Friday, November 17, 2017

Thirteen-year-old lands record deal after winning talent contest

Devin Michael McCracklin has talent. That much is a given after the 13-year-old singer, actor, songwriter and talk show host placed first in a talent contest in Atlanta and a recording contract with Zarah Records, an independent label founded by Dr. Zakiyyah Raheem.
“I’m very excited,” said Devin, who counts as his influence Michael Jackson, James Brown, Bruno Mars, and Nathan Davis Jr., a 23-year-old standout who was once raised in Memphis and now living in California.
“He’s iconic,” Devin said of Davis.
Devin bagged the record deal in August after winning Atlanta’s “You Got Talent” contest that radio personality Porsche Foxx of Old School 87.7 radio station in Atlanta had been announcing.
Devin Michael McCracklin – or Devin MC – is releasing
the single "Lavender Girl" on his debut album,
"Devin's World." (Courtesy photo)
It was just by happenstance that the commercial would catch the attention of Devin’s parents, Constance and Sylvester McCracklin, who were headed to dinner that day with two of their five sons and daughter-in-law.
“We were there in Atlanta, not for anything regarding the entertainment industry,” said Constance McCracklin. “We were there for my husband’s job; he had to take some tests for his job.”
The McCracklins were planning on moving the family to Atlanta anyway, Constance said. Devin’s winning performance and subsequent recording contract no doubt solidified their plans, which made the move to Atlanta worth the effort and expense.
Testing for a job just happened to turn into good fortune for the family. “We happened to be in the car and did not have the radio on at all for two days,” Constance said. “We happened to turn the radio on this particular day.”
Old School 87.7 was pumping up the music over the airwaves; and that same commercial, voiced over by Foxx, played in rotation, without fail.
“They kept talking about this Atlanta Got Talent contest,” Constance remembers. “We heard it about 30 times in the car traveling.”
So did Devin, who was seated quietly and listening intently. Meanwhile, Constance, thinking it might be an opportunity to take the boys to the contest out of curiosity, nudged her husband for his approval.
“He said, ‘Naw! I got to be at the orientation at 8 o’clock in the morning. It’s just gonna be too much.’”
Newly-signed recording artist Devin Michael McCracklin
has an affinity with the microphone. (Photo by Sylvester
McCracklin Jr., CEO of H2D Entertainment)
After finishing up dinner at the Golden Corral restaurant, the McCracklins jumped back into the car and were off again. And again, Foxx was on the radio encouraging her listening audience to tryout for the talent contest at the 656 Sports Bar & Grill.
“So Devin put the puppy dog face on his dad,” said Constance, and added that her husband yielded to Devin’s forlorn expression, which registered his eagerness to tryout for the talent contest.
The month-long contest was a synch for Devin. He won the first round on Monday, Aug. 7. And each Monday thereafter he breezed through the competition. On Monday, Aug. 28, the last round, the singing sensation was crowned the winner in the “Pop” category.
The McCracklins couldn’t contain their joy. Devin had proven his worth as a budding young artist – so did his 26-year-old brother, Sylvester McCracklin III, who won third place in the “Hip-Hop” category. He goes by the name Sly Guy, his stage persona. Tonyaa Staples, another Memphian, won second place in the “Neo-Soul” category.
Sly Guy and Staples weren’t signed to the record label. If Devin’s career takes off, Constance said Sly Guy could be signed next. Meanwhile, Devin is releasing his debut album, “Devin’s World.” His first single is “Lavender Girl.”
Dr. Raheem, also the president and CEO of the recently founded label, penned the lyrics. She is referred to as “Dr. Hit Maker” in the industry. The song was mixed and produced by Kutt The Check, and recorded and engineered by Scott T. Robertson at STR Recording Studios.
Devin added lyrics to two songs on the album: “Billionaire,” a calm approach suggesting the upscale lifestyle, and “Superman,” a character study undergirded with a hook, the songwriter said.
“My favorite songs are mostly fast songs because they energize me and I can do a lot more dancing,” said Devin, explaining his style of music. “I can really make it my own. Slow songs…I can make it my own with riffs and runs.”
Devin is the youngest of the McCracklin’s five children. He has an affinity with the microphone. His parents are the founders of H2D Entertainment, whose slogan is “Bringing Hollywood to Memphis.”
“I would always get mad when my dad would take the microphone away from me,” said Devin, who started singing at the age of six and emulating the artists he admires the most.
Last year he studied at Stax Music Academy. He also traveled as a lead singer with the Youth Performing Arts Company of Memphis, including leading roles in stage productions and short films produced by H2D Entertainment.
Devin prays too; it’s a ritual for the church-going family. “Without God, I wouldn’t be doing this,” he said. “I keep God first and stay humble.”
He is scheduled to go on tour next year. His mother, who is teaching Devin the pros and cons in the music industry, is managing his career. She is in lockstep with him each day.

