CeCe Winans and Marvin Sapp honored during Verizon Wireless all-star tribute at Essence Music Festival

*The 2011 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans over the Fourth of July weekend closed on a glorious note Sunday, July 3 with an all-star gospel tribute to CeCe Winans and Marvin Sapp at the Ernest Morial Convention Center where festivalgoers participated in a praise and worship service featuring the biggest headline act of them all — the Almighty God who made it all possible!

The Sunday go to church meeting was presented by Verizon Wireless (Verizon) and provided spiritual healing for thousands of gospel fans who gathered together to get their “church on” and honor two of the biggest names in gospel music at the center that was turned into a House of Worship filled with anointed performances from celebrated gospel stars including Kelly Price, Shirley Murdock, Kierra Sheard, Vanessa Bell Armstrong, Fred Hammond, Deitrick Haddon and Trin-i-tee 5:7.

The event was a stop on Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound 2011 tour hosted by Donald Lawrence and Winans with Sapp serving as the resident judge for some of the most notable names in gospel music along with the best choirs in the nation who lift up their voices for the chance to appear in the Finale.  When asked to describe his ministry and career in gospel, Sapp simply says, “I am a preacher – called by God – who happens to sing.”

As parishioners filed into the spacious center, they were greeted by the joyous sounds of the Ebenezer Baptist Church Choir and Tyrone Foster and The Arc Singers.  Bishop Lester Love got the audience fired up with uplifting remarks.  “We are not ashamed of gospel,” he exclaimed!  “And although we might not be where we want to be, we are a lot better off than where we were.”

“I feel honored today, but most of all I’m honored because God has blessed me to sing his praises all over the world … Without Him, I am absolutely nothing,” said Winans, who Bishop Lester Love said “Leads a life in no contrast to the music she sings.”

Verison Wireless hosted a breakfast for visiting African American journalists and presented them with a new Verizon Wireless phone. Pictured with the junketeers are Verizon executives.

As a proud sponsor of EMF, Verizon also hosed a VIP Lounge for concertgoers to experience the latest products and meet celebrities.  Also, the communications giant encouraged people to bring in old cell phones to donate to HopeLine from Verizon to help them empower domestic violence victims.

Earlier that day, Verizon hosted a breakfast at the Atrium of the International House Hotel, for African American junketeers who were in town to chronicle the hot happenings of key sponsors who sponsored their trip to NOLA.

Verizon was one such sponsor and hosted the early morning gathering to introduce them to its newest  products such as FIOS and newest wireless phone, the Verizon 4G LTE, as well as to enlighten them about what they’re doing in the community.

Verizon representatives included Tony A. Lewis, vice president, Verizon Wireless wholesale development and operations; Monica Azare, senior vice president, corporate communications, Verizon Communications; and Cameka Crawford, manager, community relations and multicultural communication, Verizon.

Also attending the breakfast was the media junket organizers led by Shelia Eldridge, president & founder, Miles Ahead Entertainment, and MAE project manager Dee Dee Faison and senior publicist/project manager Jalila Larsuel, along with MSL New York account executive LeAnne Atteloney and MSL Detroit account supervisor Oneika Mobley.

At the end of the breakfast, Crawford thanked us for coming and presented each of us with a telephone on behalf of Verizon.  Lo and behold — we thought we were having an Oprah moment especially since Crawford did not look too much unlike her — And you get a phone . . . And you get a phone . . . And you get a phone!  EMF11Junket (Photos by Chris Mitchell)

Audrey J. Bernard is an established chronicler of Black society and Urban happenings based in the New York City area.