The weekend of September 13 – 15th, the Atlanta and the Sheraton Downtown Hotel hosted the 2013 Arts and Entertainment Conference. Presented by The Greater Atlanta Church of Christ (GACC), this event is held every two years and is a testament to the power of faith while celebrating life through creative energies. Hosted by Speech from 2x Grammy Winner iconic music group Arrested Development, the turnout was more than sufficient with people from all over the world there to support this massive faith-based effort.
This year’s theme was SHREWD, which actually is a parable in Luke 16 enabling all to “grow in becoming shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves.” To put it simply, the weekend was about “…learning to use your gifts and talents to infiltrate the media, the arts and the entertainment industry for the purpose of serving as many souls as possible.”
Not just another gathering
Now, you might think this conference – not convention – was something you wouldn’t want to be involved in. In reality, the conference was something you needed to be involved in. It was very family-oriented. There were the usual involvement of a red carpet, vendors, a fashion show and concert, but there were other attractions that deemed to be unique.
The conference started Friday mid-day with a Ministry Builder’s Workshop touching on the topic of The Shrewd Manager, hosted by Angel Maldonado, Mike Patterson and George Dillard. Attendees on the red carpet included Elroy Smith (Radio One Exec), Tacoma Perry (Fox 5 Reporter) and her husband Darrell, Marcos Mercado (Radio One Personality) and Speech and his family, This only wet everyone’s appetite for things to come on the first night which featured the first film festival for the conference. The films were pretty unique as they showcased a number of 5-minute films from finalists and presided over by a panel of 3-judges: Joseph Jones, COO: Christiankick.com, Adam She, President: AMTC (Actors, Models, Talents for Christ) and Lamar Tyler, Founder: BlackandMarriedwithKids.com. In truth, these films got to this point by a unanimous agreement long before this point, so the judges were there to finalize the grand prize winner. And that winner was Anita Jones of Face Front Productions for her film “POVERTY: The Invisible Society,” affording her a cash prize and scholarship to the AMTC company. For more information on this film and other projects, go to www.facefrontproductions.com.
I got a chance to speak to Lamar Tyler about his involvement with the film festival:
“I was asked to participate after doing a documentary last year on Speech and Arrested Development. Since then, I’ve been connected with him and some people from GACC – they were just awesome – really, the movement they have. It’s really a movement. Ever since I got to the hotel, I’ve been blown away.”
The audience was also treated to live music from The Pariah Cellist, The Hypnic Jerks, SNB and Broken, with dance performances by the church and Speech held prayer afterwards. But the evening wasn’t over yet. Even in the wee hours of the night, the place was brought alive by Hot Spots. These were genre-specific rooms that featured Salsa dance lessons, R&B performances and Hip-Hop performances on a small scale.
On Saturday, there were panel discussions with industry professionals covering such topics as Family and the Arts; Film and TV Production/Photography; Teens Got Talent; Tour Management/Event Production; Authors/Social Media/Journalism; Visual Arts/Graphic Design/Gaming and Entrepreneurship/Sports to name a few. The standout and best attended panel discussion was Marriage Beyond The Vows hosted by Marcos & Amarillis Mercado, Lamar & Ronnie Tyler and Michael & Shawn Patterson.
The conferences also featured a MixTape Mixer, something on the order of a social mixer hour of contemporary faith-based music to enjoy while strolling amongst the vendors and just network. Among these features, there was an impromptu fashion show featuring recycled materials in the lobby of the hotel.
By this time, the evening was ready to roll into the main attraction. This was called ART & SOUL and was a mixture of fashion, music and dance that really captured the essence of the conference. The energy created by the audience was fit for the first part of the evening’s fashion show, aptly titled FASHION ON FIRE. It did not disappoint because there was a short dance selection based on the Capoeira art form. The Billie Jean/ Michael Jackson performance was a welcome surprise only because it was short and tasteful. Returning this year was Mentalist Danny Mac, who amazed all in the audience and probably converted some audience on-stage participants.
It’s the music
The big draw of the night was hosted by Tacoma and Darrell Perry, who kept it real, humorous and down-to-earth. They make a great team even if Darrell loves his dancing. Although Speech was scheduled to perform with his group, he wanted to share the spotlight with some special people, so the audience was treated to Speech & Friends. All witnessed another performance by musical group Broken, a UK-based female Hip-Hop artist TorCesay (pron. Tor-See-Say), and Jahah. The last performer really pulled the evening together with his soulful song-styling’s mindful of Tank. This brings the concert to Arrested Development, a much anticipated part of the evening. They did not disappoint the crowd. The usually charming and conscientious Speech was in good form, looked good and seemed more at ease than at any time during his music career. It helped that he had good assistance from his band mates. In an effort not to downplay the experience, it would be an injustice to call them replacements as opposed to seeing them as improvements.
After the concert Saturday, I got a chance to speak to a few of the conference attendees. It seemed to be a consensus of the purpose for this weekend gathering. This conference is a chance to show the solidarity of a single-minded purpose, that’s the word of Christ. Even though there were vendors and truly unique attractions, the message stayed on point - it really is a movement:
“I thought it was amazing. The way folks came together to talk about God, talk about the arts and to think differently. To really use our talents that he gave us in a different way and to look at our lives in a different light to see there are bigger and better ways to glorify God that we may not have thought about,” one gentleman stated. He came in from Delaware and this was his first conference. “It’s been great watching people display their talents and gifts. The messages we’ve heard were really inspiring and uplifting.”
His friend stated this was his second year and elaborated.
“Definitely inspiring. We have a lot of excuses why we want to hold stuff back. You’re always finding ways to please God and he’s always giving these great gifts and this (conference) is one of those tools that let’s us get that done.”
I asked another participant what she got out of the conference this year that she didn’t from last year:
“The opportunity to be able to use your skills in many ways and they have increased the possibilities of things you can actually do,” she stated. “For example, before they were only focused on music, dance and sports (pretty much). Now you can actually think about construction and how you can use your talents. I’ve seen more variety of vendors. It’s just amazing being around the people.”
Sunday was the closing of this unique event. Speech held worship with all who wanted it and it was a grand gathering. Perhaps the topic “The Real Prosperity Gospel” hosted by Angel Maldonado was a message needed to be heard.
So, it may be a bit premature to ask that you attend the next event in 2015, but if you were to get involved in The GACC, you’ll have a clearer focus on what’s coming.
Photo gallery: Red Carpet
Photo gallery: Friday
Photo gallery: Saturday
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