(For more information about Devin Michael McCracklin or his music, call Constance McCracklin at 901-691-9856)

Thursday, September 21, 2017

New book provides answers to questions about God

Katrina Chalmers (seated), who self-published a new book under the name K.D.
Poston, signs copies during a book signing at Faith Temple Ministries Church of
God in Christ. Her sister, Linda Seymour, provided assistance. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
What Katrina Chalmers was able to glean from her extensive research into God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit should elicit a welcoming response from the inquisitive soul yearning for knowledge and truth.
Chalmers does not claim to be a preacher. An exegetist? Perhaps. Most assuredly she’s a student of the gospel who understands, for example, 2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV): “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Her research into the origins of God, His wonders untold in the earth and in the heavens, angels, Lucifer, and Christendom were derived from various sources including [but not limited to] the Bible.
The noteworthy material that Chalmers was able to unearth since 2013, when she first started researching, should not muddle the layman’s thoughts about God, nor be misconstrued as undecipherable highbrow mumbo jumbo.
Instead, it was Chalmers’ intent all alone to take her painstaking research and publish the material in its simplest form in a book aptly entitled “Could It Be…? The Answers to Questions of all Ages” Volume 1. In its complete form, the book is a must-read, scholarly compilation that evokes thought and piques one’s curiosity.
“My goal [in writing the book] was to simplify it so the whole world could understand,” said Chalmers, who self-published the book this year under the name K. D. Poston to attract a wider audience in addition to the male variety that may frown upon a female author with command of the English language and her research material.
“This was an assignment from God,” said Chalmers, which was fitting that Faith Temple Ministries Church of God in Christ, a family church she once attended in the Whitehaven community, would host a book signing on Sept. 10.
“I grew up in the church,” she said. “I was indoctrinated in Christianity…and truly see it as a blessing. Having the knowledge of God and the experience helped me to avoid the many pitfalls.”
The pitfalls were likely avoided – most of them, she might admit – because the matriarch of the family no doubt impressed upon Chalmers and her six siblings to rightly divide the word of truth and not to be ashamed.
“Since I’m rooted in Christianity, I wanted to show the book didn’t contradict the Bible,” she said. To avoid contradiction, she fact-checked her notes and research material with the Bible and then fact-checked everything again.
Chalmers drew inspiration from a body of work called “The Sophia (Wisdom) of Jesus,” which “reveals the great mystery of God and the Godhead!” she writes in the book.
After discovering this jewel of rare historic information, her immediate response was “Wow!” With her Bible in hand, she said, “As Scripture was coming to me, I would read it again and again until it all made sense.”
She just wants it all to make sense to her readers – page after page, topic after topic, chapter after chapter, such as “Who is God?”; “God in Three Personalities”; “A Trinity Within 5 Trinity”; “Creation of Mankind”; and other chapters the author deems noteworthy.
“He revealed to me that knowledge will only come when we seek it and have the capability to do something with it,” she writes. “Knowledge is power.”
This book assignment is complete with Chalmers’ approval. “I considered this my personal assignment and my individual purpose,” she said.
Now Chalmers – or rather K. D. Poston, the name she has chosen to use henceforth in upcoming Christian literature – is on the move. A first-time published author, she has in the can outlines for at least five more books.
“My next book will be volume two,” she said.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Memphis compensates sanitation workers in advance of the 50th anniversary

