James Cleveland Lifetime Achievement Award
2014 Recipient - Hezekiah Walker
Grammy Award winning choir director and church pastor Hezekiah Walker has collaborated with Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy and Whitney Houston; recorded more than a dozen chart-topping albums and become the face of the black Gospel choir over an almost three decades long career. In speaking of his 14th CD, “Azusa The Next Generation,” Walker is philosophically pondering the past generations of believers who influenced his life - like the late Bishop Kenneth Moales (to whom the CD is dedicated) - while also imparting the wisdom of those elders to the next Azusa generation through his music and mentoring.
The first Azusa generation was that pioneering multi-racial sect that gathered at a rundown horse stable at 312 Azusa Street in the heart of a Los Angeles ghetto in spring 1906. There one-eyed preacher William J. Seymour kicked off a Pentecostal revival that lingered for almost 10 years and gave birth to a national Pentecostal Movement espousing a holiness lifestyle, speaking in tongues, faith healing and admonitions of an impending Rapture. In a manner, Walker is repackaging this faith that kept him during his adolescence and making it relatable to today’s youth.
Walker hopes “Azusa The Next Generation” creates a global response among today’s faithful and he unselfishly allowed both seasoned and rising songwriters to contribute to the project in order to craft the right songs to convey this message. Many of the choir members attend the Brooklyn, NY-based Love Fellowship Church he founded in the early 1990s. Once the songs were chosen and taught to the choir that now numbers close to five hundred members, they went into the studio to lay the tracks.
Walker recruited a diverse group of Gospel artists such as Deitrick Haddon; Donnie McClurkin; Brian Courtney Wilson, and John P. Kee to help create this universal sound. “These guys bring an element that is relevant but they also bring something to the table from each of their unique foundations,” Walker adds.
Walker knows firsthand of the church’s power to transform lives. He was born on Christmas Eve night in Brooklyn, NY where his parents raised him and his three siblings in the notorious crime-ridden Fort Greene projects. In spite of their surroundings, the kids were immersed in church in part to shield them from their environment. From the age of eight, Walker had begun to sing in the church choir.
The church helped him through some rough times like when his father died when Walker was fourteen years old or when his mother died suddenly seven years later, on her way to church. After she passed, a despondent Walker quit his job at Xerox. Two months later he was out of money and facing eviction when he began to pray. When he finished, he started writing his first song. He took the hook of D.J. Rogers’ 1975 R&B song “(It’s Alright Now) I Think I’ll Make It Anyhow,” wrote new verses around his current trials and tribulations and changed the melody a bit to transform it into the Gospel hit “I’ll Make It.”
Walker formed the Love Fellowship Crusade Choir with a dozen members circa 1985 and taught them the song. They recorded the “I’ll Make It” LP live and it rose to #12 on Billboard’s Top Gospel Albums chart when Sweet Rain Records released it in 1988. The song was a huge hit that established the choir and led to a recording contract with Benson Records (later folded into The Verity Music Group now known as RCA Inspiration).
Walker’s emphasis on simple, catchy songs has helped him and the choir remain consistent hit makers ever since. The fan favorites have continued to flow, and they include “Lift Him Up;” “God Favored Me;” “Power Belongs To God;” “Jesus is My Help,” and “Let’s Dance” among others. Walker sees no reason for the trend to end now and sees the Azusa stage as an opportunity to expand his musical ministry.
Thomas A. Dorsey Most Notable Achievement Award
2014 Recipient - Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee is a member of the United States House of Representatives. She represents the 18th Congressional District of Texas, centered in Houston, which is the energy capital of the world. Considered by many as the “Voice of Reason”, she is dedicated to upholding the Constitutional rights of all people.
She sits on two Congressional Committees — a senior member of the House Committees on the Judiciary and Homeland Security. She is the Ranking Member of the Homeland Security Subcommittee for Maritime and Border Security. She recently co-authored HR 1417, a bipartisan bill, which has been touted as the best vehicle for accomplishing comprehensive immigration reform in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congresswoman Jackson Lee is also the past Chairwoman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee on Transportation Security and Infrastructure Protection. She also passed the Transportation Security Act of 2007 which increased funding for America’s transportation security.
