When I came to Bennett College as Chaplain in July 1988, those students who wanted to sing Gospel music sang in the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University Gospel Fellowship Choir. Must take a moment to honor them as the “Muhammad Ali” of College and University Choirs. When their name was said it was never without adding “The Award Winning …!“ And to their Director, Ron Jones who is undisputably #1.
By the spring semester 1989, I instituted Sunday Morning Worship service, first one Sunday monthly, then two. I asked Duncan Butler to form a choir for this service. The choir decided on the name— “Belles of Harmony Gospel Choir”.
By the spring semester 1990, a young musician from A&T asked to take over the direction of the choir. Tyrone Stanley in about two weeks prepared the choir, along with new members, for ‘Religious Emphasis Week’ in April. I added‘The Gospel Fest’ to the already established activities of the week and The Choir premiered on this occasion.
By faith, the following spring I took the choir on it’s first tour. The ‘Campus Ministry ‘91 Spring Tour’ began with a Friday evening Concert at First COGIC, Brooklyn in new robes. On Saturday morning we started our tour at Battery Park to view the Statue of Liberty. In deciding whether to take the Ferry to the Island, they wanted to see more of the city. We walked to Canal Street where they spent most all of their monies. Across Canal through Washington Square at New York University. The Choir wanted to sing in the Square when they saw the artist’s money containers being filled. Out of the Square to West 4th Street in and out of some of my favorite shops. But only God knows the odds of running into a student who had not returned to Bennett that school year. When I heard the screams, my heart raced. Then seeing the surprise on her face made the tour worthwhile.
Caught the A Train to Harlem at West 4th & Broadway. Shortly after getting off the train at 125th Street/MLK, time was running out. I had hoped to get them to The Schomberg at 135th & Lenox/Malcom X where time and place had been given to our Driver. I left them at The Apollo and scurried to get the bus. We arrived, on time, for our Saturday evening Concert at St. Mark’s AME, Queens, We worshiped Sunday morning at Hanson Place UMC in Brooklyn and sang a Sunday afternoon Concert at Friendship Baptist, Harlem.
But it didn’t stop. After resting a week and accusing Rev. Woods of taking them to New York and trying to kill them, the Choir wanted both a Fall and Spring Tour in the new school year. Requests begun to multiply locally and families were requesting Concerts at home churches. The ‘Campus Ministry ‘91 Fall Tour’ was to Maryland. We did the Friday evening Concert at Antioch Baptist, Upper Marlboro. Our Saturday tour of DC included the Smithsonian with an unforgettable Saturday evening Concert at Interdenominational COGIC, Gaithersburg. I was the Sunday morning preacher with an afternoon Concert at St. John AME, Baltimore. As memorable as this tour was, the day at St. John remains fixed in our hearts.
The ‘Campus Ministry ‘92 Spring Tour’ was a Friday evening second year Concert at First COGIC, Brooklyn. Our Saturday tour included the South Street Pier and on to New Jersey for a Saturday evening Concert at Sharon Baptist, New Brunswick, NJ. I preached the Sunday morning service with an afternoon Concert at Sanctuary Church Of The Open Door, Philadelphia. The day at Sanctuary is still difficult to describe. The Choir talked about Sanctuary Church all the way back to Greensboro, all night, nobody slept.▪
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