The city of Memphis is offering $50,000 in grants to 14 sanitation workers from 1968.
Baxter Leach, now retired, said he could use the money. (Photo by Wiley Henry)
When Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland announced in early July that the city would offer $50,000 in tax free grants to the 14 surviving 1968 sanitation strikers, a wave of excitement washed over Baxter Leach.
“I feel great about it,” said Leach, who never imagined that he would be compensated nearly 50 years after the sanitation workers opted to participate in Social Security rather than a pension plan offered by the city at that time.
“We’re proposing a new retirement plan, an additional retirement plan for all sanitation employees,” said Strickland, making his remarks at the National Civil Rights Museum, site of the former Lorraine Motel where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.
Standing before the 7,000-pound bronze sculpture “Movement to Overcome,” Strickland and other city officials expressed the need to remedy the decades-long pension debacle that did not give sanitation workers anything to look forward to after retirement other than Social Security.  
Whatever it took for the city to arrive at its decision, “the money comes in handy,” said Leach, 77, who retired in 2005 and receives a small Social Security check each month after working 43 years in the Public Works Department.
Nine other sanitation workers from the 1960s have retired as well and getting by on Social Security. Four others, including 85-year-old Elmore Nickleberry, are still on the city’s payroll trying to keep up their standard of living.
The money, Nickleberry noted in The New York Times, “will really help me retire.”
 “Obviously we can’t undo everything,” said Robert Knecht, the public works director. “As Chief [Operating Officer Doug] McGowen said, ‘It’s never the wrong time to do the right thing.’”
The city is drawing down $700,000 from its general fund reserves to pay the striking sanitation workers and added an additional $210,000 to cover the taxes on the grants. First Tennessee Bank and the nonprofit Operation HOPE, which offers free financial literacy workshops and one-on-one financial counseling, will administer the grants.
Leach is expecting a payday soon. He’s unsure how much of the money will be allotted at a time, but he’s certain that the money will be put to good use. “I show can use the money,” he said.
The money can’t come too soon for Leach, who eked out a living day and night to take care of his wife and six children. He worked odd jobs during the day and hauled garbage at night.
“I was hustling,” he said. “I did some of everything to make a dollar. I hauled junk. I painted houses and worked at a mechanic shop while working my routes at night throughout the city.”
Recalling the hard knock job of hauling filthy garbage, Leach said, “It was hard back in those days. We didn’t have anywhere we could go to the bathroom and nowhere to wash our hands when we got through eating.”
Leach recalls having nowhere to shower either after liquid stench would dribble from the metal tubs they had to lug to the garbage truck. “We would wear the same clothes back home,” he added.
The announcement serves as a prelude to the 50th anniversary of the sanitation workers strike and the assassination of Dr. King, who rallied the sanitation workers and encouraged them to stick together to achieve their goal: a fair wage, recognition of the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and better safety standards.
 It was the horrible crushing deaths of garbage collectors Echol Cole and Robert Walker that led to the sanitation workers strike and Dr. King’s visit to Memphis. Thirteen hundred black men went on strike carrying placards with the slogan “I Am A Man.”
The sanitation workers who participated in the strike fought long and hard to initiate change. Choosing to forego the pension, they were not able to retire in relative comfort. Many of them kept working.
“I got tired of working. I’ve been working since I was 9 years old in Mississippi,” said Leach, spending his leisure with family. Most times he’s sitting around at the restaurant they own, Ms. Girlee’s Soul Food Restaurant.

