Tuesday, April 14 brought some of the most talented gospel singers and preachers in the country to The White House, including host of WPGC’s Sunday Morning Hope, Rev. Tony Lee, Pastor of The Community of Hope AME Church. Alongside Rev. Lee was Aretha Franklin, Darlene Love, Lyle Lovett and Rodney Crowell, who were all invited by President Obama for a ‘History of Gospel’ student workshop at the White House.
The workshop was designed as a way for students to explore the influence of gospel on current American trends. Gospel, Obama says, is “what helps connect us to God, to that higher power… For so many, when times have darkened, when there’s struggle, gospel music is that ray of hope and it gives you that strength.”
Rev. Lee reported back on the surreal experience in the White House, duly surprised at the humbled attitudes by Franklin and other stars. “They didn’t act prim and proper because it was the White House, but they sang like they were at church. Since they sang like we were in church, I started shouting like we were in church. I’m just glad the Secret Service didn’t snatch me up.”
During his time behind those big white doors, Rev. Lee met and talked to many influencers in the community including Bishop Rance Allen, Darlene Love, Pastor Shirley Caesar and Levar Burton. “I also sat next to Pastor Donna Pisani and her daughter Bethany Pisani of the Capital City Church,” he beamed.
“We had a great moment with Darlene Love when my mother told her she used to go see her at the Howard Theater in the 60s,” he recalled. “They started hugging each other and taking pictures like they were long lost friends.” It was an experience his mother would never forget, he admits.
The night ended with more laughs, he recalled, as “Darlene Love called the old school days at the Howard Theater the ‘chitlin circuit.'”
The toe-tapping night wasn’t left to those only in attendance. The concert will be streamed live on the White House website and broadcast by PBS on June 26.
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