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35th Annual McDonald's Gospelfest '17

Prudential Center, Newark, NJ, Saturday May 13, 2017


Praise ye the Lord, everybody, Praise ye the Lord!! Praise the Lord! Praise God in His sanctuary; Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; Praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; Praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything, in every language and tongue that has breath, Praise the Lord!...Praise Him! I just can't stop praising His name...JESUS (YESHUA)!!!

YES LORD, "TOTAL PRAISE!!"... AMEN! AMEN! A-M-E-N! What a high-time for all! Ain't no party like a Holy Ghost party for sure! Continuing it's Mother’s Day weekend tradition Saturday, May 13, 2017, Prudential Center, Newark, New Jersey, this year’s 35th Annual McDonald's Gospefest line up featured Donnie McClurkin, Erica Campbell, Hezekiah Walker, Israel Houghton, Bishop Paul Morton, Anthony Brown & Group TherAPy ("What's Up Jersey!"), Greater Allen AME Cathedral Mass Choir and FANTASIA, backed by the Super McDonald's Choir, who all rendered up anointed praise and worship to the Glory of God!


New York's one and only On-Air Personality Liz Black introduced the Greater Allen AME Cathedral Mass Choir, Matthew Whitaker (musical genius) and Erica Campbell!

And your winners of the 35rd Annual McDonald's Gospelfest 2017: Rap: Daniel Cody (Maplewood, NJ). Poetry: Christopher Elliot (New Haven, CT). Praise Solo/Trio: Victorious Praise Dance Ministry (Staten Island, NY). Praise Dance Group: Divine Praise Dancers (Los Angeles, CA). Group: Voices For Christ 6 (Bridgeville, PA). Comedian: Mike Troy (New York, NY). Teen Soloist: Mikayla Serrano, Age 14 (Asbury Park, NJ). Male Soloist: Jadelwen J1 Robinson (Jersey City, NJ). Female Soloist: Shanee McDonald (Newark, NJ). Adult Choir: Kean University Gospel Choir (Willingboro, NJ). Juniors: Jayda Chance, Age 11 (Schenectady, NY). Marquese Dukes, Age 12 (Little Ferry, NJ). Ronnell Harrison, Jr., Age 12 (Plainfield, NJ) and Kayla Jones, Age 11 (Bergenfield, NJ).

But nothing could have prepared me for an incredible first-time experience. Initially crossing paths with Matthew Whitaker, who is an inspiring 16 years old musician, that happens to be blind…He has for sure been blessed with a God given gift. "I pray that I can continue to be a blessing and inspiration to others" was certainly a great way to begin the back-stage interviews.

Matthew just completed a show in St. Louis, MO and in preparation for his debut CD release party, "Matthew is OUTTA THE BOX", May 19, 2017 at Clements Place Jazz Events, The Great Hall, 15 Washington St, Newark, NJ (out now on iTunes and Amazon). You must, however, register at Eventbrite. Space is limited. Hosted by Rutgers University Institute of Jazz Studies and Jazz Foundation of America. Matthew adds to his credits an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and when asked, "what other inspiring words who you like to impart?" Matthew kindly replied, "just do what you do and let God lead you."...I couldn't agree more and caught a glimpse of the love (a hug) shared between Matthew and Pastor Donnie McClurkin behind the stage.

Following that semi-star struck moment, the 35th Annual McDonald's Gospefest 2017 kicked-off with the most pumped up, high-octane and energized Rappers that took the gospel stage by storm as each gospel rapper shared common-like passions: Kennith Armstead "Army Regime" (Brentwood, NY: "implementing Christ and culture"), Tremaine Barr "Tranzpar3nt" (New Haven, CT: "encouraging the youth ~ more light than shade"), Darren Miller (Linden, NJ: "changing music with Christ at the forefront"), Sharea Perny "Nic Hevyn" (Bronx, NY: "sharing the real love ~ 'keep your trust and faith in God"), Glayton Person "King Jehoshaphat" (Stratfort, CT: "mentoring young men, saving souls by way of basketball and then some with 'Christ in the hood".