SCLC convenes its 59th Convention in Memphis

Dr. Charles Steele Jr. is taking the Southern Christian Leadership Conference
to new heights beyond the apex of its glory days. (Photo from the SCLC website)
The Southern Christian Leadership Conference survived decades of internal discord and instability after its founding in 1957, when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., SCLC’s first president, began leading the organization through the tumultuous civil rights movement.
Dr. Charles Steele Jr., SCLC’s current president and CEO, is leading the organization through global discord and instability, and evokes the organization’s creed to “Redeem the Soul of America.”
Steele will be in Memphis July 20-23 when SCLC convenes its 59th convention at the historic Peabody Hotel. The theme: “The Hour is Now to: Believe, Empower, Act.” The issues: poverty, injustice, economic inequality, police brutality, and others.
Steele is the first non-clergyman to lead SCLC, an interfaith organization committed to peace, unity and non-violence. Since its founding 59 years ago, he said, “We’re in worse shape than we were.” Black success today, he added, is cosmetic at best. “We attained it, but we didn’t maintain it,”
There have been highs and lows over the course of SCLC’s existence. The organization, however, is still relevant, said Steele, recalling a conversation he once had with Mikhail Gorbachev, former president of the Soviet Union before its collapse.
“The first thing he asked me was, ‘Steele, have we fulfilled the dream? Is the dream complete?’ I told the president, ‘Mr. Gorbachev…no…we’re not halfway there.’”
Gorbachev’s sentiments were embodied in the hopes and aspirations of African Americans past and present who’re still searching for the elusive dream. Steele said other world leaders likewise understand the black experience and the travails of black life in America.
On Sept. 13, 1964, Dr. King delivered a heartfelt speech in East Berlin at Sophienkirche (Sophia Church). Gorbachev was listening intently, Steele said. “He wasn’t in the audience; he was eavesdropping.”
Steele has traveled all over the world. He’s visited five continents and countless countries, including Moscow, Russia; Berlin, Germany; Jerusalem, Israel; Rome, Italy; and many countries in Africa.
He’s motivated by the support that SCLC has received from many world leaders. “People say to me, who’re receiving us, ‘Don’t give up on SCLC, because if you stop, you stop the flow of freedom throughout the world.’”
Steele has taken SCLC to new heights. In 2006, he raised $3.3 million (and more than $10 million altogether in first five years at the helm) to build an international headquarters for SCLC in Atlanta.
The slogan, “New Day…New Way,” signified that a change had come.
“I can’t run SCLC the way we ran it in the ’50s and ’60s,” he said. “I have to have God to give me the anointing, vision and enough sense to understand that I got to have good people who will never be seen supporting me resourcefully….”
Steele is focused on economic development – which, like the black man’s quest for freedom, has eluded the black community, the charismatic leader said. “We’ve gone backwards due to the fact that we have not embraced the economic development aspect in our community.”
He predicts, for example, a sobering decline in black banks and financial institutions within the next 15 to 20 years. “Something is wrong with that,” said Steele, adding that the problem is systemic.
“In the last 8 to 9 years, we have lost 52 to 53 percent of our black wealth. It will take two generations for us to get it back,” Steele said. He pointed out that 52 to 53 percent of homes in the black community were lost through Wall Street and the banking industry.
Black wealth, Steele said, is evaporating and cannot be solidified with government oversight. “The government is the enemy,” he said, borrowing the line from Dr. King. “The government is not going to do anything to free you.”
It wouldn’t matter who is president, Steele said. “I don’t care if we have a black president, brown president, Caucasian, Hispanic, politics can’t free us. We’re in a system.”
He said it also wouldn’t matter the political party. “I’m not Republican or Democrat. I’m Baptist. I do ‘Thus said the Lord.’ That’s what sustains us. That’s where we are. That’s where we’re gonna be… and we’ll be here forever.”


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Artist promotes peace through art

Aiesha Overton, better known as Naima Peace, is applying the finishing touches to
her mural of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. She said there are similarities
between the two rather than the feud that may have caused their deaths.
(Photos by Wiley Henry) 
Tupac Shakur (or 2Pac), a West Coast rapper and actor, was gunned down on Sept. 7, 1996, in a drive-by shooting at an intersection in Las Vegas, Nevada. His fans still mourn his death.
The Notorious B.I.G. (or Biggie Smalls), an East Coast rapper, was killed in a drive-by shooting by an unknown assailant on March 9, 1997, in Los Angeles, Calif. His fans still mourn him too.
Aiesha Overton, a visual artist known as Naima Peace, was a little girl when both rappers died in the middle of an East Coast and West Coast feud that went awry and rocked the hip-hop world. She is one of their biggest fans.
“I’m the biggest 2Pac fan ever. I fell in love with his poetry, writing and music,” said Peace, 27. “I’m a Biggie fan, too. He was an inspiration. He had so much in his voice and was so genuine.”
Peace’s love and admiration for both men are reflected in a small mural she’s stenciled on the East wall of the North Memphis Market at the corner of Vollintine and Avalon in the historic Vollintine-Evergreen neighborhood.
The mural of the late legendary rappers hands on the
East wall of the North Memphis Market.
 
