WVON’s former news director, Sharon K. McGhee, dead at 54

"My heart is TOO HEAVY at news of the death Sharon McGhee, a friend and former colleague at WVON. But Dear God. THANK YOU for an absolute gem, personally and professionally and sorry I did not get a chance to complete the "pocketbook" man voice she talked to me about, but thank God for her strength strength STRENGTH ! Thank her for coming to me and letting me share with her my stories of also growing up at 3350 South Kedzie as a teenager to adult, as a teenaged intern, to producer to first youth talk show host and helping her many days as her "source" for so many news stories and shows - and there is NOTHING in the world like being a part of the legacy of WVON, especially when your roots are with the legendary people and events from the historic 3350 South Kedzie building. Nothing but tears of joy to a friend and colleague. May the gates of heaven swing open, and that Sharon McGhee is received with the words of "well done." (Mark S. Allen)

WVON’s former news director, Sharon K. McGhee, dead at 54 

By Chinta Strausberg

"Pocketbook Monologues" creator and former WVON talk show host Sharon K. McGhee has died at the age of 54, WVON’s Cliff Kelley confirmed Wednesday. A native of St. Louis, McGhee battled ovarian cancer for more than three-years, but she used her illness as a teaching tool going around the country including at Saint Sabina Church where she held a forum to talk about this disease many only whisper about. Born in St. Louis on June 19, 1958, McGhee, who was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer in 2009, called the disease “Cancer in your Pocketbook”—an old fashion term used by many African American mothers to describe their daughter’s vagina. Back then; it was more acceptable to say “pocketbook” rather than the anatomical and correct name of that organ.  Black mothers would tell their daughters to “keep your pocketbook closed.” It was part of the birds and bees lessons they taught their daughters about the importance of chastity and maintaining their sexual purity until they were married.

McGhee, who learned she had stage 4 ovarian caner just three weeks before she had received a phone call offering her a role in the Housewives of Atlanta, took that message across America having created the Pocketbook Monologues which reportedly was the design of Vagina Monologues aimed at teaching black women and their daughters about the importance of caring for their own sexual health.  Out of respect for their former colleague, McGhee, WVON’s talk show host Cliff Kelley paid tribute to her life and legacy. WVON’s President/CEO Melody Spann-Cooper released this statement on McGhee read by Kelley: “WVON respectfully announces the passing of one of our own WVON former news director,  Sharon McGhee, has made her transition. “Sharon died last night around 11 p.m. in Columbia, MO following her battle with ovarian cancer. She was 54-years-old,” said Spann-Cooper.

“Our hearts and prayers go out to the McGhee family. Kelley referred to 11-years-ago when he and McGhee watched the destruction of the World Trade Building; he said he had just mentioned her name yesterday. Both he and his executive producer, Michael Peery who lived in the same building as McGhee, spoke fondly about McGhee whom they say will be sorely missed.  Often racked with pain and armed with her wigs she wore because of the chemotherapy, McGhee had a passion for teaching sexual health including teaching black women about the rise in HIV. Her mission was to tell women early detection saves lives and that she did until her death yesterday, September 11, 2012. Also reacting to her death was Janice Murdoch, leader of Saint Sabina’s Sisterhood Ministry, who said, “Despite her illness she always put people first. Sharon wanted to come to Saint Sabina again.

“Even in her illness, Sharon wanted to do the cancer monologue to us. She got sick and she never made it,” said Murdoch referring to her conversations with McGhee last spring. McGhee was scheduled to speak at Saint Sabina March 30, 2012. “She always put others before herself.” According to the American Cancer Society, the most common symptoms are: swelling or bloating of the abdomen, pelvic pressure, abdominal pain, trouble eating or feeling full quickly, urinary symptoms and abnormal vaginal bleeding along with leg or back pain. McGhee is from St. Louis, Mo. and was once the news director for WVON radio. However, before bringing her talents to Chicago, she hosted the highly rated morning talk show, “Good Morning St. Louis,” for more than five-years.

McGhee won the coveted “Achievement in Radio (AIR) Award on KATZ Radio for her series on the death of Emmett Till, the 14-year-old African American Chicago youth who in 1955 was murdered in Money, Mississippi for allegedly whistling at a white store clerk’s wife. But, in Chicago, McGhee won the prestigious AIR Award for her five-part series on breast cancer and launched the first WVON book club entitled “Between the Covers.” McGhee took her message beyond the borders of American She traveled to Africa six times, went to South America, spoke in Europe and the Caribbean Islands. She never let her disease stop her from educating women especially women of color.  That is why she created “The Pocketbook Monologues,” a funny stage play that gave women of color the opportunity to tell their stories about their sexuality. She once told this writer, “It’s sad that some black woman can’t discuss sex.” So, to address this problem, McGhee created, directed and produced, “Everything your Mother Should Have Told You…But Didn’t.” This play was targeted for girls between the ages of 13-17 she labeled “The Coin Purses.”  “I know it is uncomfortable for parents to talk with their children about sexuality and responsibility, so we are stepping in to provide structure to ensure that girls and women understand the truth and consequences about being intimate in the 21st Century,” said McGhee on her Facebook page.

McGhee also served as the first moderator for “The Michelle Obama Effect: Politics, Family and Fashion” in Chicago. McGhee made the cover of USA Today for that event but more important she left a legacy of teaching thousands of women of color the importance of early detection.###





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