This past Sunday, ABC aired the 2017 American Music Awards, and boy did it lack any real diversity outside the amazing host, Tracee Ellis Ross. To barely see any Black performances while we were awaiting the finale performance from the legendary Diana Ross lit up Black twitter and Facebook newsfeeds.

THE 2017 AMERICAN MUSIC AWARDS(r) – The “2017 American Music Awards,” the world’s biggest fan-voted award show, broadcasts live from the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles on SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19 (8:00–11:00 p.m. EST), on ABC. (ABC/Image Group LA)
BERRY GORDY, DIANA ROSS

Ross was honored this year with the AMA’s Lifetime Achievement, and she had the entire venue on their feet. Yassss…respect! Ms. Ross is not just a legend, she is one of the many bricklayers that have built the foundation that many artists have stood on throughout the last five decades– Black music artists in particular. As she sang her hit songs, she often smiled into the audience at the two men who helped her career blossom, Motown founder Berry Gordy and his musical muse and friend Smokey Robinson—can you imagine the thoughts running through their minds?

The sad part is that the producers of the American Music Awards didn’t get that memo. As each category was called out, only three African American artists took home AMAs that night, which included Beyoncé (Favorite R&B Female Artist), Drake (Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Artist) and Kendrick Lamar (Favorite Rap/Hip Hop Album).  In recognition of the 25th Anniversary of the all-time best-selling soundtrack, Christina Aguilera sang a medley from “The Bodyguard. But, not one Black singer joined her onstage as she struggled a couple of times trying to hit Whitney Houston’s signature notes.

Yes, there were songs performed by Demi Lovato, Macklemore, Kelly Clarkson and others who gave us undertones of Soul, R&B, Rock and Hip Hop, but what we witnessed was an interpretation of a misguided picture by a disconnected industry that once again missed the boat.

The talent pool of music releases from this past year couldn’t be more fruitful as we heard new music from Eric Roberson, Ledisi, SZA, Travis Scott, Mary J. Blige, Seven Streeter, Avery Sunshine, and The Weeknd—among others. The list goes on and without any real representation of Gospel, Jazz, Blues, which also represents “American.” But, when people in senior management roles at the record companies, radio stations and media corporations no longer feel the need to hire African American executives to add real “color” to a very bland picture—here’s where we end up.

While our “culture vulturism” is alive and well—we continue to celebrate and embrace our achievements on other platforms. We celebrate our legacies, our creativity, our beauty, our talent, our service and our community from Black Music Honors, Soul Train Awards, the Stellar Gospel Awards to the NAACP Image Awards.

Side note: Another Blackish star Anthony Anderson is set to host the 49th Annual NAACP Image Awards airing on January 15 on TV One. Mary J. Blige and JAY-Z lead with five nominations; followed by Bruno Mars, Issa Rae, Kendrick Lamar, and SZA with four nominations; Charlie Wilson, Idris Elba and Ledisi received three nominations. Locking in the date!

More School Closures?

Once again, another CPS school is on the chopping block. As the Chicago Police Department release record low numbers of homicides and gun violence in Englewood, students are threatened with the loss of one of the city’s long-standing high schools.

CPS announced plans to close West Englewood’s Harper High School adding to the proposal by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and CPS heads Forrest Claypool and Janice Jackson to also close the following neighborhood schools: Paul Roberson, John Hope Academy and TEAM Englewood Community Academy High School. A brand new high school would be built on the site of Roberson to open in 2019-2020. Will this new high school open before the next mayoral election or after?

Alderman Ray Lopez is furious and he released an official statement on Monday:

“CPS is solely responsible for the decline at Harper High School,” said Ald. Lopez. “CPS has continuously deferred maintenance on $38,000,000 in much-needed school improvements. CPS gave local charter schools access to new student enrollment information. CPS moved at a snail’s pace during discussions for new programming and outside partnerships, jeopardizing a $100,000 urban agriculture partnership in 2017 alone.”

Clearly, someone has stepped to the Mayor and his decision to eliminate additional schools in our Black community. There are five alderman whose wards will be affected by these closures if this proposal is passed. Will the other four city councilmen besides Alderman Lopez step up to the plate to discuss how this will once again drain the lifeline from our communities?

KHits Flips to 104.3 Jams 

So, once again another Chicago radio station has switched formats. On Friday, Entercom Communications’ WJMK-FM is now “The New 104.3 JAMS.” The station known for its soft rock and back-in-the-day pop hits, KHITS is now catering to the nostalgia of Hip Hop and R&B heads before 2005.

While this is some refreshing news to those who grew up in the golden music era of the 1990’s where hip hop beefs were real and the battle for the best vocal boy and girl bands made radio “listener friendly,” it was also a time where people who programmed the music, looked very much like the artists they played—young, Black and gifted. Now, as more radio stations consolidate as the recent merger of Entercom and CBS takes place—more positions will be eliminated. The decisions being made at the top will not reflect the targeted listeners needed to fuel the economic engine of this station.

Before I come to any conclusion of the company’s hiring practices, there are no on-air personalities as of yet. The 100 percent commercial free launch gave us an interesting playlist of Kanye West, Notorious B.I.G and R. Kelly. No B-sides, no songs that made you go “Oh Sh*t! Who pulled that out of the crates?” And while, the comments from Robert Feder’s story broke on the station’s recent change—the comments following were some of the most racist and politically incorrect responses as former KHITS listeners were visibly hurt. Meanwhile, others loved the change and feel it will take a bite from V103 and 106.3’s market share. Both stations have built a solid formula for carrying their audiences as well as for their community outreach. The key word is “community.”