In 2008, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee D-TX introduced the historic resolution, H.J. Res 90, after meeting in her United States Capital office with Charley Humbard, CEO of Uplift TV, Gospel Music Advocate Carl Davis & Entertainment Executive Alvin Williams. They discussed the rich contribution of gospel music and her leadership along with Senator Blanche Lincoln D-AR in the bipartisan passage to designate September as ‘Gospel Music Heritage Month’ and honoring gospel music for its valuable and longstanding contributions to the culture of the United States.” She then led the effort to create the Gospel Music Heritage Month Foundation that celebrates gospel music at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D. C. and the 18th Congressional District in Texas that have honored gospel icons and trailblazers, Dr. Bobby Jones of Bobby Jones Gospel, Kathy Hughes of Radio-One, Charley Humbard, Uplift TV, Don Jackson of the Stellar Awards, and this year honored Congressman John Lewis as a Salute to the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington along with gospel icon Richard Smallwood, and Bill Hearn of Capital Music Group for their major contributions to the legacy of gospel music.
She was named by ‘Congressional Quarterly’ as one of the 50 most effective Members of Congress and the ‘U.S. News and World Report’ named her as one of the 10 most influential legislators in the U.S. House of Representatives. She is a founder, member, and co-chair of the Congressional Children's Caucus and authored and introduced H.R. 83, the Bullying Prevention and Intervention Act of 2013. She is also chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Energy Braintrust and co-chair of the Justice Reform Task Force. She serves as Senior Whip for the Democratic Caucus and Chairperson of the Texas Congressional Democratic Delegation for the 113th Congress.
Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee earned a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University with honors, followed by a J.D. from the University of Virginia Law School. She is married to Dr. Elwyn Lee who is also a Yale Graduate and an Administrator at the University of Houston. She has two children Jason Lee a graduate of Harvard University and Erica Lee a graduate of Duke University who is also a Member of the Harris County School Board in Houston, Texas.
Ambassador Dr. Bobby Jones Legends Award
2014 Recipient - Pastor Maceo Woods
Pastor Maceo Woods
Born on the far south side of Chicago in the community of Morgan park, Maceo L. Woods, showed promise as a servant of God early in life; being interested in and concerned about the welfare of others. From early youth to manhood, he labored in the field of church music, as soloist, choirmaster, and organist. By the year 1950 Maceo L. Woods was already universally acclaimed by many to be one of the world’s greatest gospel organists and choirmasters; appearing in such noted auditoriums as New York’s Madison Square Garden, and Harlem’s famed Apollo Theater. His soulful interpretation of ‘Amazing Grace’ has been immortalized.
Since the time of his calling to the ministry in 1959 and the birth of Christian Tabernacle Church, in 1960, Pastor Woods has continued producing, training, and directing choirs, recording and reaching vast public audiences through radio and television ministries. Pastor Woods is included in the pages of gospel music history as accounted by author Anthony Heilbut in his book the Gospel Sound.
Although he and the Christian Tabernacle Choir are continuously in demand for engagements in churches, civic affairs and on concert stages throughout the nation, Pastor Woods chooses to spend the majority of his time pasturing the flock of Christian Tabernacle Church. He is often heard saying, “I thank God I’m a preachers who can play the organ rather than an organ player who can preach.”
Considered by some of his colleagues as a ‘gentle giant,’ Pastor Woods effectively extends his Christian ministry through involvement in many community and civic causes. He is a member of the Broadcast Ministers Alliance, and a registered Agent of the Community Cable Consortium of Chicago, Inc.
Pastor Woods is unique among Pastors in his strength, purpose and delight in which he leads his flock.
"My name is Monique Britton. I wanted to get in on the blog action too. I am that voice on the other line of the phone that tries to answer all of your questions."
"This is always an interesting time. I want to share a special moment from the 2012 Stellar Awards. Some of the things that happen with the artists backstage are pretty spectacular. This story is centered around a girl name Angelique (Angel) Rocker, 17 and Kirk Franklin."