Three young men — the Rev. Marvin King, the Rev. Steven Harris and restaurant owner Omar Rasoul — envisioned an association that could generate donations for local charities by bringing the community together for a spiritual production or a concert.
They decided to call the alliance RU Ready?, and its first venture into community service will be GospelFest 2010, a musical journey through the history of gospel music, on Feb. 27.
King is the pastor of First Baptist Church on North Highland Street in Winchester. Harris is an associate minister at Lexington's Consolidated Baptist Church, and Rasoul owns AJ's Takeout & Delivery in Lexington.
The men met at Consolidated when King was teaching "Real Talk," a Bible study for young people. Harris now teaches the group.
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It was during that study that Rasoul realized he and his talent for promoting events were going in the wrong direction. He closed the nightclub he owned and decided to "find a way to use my gifts for the kingdom," he said.
The three men noticed there was a gap between the music older parishioners favored and that of younger worshipers.
"We wanted to bridge that gap and come up with a way both groups could come together," Rasoul said.
They came up with GospelFest, which will feature the choirs of Consolidated Baptist and Shiloh Baptist churches, First Baptist Bracktown and Open Door Ministries. They will be joined by a male quartet and Total Praise, a singing group that includes Carlie Taylor, who sang last month in Atlanta for the Martin Luther King Jr. celebration.
The concert begins with a skitlike performance of a mother — played by Charlette Thompson, a former member of the singing group Charlette's Web — who is teaching her daughter the history of gospel music from the time of old Negro spirituals through the addition of percussion and other non-traditional musical instruments during Pentecostalism in the early 1900s.
The journey ends with the introduction of liturgical dancing to worship services in the 1990s. Consolidated Baptist's Dance Ministry will perform the dance sequences.
Proceeds from this concert and future ones will benefit a community charity, said Landen A. Wilson, RU Ready?'s director of worship.
This time, the money will benefit one of the "Black Males Working" students in the First Baptist Bracktown program, which is planning a 10-day trip to Europe in June, with stops in London, Paris and Munich.
Founded by Roszalyn Akins, a former Fayette County Public Schools educator, BMW is a Saturday program that stresses academics and personal responsibility for African-American boys in grades six through 12.
To go to Europe, however, the students must have excellent grade point averages.
"One young man's GPA went from 1.4 to 3.871," Akins said. Plus, each of the families must raise a percentage of the costs. The student who raised his GPA also took on a part-time job to help earn his part of the family obligation, she said, because his mother had a massive stroke.
"This is what inspires me," Akins said.
Some students, however, need help fulfilling their obligations. Akins said about $20,000 more is needed.
Knowing that, RU Ready? wants to step in with a little help.
RU Ready? has laid the groundwork for a second concert in July, Williams said. That one, he said, will benefit Open Door Ministries, a church founded by Thompson and her husband.