The 3rd annual Gospel Goes to Hollywood (GGTH) event was held on Friday, February 28, 2014, just days preceding the Academy Awards. Tomeka’s idea was “to produce an inspirational awards luncheon that celebrates the ‘Untold Stories of Faith’ during Oscar week, a time when everyone is reflecting on all their hard work and the Faith it took to get them there. I wanted to recognize and celebrate them and at the same time raise awareness and funds in support of the fight against domestic violence,” Tomeka explained.
With the successful releases of Son of God and God Is Not Dead, and big budget features like Noah premiering the weekend of March 28, and Exodus in the works, it would appear that Bible-based features are more attractive than ever, not only for their potential monetary return through drawing faith-centric audiences back into the theater, but the opportunities for people of faith to be a part of stories and work that matter to them.
GGTH was held at the luxurious Taglyan Cultural Center in Hollywood. Celebrities from screen, stage, Gospel and R&B music graced the Red Carpet, followed by lunch, and an awards ceremony. This year’s awards recipients included Academy-Award winning actor Louis Gossett, Jr. (Living Legends award); Stage, TV, and Gospel artists David and Tamela Mann (Equally Yoked award); Show Creator and Producer Bentley Kyle Evans (Behind the Scenes Trailblazer award); and Matt Sigloch, military technical adviser for JAG and NCIS (Faith and Endurance award).
Newcomers and known commodities in film, television, Gospel, and R&B music shared the Red Carpet, posing for photographs and granting interviews to press outlets. Gospel music scion Marvin Winans, Jr., young actress Brittany Richards, veteran actor Ernest Thomas, reality-TV star Wendell James, actress Ellia English, worship leader Jackie Gouche, and writer-producer-director Don B. Welch were among the 50-plus guests to walk the carpet. Pastors, radio personalities, judges, and community leaders were also in attendance, or available for post-ceremony interviews.
Noticeably absent was the posturing and ego often found in awards-show settings; instead, joy, and humility took its place. Many of the celebrities and artists expressed their gratitude, and felt humbled that they could be a part of such an event.
Actor Phil Morris thinks that” it was a matter of time before people opened their eyes to see the mainstream possibilities of Gospel, and not the segmented relegation they’ve been forced to kind of endure. They’re inspirational! It’s inspiring, it’s motivational; why wouldn’t we want to have that as the background for our lives?”
Adrian Anderson, formerly of the Gospel trio Trinitee 5:7 and now a solo artist, praised the shift toward spotlighting people of faith in the industry. “We want to acknowledge our faith, we want to acknowledge that people have been working very hard in this industry, and should be acknowledged for not letting go of who they are. So to me this is a tribute, a celebration.”
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Kenny Latimore was also “happy to be in the house—I'm grateful.”
When asked about the comeback of faith and faith-based themes in Hollywood, Kenny had much to say. “I think it's very important, for me personally, just being identified with the Body of Christ, and people knowing that we have a like-mindedness, we have a faith, we have a strength that we all draw from, that we have in common. And to have a celebration like this that uplifts, and really spotlights that—I think it's very important.”
Kenny went further, presenting faith as the sustaining factor of his—and others—lives as entertainers. “It's so funny, because our faith has helped to sustain so many of us in a business that is not always so kind. It's brutal to people a lot of times, and it is our faith that helps us continue to be grounded and give, and not be so absorbed by this business. So I think this is just a great way to celebrate our faith.”
David and Tamela Mann, well known in Gospel music, television, and film, came to receive the Equally Yoked award, honoring their 28-years of marriage, as well as their rock solid testimony of Faith in the industry.
The Manns are best known for playing father and daughter in Tyler Perry’s Meet the Browns, and Tamela is a critically-acclaimed singer whose 2012 album Best Days topped Gospel Music charts.
In their long careers and even longer marriage, faith is not just a part of the equation—it makes the equation possible.
“Well, faith is the number one thing on my list—,” Tamela said. David interjected,
“It’s all wrapped up in there! It IS THAT.”
Tamela continued, “That’s the only way we’ve made it. We’ve come this far by faith. I mean, because we’re believers, and we’re leaning on God to ask him to order our steps on what we do, what we need to be, how we do it.”
“So we’re not entertainers who happen to be believers, we’re believers that just happen to be entertainers,” David concluded.
Pastor and Gospel artist Donnie McClurkin hosted the ceremonies, which, aside from the scheduled singers, broke out into spontaneous song and good vibrations at every possible turn. What started with guest vocalist Stephen B. Steward's beautiful baritone, continued with the 10-member family Gospel group The Showers tight harmonies on their powerful new single “Better”. The spirit took off with Kelly Price, reprising “Better”, adding her own personal flava to the already tasty number. Not to be excluded, Donnie McClurkin also vocalized his own unique expression of the song.
When David and Tamela Mann rose to receive their award, the soul revival was completed. Tamela brought the house down when she belted out her single, “Take Me to the King”. She interjected, “I bring the church wherever I go!”
At the closing of the ceremonies, a dynamic, ad-libbed, musical close-out commenced, with Marvin Winans, Jr., Sunday’s Best runner-up Jessica Reedy, and actress-singer Antonique Smith lifting their voices in potent praise. Pastor McClurkin ended the time with thanks and a final prayer, with all in attendance bowing their heads in reverence.
A portion of the GGTH’s proceeds are donated to The Helpppping Hands Foundation. This organization is dedicated to assisting abused and battered women and their children throughout the world. UST-Global also partnered with the event. The company’s Step It Up America program takes minority women from the inner city, trains them, and places them in IT jobs. UST-Global’s mission goes hand-in-hand with the work of The Helpppping Hands Foundation.
GGTH is much more than an awards ceremony, it is an experience of God’s hand at work in the entertainment and music industries through the people of faith who stand strong within them.
Musician and singer Stephen B. Steward expressed this with eloquence: “I think it's inevitable, because that's the way God works. It's inevitable. The violence, the sex it can only happen for a time and a season, and then God moves in—and I think this is God's season to move in, to invade Hollywood.”