The corner is a magnet for criminal activity and wanton violence. A man was recently killed and another one was wounded after a gunman opened fire and left behind a gruesome display of humanity.
The corner is infamous for such dastardly acts of violence. Peace drew her inspiration from 2Pac and Biggie, which she juxtaposed against each other in monochromatic colors and separated only by the gulf that divides them.
“I wanted to put the picture of them on the same mural because people feel they were worlds apart. But they were so similar,” Peace said. “When people see them, I want people to see them smiling and together.”
Violence, tension, struggle and peace are words the artist used to describe the rappers’ creative output of heartfelt music, which fueled their fans’ loyalty, respect, adulation and idolatry following their untimely deaths.
“People tried to separate them,” she said. “If 2Pac and Biggie can be on the same canvas, I feel peace is possible.”
Peace is an artist of impeccable talent, but it is her insight and search for peace in a violent world that motivates her and drives her into advocacy mode. In fact, “Naima means peace and feminine tranquility,” she said.
While peace is the operative word, the artist heads an organization called “Recycle Peace,” a creative consortium of artists working hand-in-hand to offer their services – whatever genre of art, whatever medium.
“We want to continue to push peace,” she said. “Peace is possible between people, between neighborhoods, between countries. There can be peace of mind, peace in all aspects.”
Before the artist made the decision to create art while advocating for peace, she studied civil engineering at the University of Memphis. “I’m two semesters shy of receiving my civil engineering degree,” she said.
Three years separate the time Peace left the U of M and the direction she’s headed in her career as an artist. She launched her first solo art exhibit two years ago at Crosstown Arts. The exhibit title: “The Product of Pac.”
“Each piece,” she pointed out, “was inspired by a poem from his book, ‘The Rose That Grew From Concrete,’” a posthumous album based on 2Pac’s poetry and writings. “I had about six or seven pieces.”
Peace has been exhibiting her art with other artists and as a featured artist since 2014. She is scheduled to be the featured artist at Crosstown Arts in August. The title of the exhibit has already been decided: “MadAir Skate Deck.”
“I want to do bigger and better pieces that transcend my art. And I want to think outside the box,” said Peace, noting that everything she’s created then and now has to mean something.
Peace graduated in 2008 from Germantown High School. A quiet spirit, she is adept at critical thinking, which she applies to the creative process. It is a luminous calm with spiritual overtones.
“I’m heavily influenced by my mom,” she said. “She is spiritual, which has been reiterated throughout my life. The older I get, I realize how important it is to maintain your own peace of mine.”


(Naima Peace can be reached at 901-826-9619 or by email at anoverton90@gmail.com)

