy, Jeriel Johnson recalled the origins of gospel music in the industry and commended the Congresswoman on her commitment to gospel music.
Indie artist C. Ashley Brown-Lawrence a relatively fresh face came on next. At first seeming demure, Brown-Lawrence, who hails from Moss Town, Mississippi, slowly took her 2017 debut single, “I’ve Got the Victory” to a rousing crescendo as she went up and down the stage in unrestricted praise and her vamp grew stronger with each intonation, whipping the audience into a spiritual frenzy, shouting “I got it! I got it”!
One of the most prolific songwriters in gospel music, V. Michael McKay and his singers offered a musical journey through the timeless music of many gospel greats, some of which included himself (“Thank God For The Blood”), James Cleveland (“God has smiled on me”), Margaret Pleasant Douroux (“Give me a Clean Heart”), Andréa Crouch (“We are Not Ashamed”), Thomas Whitfield (“Precious Jesus- I Am Constrained”). The song-filled medley ended with a stirring rendition of the DMV’s very own legend, Richard Smallwood‘s “Total Praise.” McKay plans to release a hymn book in 2021.
Another touching moment took place when Congressman Bobby Rush was honored. The politician, activist, pastor, and Representative for Illinois’s 1st congressional district, has served in Congress for more than two decades. After sharing his thoughts and recollections about gospel music, he mentioned that while was in DC, his wife, Paulette was in Chicago attending the 2nd Annual National Museum of Gospel Music benefit concert. This is truly a duo dialed in to the importance of gospel music.
Jason Nelson delivered on the powerful “I Am” and launched in the currently popular “Forever” and was also honored by Congresswoman Jackson Lee.
Kathy Taylor gave a riveting performance with her performance of her new single, “God Is With Us.” She was later joined by Patrick Lundy and the Ministers of Music as she sung their hit, “God Cares.” Both Taylor and Nelson were awarded recognitions.
The evening with an “O Happy Day” finale with all participants, but not before Congresswoman Jackson Lee told the audience that they would return to the Kennedy Center next year. However, this intimate evening was certainly masterfully crafted by Congresswoman Jackson Lee and DC Host Committee Ron Magnus and dedicated volunteers.
No doubt this foray into the hallowed halls of the Capitol won’t be soon forgotten as gospel music continues leave its indelible mark wherever it goes.