Backstage Notes on the Concert & Benefit of the Year

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The performances were electric, the awards presentations poignant, the huge crowd ecstatic at last Friday’s  Benefit Concert starring Stephanie Mills; in tribute to Hon. Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson; and designed to support efforts to complete construction of an in-the-community banquet hall. 

Cornerstone choir. Superstar Mills, who once lived on Greene, bet. Throop and Marcus Garvey Blvd. (then Sumner Avenue), in her gfirlhood years attended Cornerstone, where her parents were deacons for 25 years. (Photo by Olivia Cousins)

Even the beloved ancestor Chief Charles Joshua, who led the Central Brooklyn Coordinating Council and spearheaded a movement years ago that directly links to the  Central Brooklyn Community Services Corp., sponsoring agency of the Friday, May 21 fundraiser and benefit, had a place of honor at the table.  The assemblywoman remembered him in her remarks of appreciation.   (Proceeds from the concert benefit the work of CBCSC’s construction of a conference center/catering hall in the neighborhood.)

The evening also celebrated Bedford Stuyvesant as a great “home”  through the wonderful music of Stephanie Mills, 53, whose voice is stronger and more vibrant than ever.
And “stars” were born:  They included violinist Joya Bravo; the Voices of Cornerstone led by Natasha Quiller and the revelation of The Rev. Robert M. Waterman’s gifts as a master emcee.
There were other reminders of Bed-Stuy’s status as a bona fide village, too.  When event organizer Wayne Devonish sent a call out two weeks ago for support of his huge endeavor, soldiers lined up around him.  They included: Lorrie Ayers, Phyllis Hurd, Our Time Press intern Jessica Harris, and event coordinator/stage manager Sandra Coello.  Also, the Herbert Von King Park Friends; the Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford Stuyvesant’s Board of Directors, of which Devonish is a member; Bridge Street Development Corporation staff; and dozens of  community and faith leaders, including the the security ministry of Christ Fellowship Baptist Church (Vinessa Toyer, Elizabeth Hill, Faye Baker, Patrice Webb, Brian Springer, Tommy White, Charles Crooms and Darryl McNeil) joined by the great ushers of historic Bridge Street AWME Church, all resplendent in white.
The community’s VIPS came out in full force, including the omnipresent and ever-supportive Dr. Marcia Maxwell, The Rev. Dr. Cheryl Anthony, Barbara Sidbury and her scores of classy sweetheart friends who not only supported the event with their dollars but also with their extreme patience and class.   Dinner was served late as guests along with caterers Lemuel and Charlotte Mial,  awaited the arrival of a local company charged with delivering tablecloths, napkins, dinnerware and silverware, but delayed by extreme circumstances.

Class Act: Stephanie Mills (foreground) took time for a photo op for the Bed-Stuy Archives with Bed-Stuy leaders, from left, community activist Sharonnie Perry, Community Board #3 President Henry Butler, CBCSS PresidentBill Wrenn of Central Brooklyn Community Services and Councilman Al Vann. (Photo by Olivia Cousins)

Responding to Mr. Devonish’s requests, post-concert, Ms. Mills greeted community leaders and the Voices of Cornerstone Baptist Church where she first started performing and both parents were deacons for 25 years.  Images of Miss Mills with community leaders can be seen on these pages of Our Time Press and, thanks to Lem Peterkin and other local photojournalists, in other  community papers, including The Amsterdam News, The Beacon and The Daily Challenge.
Wayne Devonish, Bill Wren, president of CBCSC and their staff, including the efficient Susan Bishop, Devonish’s assistant, have extended a special thanks to the entire Central Brooklyn family.  Said Mr. Wren, “It takes a village to get things done, and it always will.”

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