Friday, July 7, 2017

Medical missionary boasts healing catastrophic diseases

Medical Missionary Mamon Wilson discusses homeopathic (or natural) remedies with
seminar participants at Breath Of Life Seventh Day Adventist Church. (Photos by Wiley Henry)
What Mamon Wilson has been able to accomplish with homeopathic medicine is beyond comprehension – particularly since he’s not a medical doctor or the conferee of a medical degree from a prestigious medical school.
What he is credentialed in is treating patients stricken with catastrophic diseases with holistic, natural and plant-based medicines derived from nature’s botanical garden: seeds, berries, roots, leaves, flowers, fruits, herbs, etc.
“I never had any schooling. [But] I’ve trained a lot of doctors and medical missionaries,” said Wilson, one of three facilitators focusing on the theme “Better Health & Body,” a seminar held nightly at Breath Of Life Seventh Day Adventist Church June 25-30.
 “They think I’ve been to medical school. Everything I know came from the Holy Spirit,” added Wilson, a medical missionary who has wowed the medical establishment for 46 years with his insight and keen knowledge of natural remedies.
From left: the Rev. Mark Hyde, the "Bible Patrol Man," and
seminar facilitators Dr. Franco Taylor and Mason Wilson.
Wilson was at the podium that Monday and Tuesday night speaking forthrightly to an inquisitive audience eager to learn about alternative treatments to illnesses and diseases that he opines has confounded the best of medical doctors.
On Wednesday, Dr. Franco Taylor, a master herbalist and international health educator, followed Wilson, his mentor and teacher.
Clinel Walker, a life coach, medical missionary and chef trained at Wildwood Lifestyle Center in Wildwood, Ga., completed the seminar.
“Drugs don’t cure. Doctors manage diseases. They don’t cure diseases,” contends Wilson, then referencing Matthews 10:8: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”  
Wilson is reputed worldwide. “I’m working everywhere now: India, Africa, South America, Europe. I’ve been to London I don’t know how many times,” he said. “I’m scheduled to go to New Zealand, Fiji Islands, Australia....”
A man with a huge tumor protruding from his face had practically given up hope until he heard about Wilson, who showed the audience the monstrosity during his PowerPoint presentation.  
“The man wanted me to remove the tumor,” the missionary recalls. “I told him I didn’t have the experience. But he said he believed in me. He had faith.”
Because of the man’s faith, Wilson said the tumor was successfully removed. “My goal is to get people to live right, eat right, and the Holy Spirit will guide them in the right direction.”
 “I believe it works,” said Gloria Singleton, attending the seminar with her younger sister, Vickie Fulton. “I started reading about herbs and plants 20 years ago trying to stay healthy the homeopathic way.”
Fulton, a firm believer herself, attended a month-long medical missionary training class last year at Wilson’s Centurion Ministry/Bible School of Health in Savannah, Tenn., an accredited school located approximately 116 miles from Memphis.
“I learned a lot about the healing process of the body,” said Fulton, a vegetarian who once struggled with body pain. “Mamon taught us to be in tune with our bodies. The healing is in nutritious foods.”
Singleton and Fulton relied on Mamon’s homeopathic remedies when their mother, Willie Bell Fulton, was gravely ill, bed-ridden, and told by doctors that she only had three days to live.
With Wilson’s guidance, Fulton said her mother defied the doctors’ prognosis and lived more than three weeks after her diet was changed and medicine bottles discarded.
“We were blessed that he helped us with Mom,” said Fulton, growing her own backyard vegetable garden and following Wilson’s prescribed homeopathic remedies for good health.
Wilson is making headway in the field of natural medicine. But there was a humble beginning. What inspired him was reading a book that was given to him called “The Ministry Of Healing.”
He once studied at the former Memphis Academy of Arts (now the Memphis College of Art) and obsessed with painting. But his career aspirations changed as he dove deeper into the art of healing.
The change didn’t come, however, until he left Memphis, his hometown, and moved to the mountains in East Tennessee at the onset of his ministry and lived five years in a rustic log cabin that he built from pine trees.
“There was no running water, no indoor toilet, nothing like that, just a wood stove,” he said. “It gave me five years’ time to appreciate nature, to learn about the trees, the bushes, herbs. I gained a new experience. The Holy Spirit was my teacher.”
While sojourning with nature, Wilson studied Indian herbal medicine, Russian folk medicine, tropical medicine, the Bible, and other books to fortify himself with knowledge and the Holy Spirit.
But he has not forgotten what drove him into homeopathy in the first place.
“My mother had lung cancer; she was a smoker. I asked the doctor if he could fix it. He said it couldn’t be fixed.”
Wilson was nine years old then and made a commitment to God that he would one day find a cure for cancer.
“God told me very clearly that, ‘I want you to take the most difficult cases in the world, because if you take the most difficult cases you’d have no competition.’”
Wilson complied and has since treated patients over the years with brain cancer, bone cancer, breast cancer, and prostrate cancer.
“God was with me every step,” he said.


(Mamon Wilson can be reached at Centurion Bible School of Health, P.O. Box 1302, Savannah, Tenn. 38372 or by telephone at 931-724-2246)