President George W. Bush joins singers (front row, L-R) Narcissus Brown, Kurt Carr, Spensha Baker and Walter Hawkins on stage in the East Room of the White House, following their performances Tuesday, June 17, 2008, in honor of "Black Music Month." (White House photo by Eric Draper, courtesy of White House Web site)
Gospel music certainly left its mark in the nation's capital last week as three separate events in Washington, D.C. took place honoring and/or celebrating the genre. On June 17, President George W. Bush honored "Black Music Month" with a special event at the White House, which featured a gospel theme, and then on June 18 legislation designating September as "Gospel Music Heritage Month" was introduced in Congress. The festivities concluded that night as The Recording Academy hosted its annual "GRAMMY Salute to Gospel Music" at The Lincoln Theatre with this year's honorees being Edwin and Walter Hawkins, Sandi Patty and The Winans.
Having previously proclaimed June as "Black Music Month," President Bush hosted a special event in the East Room of the White House on June 17. Gospel Today publisher Teresa Hairston served as mistress of ceremonies for the event, whose attendees included Roslyn Brock, Vice Chairman of the NAACP, Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, Recording Academy President/CEO Neil Portnow, and former Secretary of Education Rod Paige. Also in attendance were GMA Board of Directors Chairman Charles Dorris, GMA Board Member Stacy Merida, Marvin Sapp and GMA President/CEO John W. Styll, among others.
In his remarks, President Bush talked about the "many memorable events in black music" that had taken place at the White House, including in 1882 when President Chester A. Arthur invited the Fisk Jubilee Singers to perform, making them the first black choir to ever perform there. "Their music was so powerful that it moved President Arthur to tears," Bush said.
Following President Bush's remarks, the audience was treated to performances by several gospel artists, including Spensha Baker, Narcissus Brown, Edwin and Walter Hawkins and Kurt Carr and the Kurt Carr Singers.
Following the White House event, the focus shifted to Capitol Hill as The Recording Academy and the Gospel Music Channel (GMC) joined with Senator Blanche L. Lincoln (D-Ark.), Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Congresswoman Shelia Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack (R-Calif.) to launch the "Gospel Music Heritage Month" initiative.
As part of the initiative, which was created by the Gospel Music Channel and publicly unveiled during The Recording Academy's "GRAMMYs on the Hill" event on June 18, legislation was introduced in both the House of Representative and the Senate to designate September as "Gospel Music Heritage Month," to honor gospel music for its valuable long-standing contributions to American culture.
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