I didn’t grow up listening to WVON but after attending its 50th anniversary gala on Saturday, April 6th, I sure wish I had. Hearing its rich history and meeting many of the legendary radio stars, I can only imagine how exciting this time must’ve been and still is. The top personalities of radio and the who’s who of Who Ville all showed up on the Red Carpet for this event that attracted more than 1000 to the Chicago Theatre.
I had the privilege of interviewing Malik Yusef, the renowned musician and spoken word poet for my Watch312.com show, "Candid Candace Chicago". I asked him if he had written a poem in honor of this big night for WVON and boy did he ever! (See video below) I also had the pleasure of speaking with Dick Gregory (comedian and civil rights activist), Reverend Jesse Jackson, Governor Quinn, Matt McGill (radio host “Matt McGill Show”, Herb Kent “The Cool Gent” (WVON personality), Robert Townsend (comedian, writer, director and actor), Cheryl Pearson McNeil and Susan Whiting (Nielsen Company), Kenny Williams (VP Chicago White Sox) and his fiancé Zoraida Sambolin (CNN host), Melody Hobson (president Ariel Investments and George Lucas fiancé) and so many others.
It was one of the most memorable nights in recent memory, so many legends and such a rich history for this radio station dubbed “The Voice of a Nation”. WVON’s ground-breaking achievements are far too many to list here but let’s start with the fact that it’s given a voice to a sitting president Barack Obama, Martin Luther King, made Harold Washington our first black mayor, helped elect the first African American woman to be elected to the Senate (Carol Mosley Braun) and so much more.
The evening started with King College Prep’s marching band under the leadership of director Benjamin Washington. This awesome band entertained at the Inaugural and can do anything! They even performed a jazzy Duke Ellington number! A surprise video from President Obama delighted the crowd especially when he mentioned how much he regrets not being able to co-host anymore WVON shows....cute! Other highlights included production numbers by choreographer Andrea Kelly; video presentation by Herb Kent “The Cool Gent” of all of the late, great personalities who have been a part of WVON; Teresa Britton who sang “Here’s to Life” with the West Point Choir; a video of Reverend Jesse Jackson’s “I Am Somebody” speech at the Million Man March; Marv Dyson’s presentation of the Broadcast Pioneer Award to Pervis Spann “The Blues Man”; Robert Townsend who said “WVON was the soundtrack of my life”; broadcast pioneer Cathy Hughes (“Chicago is the seat of black power.”); Craig Gilmore who presented a moving video clip titled “Impact 50” presented by State Farm (which will be shown in its entirety on WTTW); Reverend Al Sharpton (who is scary skinny) and WVON president Melody Spann-Cooper’s introduction of her “band” which consisted of all of the event chairs, Mellody Hobson, Jim Reynolds, Earl Jones, Cathy Hughes and Susan Whiting “playing instruments.” After their performance, Melody said, “I have no idea how I got them all to do this!”
The three hour long program featured Toni Braxton who appeared with her two glam sisters as backup singers. She looked stunning in a flowing red gown and performed tirelessly for the appreciative crowd. And the party didn’t stop then nor did the rain keep guests from attending the after-party, via private trolleys, at the Museum of Broadcast Communications. It was packed with more entertainment, cocktails and delicious food!
One of my personal highlights was meeting Minister Louis Farrakhan, everyone may not agree with his teachings but you sure can’t say the guy isn’t charismatic! Women were flocking to him in droves as he left his balcony box to make his exit, surrounded by Nation of Islam (NOA) bodyguards.
I’m so thrilled for Melody Spann-Cooper and the important voices and messages people can hear on WVON. Just tune into 1690 AM because I have a feeling this is just the beginning for this vibrant spot on the dial. Happy 50th and many, many more WVON!
(Photos by Mila Samokhina) To read more, please click here! And I hope you enjoy the fun-filled video below!
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Filed under: Chicago/news
Tags: Andrea Kelly, Benjamin Washington, Candid Candace Chicago, Cathy Hughes, Charles Jordan, Cheryl Pearson-McNeil, Chuck Jordan, Dick Gregory, George Lucas, Kenny Williams, King College Prep, King College Prep Marching Band, Lisa Madigan, Malik Yusef, Matt McGill, Mellody Hobson, Melody Spann Cooper, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Reverend Al Sharpton, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Robert Townsend, Teresa Britton, Toni Braxton, Tracy Ellis Ross, Watch312, West Point Choir, WVON's 50th anniversary, Zoraida Sambolin