Pastor Donnie McClurkin also shared these words: "it's obvious that you're special, Glayton...whatever you do, do it for the Lord. No matter who is there. Do it to your best. It's not about what you suppose to be doing, but who you are"), "Serious Voice" (Elmont, NY: "check out Shafor everywhere music is sold"), Daniel Cody "D.Royul" (Maplewood, NJ: "rapping about the Gospel of Christ") and encouraged, spit-fired, powerful and inspired gospel Poets thereafter, Imani Alleyne (Jamaica, NY: "poetry in motion ~ goals are to finish school and receive a degree in acting"), Miguel Pagen (Coram, NY: "passion to inspire and motivate this generations ~ diagnosed with Diabetics at 12 years old, Mom and brother too and believe that God is setting up a miracle").

Lastly, but not least, Minister Christopher "FriiStyle Gahsphol" Elliott, best poet winner 2017, (New Haven, CT: "passion to inspire young people to not just believe in a greater version of themselves, but to become that greater version by submitting and surrendering to Christ Jesus; 'a person who loose themselves, find themselves for the sake of Christ Jesus'; lol, "you know the collar is not just a costume"; he's sho 'nuff is a minister of the Gospel of Christ). #Preach

The Poet with a Collar

FUJIYAMA JAPAN: KOHEISINGS (New York, NY), led by Kohei Hattori, adorned in bright red and representing an entire race, who has a strong passion to change the music culture of Asia, China and Japan infused with the gospel of Jesus Christ. For "music is the universal language", he states and he's on a mission to change the status quo. Needless to say, there's quite the talent blended within the group; from return trips to the McDonald's Gospelfest to various, individual solo acts.

LJPC (LOVE PEACE JOY) PRAISE TEAM, Charlie Open Gate Challenge (Glen Rock, NJ), Praising God through praise dance to honor Him and Charlie's life, a remarkable soul, who died from cancer, August 2016. *Donations are acceptable.

NEO JAPANESQUE BAND AND DON'T GIVE UP CHOIR (New York), caught my attention the very moment that came off stage with their eccentric and unique style of praise and worship. I concur, "Neo Japanesque is the the band which is Western and Japanese mixed instrumental unit consisting Japanese flute "Shinobue", Japanese Taiko drums, drums, piano and bass. Neo has the mission to carry on the traditional Japanese culture to the next generation. Neo's sound bring to us a message of world peace spiritually. Absolutely new sounds of "East meets West!"

WOMEN OF WORSHIP AND SIGN DANCE MINISTRY (Elizabeth, NJ), Mt. Calvary's UCOD New Life Family Center's very own Women of Worship Sign and Praise Dance Ministry are women after my own heart, created to worship GOD in spirit and in truth! The Lord is indeed their passion. Sherry Louis, President. Two years in existence and I declare: "eyes have not seen nor have ears heard or have entered into the heart of man, what the Lord has prepared for these women of worship. No doubt, I certainly enjoyed interviewing, praying and worshiping with them. "But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

OBEY THY WILL: A MUSIC GROUP (Northern, NJ), Praise God, it's their second time competing at the McDonald's Gospfest. Six years established and they are bound to to do His will, heart and soul, as well as encourage you to know Him for yourself.

LINK 4 LIFE: OVERCOMING THE RISING STORM (Newark, NJ), returning for the third time, Link 4 Life was founded twenty-four years ago in 1991 due to the challenging storms of gang violence and "although you're going through, you can over come the storm."

CHRISTINE DIXON: "HARRIET TUBMAN HERSELF", a remarkable woman who portrays "Harriet Tubman" in a way you can never imagine. She's "blessed and highly flavored". She educates and entertain with such vigor. Harriet Tubman Herself is a one woman "passionate project" show you must experience! And not to mention, a God sent to us with her first performance and back-stage assistance at the 35th Annual McDonald's Gospefest 2017! Contact Singer / Actress Christine Dixon at and (347) 729-3124.

