Shirley Caesar

by Yvonne J. Medley

Shirley Caesar was among an impressive group of notables receiving recognition for their talent and their time spent giving back to the fans and communities that love them.

The occasion was the National Association of Black-Owned Broadcasters (NABOB) awards dinner, held recently in Washington. Caesar received NABOB's Pioneer in Music Award, which was presented to her by longtime friend Cissy Houston.

The eight-time Grammy award winner commented that receiving the award was special. “I thank God for the Grammies, but let me tell you something, it's good when you can be among your own and be honored,” she said. Although the event was mainly geared toward a secular audience, Caesar, an eight-time Grammy winner, took the crowd to church when she stepped up to receive her award. During her acceptance speech, Caesar directed the audience to let out an enthusiastic "Amen". And before she took her seat, Caesar shouted a resounding, “To God Be the Glory!” Caesar said that she didn't have a problem participating in secular events or teaming up with artists who don't do Christian-oriented music exclusively because it's a blessing whenever the world is exposed to God's Word through song. “I think it's wonderful when God can just drop a seed in somebody's heart to say let's honor Albertina Walker, Shirley Caesar, anybody [in gospel music]. Because out of all of them [she motioned toward the crowd now milling about] who are there [artists and industry moguls, noted for secular music], nine-times-out-of-ten, they started their careers in the church.” She expressed that the exposure to Christian music is a blessing. “I think it's marvelous,” Caesar remarked.

The list of awardees included: five-time Grammy award winner Lauryn Hill, Singer Mariah Carey; Actor and Activist Danny Glover, Radio Personality Tom Joyner, the Pioneer in Music Award; Radio and Television Personality Hal Jackson, the Lifetime Achievement Award; and Actor/Director Carl Franklin, the Oscar Micheaux Award for Excellence in Film.

During the gala Singer/Songwriter Smokey Robinson performed much to the crowd's delight. At the gala, Caesar, with her husband, Bishop Harold Williams by her side, later joked, “I didn't know Smokey Robinson could sing like that. That's a singing man,” she said. “Now listen to me,” she stressed with a smile and a laugh, “I'm not talkin' about the words. I'm talking about the voice!” Caesar's next venture, she says, will hopefully include new recordings with Patti LaBelle and Whitney Houston. Caesar also pastors the Mount Calvary Word of Faith Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she is active in community outreach ministries.C