Gospel Artists Focus on Katrina Relief

The gospel music community is answering the call for help in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Ed Gordon talks with gospel singer Kirk Franklin, who with Bishop T.D. Jakes have gathered a line-up of gospel artists for a fundraiser Saturday night in Dallas, Texas.

ED GORDON, host:

I'm Ed Gordon and this is NEWS & NOTES.

The hurricane aftermath has mobilized artists from across the musical spectrum. New Orleans native and jazz great Wynton Marsalis has organized The Higher Ground jazz benefit for Katrina's survivors this weekend at New York's Lincoln Center. The gospel community is also answering the call for help. Bishop T.D. Jakes and singer Kirk Franklin have gathered an all-star lineup of gospel greats for a night of praise and song in Dallas tomorrow night. Franklin told us it's all coming from the heart.

Mr. KIRK FRANKLIN (Benefit Organizer): We are doing a free event with some of the greatest names in Christian music. You know, there's Yolanda Adams and Mary Mary and Fred Hammond and Kelly Price is coming through. I'll be there, and we'll all be doing music. And every dollar, every penny that's raised that night is going to go straight to the people. I mean, nobody's putting a nickel in their pocket, you know. It's all going to go straight to the people.

GORDON: This will go directly to Tom Joyner's relief fund that he's put in place, correct?

Mr. FRANKLIN: Yes--which, once again, I'm very proud of what he's doing--goes straight to the people.

GORDON: Yeah. Kirk, let me ask you. We had Yolanda Adams on a couple of weeks ago with us, and one of the things that we talked about is the importance now of--with the lives of many who sing gospel music, the importance of the ministry going hand-in-hand with the music, the idea that it's not enough just to sing a song, but you have to live it and show people how to--this is a grand example of that, isn't it?

Mr. FRANKLIN: Yes, and I think that sometimes the reason why things kind of get watered down when it comes to the music, even in the churches, is because there's a disconnect when it comes to ministry and lifestyle. It's like, you know, as Christian artists or whatever you want to call it, when we stand in front of the people and when you see the passion and when you see the burning in our eyes, it's because there's a storm, you know, there's a relationship. There's something that's brewing, you know, in an intimate area.

GORDON: Kirk, can't we use this tragedy to eliminate the disconnect that black America has had within itself to some degree? I think that this tragedy has reminded many who have forgotten that there are so many African-Americans in this country, people in general, but African-Americans disproportionately who live in poverty, who suffer beyond the wrath of Katrina, who quite frankly were suffering economically, socially for years.

Mr. FRANKLIN: You know, the jury is still out for me on that one. I think that there have been many opportunities for people of color to help and assist each other, you know, just throughout our time. Some people will not change until that there is a personal change inside of them. I mean, I remember how the country was very sensitive after September 11th and how everyone, you know, had a spiritual tip and everybody was focused and everybody was very community focused and everybody had, you know, the emotional fire going. And then slowly after time, we start to see it wear off, and we started to see people, you know, still continue to be negative and still be cynical and still be pessimistic. I pray that this will continue to light the fire, but we all know that has to do with a choice, it has to do with a personal choice to change. You know, what happens in our lives either makes us better or it makes us bitter.

GORDON: Kirk, I spent some time the other day with a number of the Winans. And we talked about the idea of, particularly in times like this, how gratifying it can be to know that one's music is helping carry people through some of the darkest days of their lives. I suspect that you must take gratification in that.

Mr. FRANKLIN: You know, I'm very honored that God even allows me to even play a part in just inspiring people and challenging people and just encouraging people and to know that at the end of the day, even when they don't understand, that they can still trust, that they can still believe. And, hopefully, that's what they're getting through the music.

GORDON: Well, Kirk Franklin and Bishop T.D. Jakes have pulled together an all-star roster of some of the finest Christian musicians of today's time. We'll hear Kirk, Yolanda Adams, Kelly Price is going to be there, Mary Mary, my man Fred Hammond...

Mr. FRANKLIN: Yeah.

GORDON: ...and many, many others in Dallas, Texas, at Bishop Jakes' Potter's House Church there. And that's this Saturday, September 17th, and it's free to the public.

Mr. FRANKLIN: Yes.

GORDON: Kirk, thanks so much, man, for coming in and we look forward and hope to hear from you again when you drop the new product and we look forward to talking to you when that comes out.

Mr. FRANKLIN: Thank you, man. Ed, you make us proud, man, and you represent us well.

GORDON: Appreciate it.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: (Singing) I sing because I'm happy.

Group: (Singing) I sing because I'm happy.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) I sing...

Group: (Singing) I sing because I'm free.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) His eye is on...

Group: (Singing) His eye is on the sparrow.

Unidentified Man: (Singing) That's the reason...

Group: (Singing) That's the reason why I sing.

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