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Gettin’ down with Tom Joyner

by Sharon Armstrong

For anyone who doesn’t know about the Tom Joyner Sky Show, a quick bit of advice: When the next one comes around, set the alarm, drink all the coffee you can get your hands on and make sure you are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and standing in line for tickets.

For fellow uninitiated, a Sky Show is a live broadcast of “The Tom Joyner Morning Show”; the quintessential ‘party with a plan’ where as part of the event any members of the live audience not yet registered to vote are strongly encouraged to do so. Strongly encouraged in the best and most fun-filled way. Gives a whole new meaning to the term “political party.”

Tom Joyner, founder of the Tom Joyner Foundation, an organization which provides financial assistance for students enrolled in historically black colleges and universities, hosted an electrifying event on Nov. 16 at the Greensboro Coliseum Special Events Center with comedian and radio personality J. Antony Brown that spilled into the early hours of Friday morning. The show originated in 1996 when Joyner and Tavis Smiley, author, political commentator and talk show host in his own right, came together to create a show that they thought could make a difference, and at the moment there are over 20 Sky Shows every year all over the United States sponsored by Southwest Airlines. These events are free. The show’s listeners are invited to come to the night-before party, which has to be seen to be believed, and then to stick around for the live broadcast in the early hours following. People start queuing up hours before the doors open to make sure they get tickets to the all-important live broadcast. It’s amazingly popular.

This week it was Greensboro’s turn for the second year running and the Gate City turned out in force.

The doors opened at 8 p.m. Nov. 15 for the pre-Sky Show party which celebrated, among other things, the 29th anniversary of 97.1 WQMG radio station – the best of R&B and old school, guaranteeing that the music at the party was the best there was to be had even when the various live gospel, funk and R&B bands were not playing. Artists such as Martie Freeman, the Boogiefunk Band and Images of Praise got the crowd up and dancing from 8 p.m. until the early hours of Friday morning. National recording artist Dave Hollister also made a short appearance, playing songs from his latest album, The Book of David: Vol 1 The Transition. Citing a personal epiphany, Hollister’s music has changed somewhat from his previous R&B direction toward a more gospel-centric one. Still, gospel rocks. Remember Ray Charles?

Vendors from B-Ware T-shirts, Woodland Place Assisted Living, Barry Better Menswear, Cosmetic Art Center and various other local businesses offered free samples and special deals to partygoers. There was food; there was beer; there was great music; in fact there was all that was needed for everyone to have a really good time.

The Sky Show itself kicked off at 5 a.m. Friday morning. It started with the Aycock New School Drum Line and showcased Emmy nominee and winner of the BET J. “Cool Like That” award soul singer Anthony Brown.

Tom Joyner is well named. His joyfulness and exuberance were infectious as he bounced on and off the stage, mixing great entertainment with a serious social message.

He and fellow presenter J. Antony Brown left the stage several times and walked in and amongst the cheering crowds of fans, stopping to chat and shake hands with all the people who had braved the cold and long wee hours to take part in their show and to urge them to register to vote and get involved with their communities.

Sharon Sprinkle, a resident of Greensboro said, “I love the fact that Tom Joyner comes to town. His show is where I get my news; listen to the most awesome music. He has put black colleges back on the map; he has heightened awareness of the monetary pressure on students. He is awesome. I love him.”

To comment on this column, e-mail Sharon Armstrong at sharon@yesweekly.com.

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