Urban Grind TV Joins FUBU TV

Congrats to the team at Urban Grind TV, one of Chicago’s longest running music video and lifestyle television program which is broadcasts on Comcast, RCN, Wow via Cable 25 for the past 9 years. They are expanding on a national platform through FUBU TV. The national channel reaches 250 million households. CEO of Urban Grind TV, Wally Lockard has built a solid media conglomerate which includes a syndicated radio show, The Booth Radio, Urban Grind Lifestyle Magazine and a clothing line.

Interscope Record’s Midwest Promotions Director Caryn Lee

Birthday Shout-outs

It’s Sagittarius time! This is the friendliest horoscope of the bunch—they tend to display a clever sense of humor and love to travel! Major birthday wishes to the party girl Crystal Rufarah on Nov. 21. I see you Drewsean Williams and Soultracks.com founder Chris Rizik, who celebrates on Nov. 23. My beautiful friend Lourdes Garcia blows out the candles on Nov. 24. Haaaaaay Tshurhad Chivas and Larnell Brown raising glasses on Nov. 25. Chicago’s own and Midway film producer Chad Sorenson; giving us “Black girl magic” is publicist Tagan Lee; and the legendary House DJ/Producer Tyree Cooper on Nov. 26. Big hugs to a past Defender Women of Excellence recipient and Interscope Records’ Caryn Lee; the one and only Hip-Hop architect DJ Red Alert and one of Chicago’s first female House DJs Celeste Alexander turning up the speakers on Nov. 27.

In Memoriam

Our condolences and prayers to the family of Maurice McAlister who lost battle to cancer on November 11. McAlister was the former lead singer and founding member of The Radiants who recorded multiple hits for the legendary Chess Records and Checker Records. His son, Rory McAlister is one of Las Vegas’ popular DJs and local personalities is currently planning a special memorial in his honor. He says, “He leaves on earth a son in myself who wouldn’t be the person I am without his strength, courage, wisdom, vision and determination to live life on his own terms. He also shared a world of artistry created throughout the 1960s and early 1970s with his contribution to Chicago’s R&B music revolution and the Chess Records legacy.” Below are a few songs highlighting The Radiants catalog collection in which McAlister shared songwriting credits: 

Maurice McAlister lead singer of The Radiants.

Chess 1832 – “Father Knows Best” / “One Day I’ll Show You” (I Really Love You) (1962)

Chess 1849 – “Heartbreak Society” / “Please Don’t Leave Me” (1963)

Chess 1865 – “I Got A Girl” / “I’m In Love” (1963)

Chess 1872 – “Shy Guy” / “I’m In Love” (1963)

Chess 1887 – “I Gotta Dance To Keep My Baby” / “Noble The Bargain Man” (1964)

Chess 1904 – “Voice Your Choice” / “If I Only Had You” (1964)

Chess 1925 – “It Ain’t No Big Thing” / “I Got A Girl” (1965)

Chess 1939 – “Tomorrow” / “Whole Lot Of Woman” (1965)

Chess 1954 – “Baby You’ve Got It” * / “I Want To Thank You Baby” (1966)

*Minnie Riperton on background vocals

Singer/Songwriter – Maurice McAllister (formerly of The Radiants)

Single

Chess 1988 – “Baby Hang On” / “I’d Rather Do It Myself” (1967)

Co-Lead Singer/Songwriter/Founding Member – Maurice & Mac

Maurice McAlister with son, Rory McAlister.

Singles

Checker 1179 – “So Much Love” / “Try Me” (1967)

Checker 1197 – “You Left The Water Running” / “You’re The One” (1968)

Checker 1206 – “Why Don’t You Try Me” / “Lean On Me” (1968)

Checker 1218 – “Lay It On Me” / “What Am I Gonna Do” (1969)

Checker 1224 – “Baby, You’re The One” / “Oh What A Time” (1969)

Checker 1232 – “But You Know I Love You” / “Kick My Cat, I’ll Beat Your Dog” (1971)

Chess 2102 – “You Can’t Say I Didn’t Try” / “Lay It On Me” (1971)

Songwriter Credits (original compositions performed by other artists)

Sugar Pie DeSanto

Checker 1082 – “Soulful Dress” (1964)

The entertainment world lost another wonderful contributor to film, music and television. Della Reese died at 86 on Sunday. Rising to fame a Jazz singer, she gained a wide fan base in her role in the CBS television series, “Touched by an Angel” for nine seasons.

Friend and former co-star, Roma Downey wrote on her facebook page, “On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home surrounded by love. She was an incredible Wife, Mother, Grandmother, friend, and Pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer,” said Downey. “She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years.”

At 13, Reese got her first break performing with the Gospel great, Mahalia Jackson. Later, she went on to record for labels Jubilee Records and later RCA Records. Her familar hits included the ballad “And That Reminds Me” in 1957 ; “Don’t You Know” and “Not One Minute More”  securing her place in the music industry as R&B recording star.

Her love for Jazz would send her around the world and her beautiful spirit would build her a circle of friends along the way who included comedian/actor, Redd Foxx. Reese would enter the living rooms of millions as the funny landlady on “Chico and the Man” in the 1970’s and would gain a younger fanbase in Eddie Murphy’s film, “Harlem Nights” in 1989 where she starred as Vera.

Got a scoop? Send us your special events, anniversaries, promotions and memorial news: mdatcher@chicagodefender.com

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