PROPHET JA'DELWEN JI ROBINSON (Jersey City, NJ), winner of the best male vocalist of 2017 SANG his new Original song entitled "Your Way" at the McDonald's Gospelfest 2017. He also was featured on Good Day New York and it will be released to iTunes on June 1st. J1Robinson's Your Way is dedicated to his Grandmother the late Addie Bell Robinson. "Happy Mother's day. Love you always and his mother the song bird Elder Tracie Thompson. "Love you mama". J1Robinson, from Darlington, SC started singing at the very young age of 2 years old. He proclaims to have received the love of music from his Mom. There's no question, "he's going all the way to the top!" J1 can be reached at and (201) 205-4297.

We're Loving It

Cissy Houston, an American soul and gospel singer in own her right; Mother of the late Whitney Houston and Grandmother of the late Bobby Christina Brown is still going strong. Ms Houston was very sweet to everyone, from one interviewer to the next, she gracelessly allotted adequate time with each. Note to self, duh... a no brainier, when I asked, "what's your favorite book on the bookshelf?"... She belched out "The Bible" without a second thought.

Israel Houghton, American Christian music singer, songwriter, producer and worship leader along with his wife Adrienne Bailon, American singer-songwriter, recording artist, actress, dancer and television personality was the highlight of my night. And just as I found the opportune time to interview him, without warning, Acclaimed Award Winner Actor Derrick Luke jumped right in between us to embrace Israel with a big bear hug. I stood in awe, stating, "Oh My God, it's Derek Luke!" The moment passed and Israel was nice enough to finish the interview. Not only is he honored for all God's has bestowed upon him as a six time Grammy winner. However, moreover, he's sincerely impressed with his new wife. "She's amazing. A deep well inside and out. There is so much to her. I love the way she loves God and her family. But, most of all, she loves me", he stated without hesitation."...Amen.

Bishop Paul Morton, Author, Pastor, Founder, Gospel Singer, Recording Artist, Speaker, Musician, was indeed a special treat to meet and greet, up close and personal. And with multiple titles accredited to his name, you'll never guess the one thing we did not know about Bishop Morton. Nope!...Wrong!..."I like chitlins", he, I and all surrounded laughed out loud upon his humorous and unexpected answer.

Now, talk about [life lesson and missed opportunities]: Think about this, when God "opens a door, that not man can shut" and not one that has bulged and pushed his way through, but rather an open door of opportunity when Pastor Donnie McClurkin crosses your path back-stage and you freeze up; unable to speak a word and missed the interview. And seeing Reverend A. R. Bernard across the way and yet, miss that one too; wow...let that be a lesson: "when God opens a door, walk, boldly, yet, gratefully through".

Furthermore, although, no interviews were granted by Anthony Brown Group TherAPy, Erica Campbell, Bishop Hezekiah Walker, and Fantastic Fantasia, they certainly ripped the stage! How the crowd rocked and praised the Lord.

Whew... Say So Fantasia! "I sing R&B, but you Betta know at the end of my show, we end the show with worship... They come to my show and don't know I'm about to take them to Christ!" -Fantasia 

No questions asked, hands raised!... I sincerely had the time of my life!

Founder, A. Curtis Farrow

About McDonald's Gospelfest
McDonald's Gospelfest originated in 1983 under the auspices of the McDonald's Corporation and the McDonald's Tri-State Owners' Association. The event has been an important fundraising event which supports education opportunities within local communities. and has awarded millions of dollars in scholarship money. Over the years the competition performances have taken place at Palace Theater, the Hammerstein Ballroom, Westbury Music Fair, Newark Symphony Hall, Madison Square Garden, and New York City Center. Since 2008, the 25th incarnation of the event, it has been held at Prudential Center. Parts of the show have been broadcast by WABC, which in 2000 and 2001 garnered New York Emmy Awards for WABC in the "Religious Programming" category. The show is since 2008 televised on WWOR-TV. The Gospelfest is produced by Newark-based Irving Street Rep and is directed and hosted by its founder, A. Curtis Farrow

My amazing son and helper

Big Shout to Brian and McDonald's Gospelfest for incredible opportunity to interview, review and Blog and to my son Prophet Daniel, Quinn Powell (Quintella Photography), Christine Dixon, "The People's Voice" and inspired readers: Thank you for being the Best you!
Finally "every year, it gets better because we come together to praise our Lord" -Maria, 3rd year in a row. I undoubtedly stand in agreement, see you next year!

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