Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s Album Release Party Recap for HEART.PASSION.PURSUIT…(PHOTOS+VIDEO)

Hello World,

Friday night, I ventured over to the Dec at The dReam Center Church of Atlanta to check out the album release party for Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s third album HEART. PASSION. PURSUIT. (Motown Gospel). First of all, the dReam Center has moved and grown! A few years ago, it used to be in North Atlanta in a kind of medium-sized industrial building and now it is in large traditional church building just past South DeKalb Mall. Secondly, although Tasha Cobbs Leonard is a multiple Stellar and Dove Award winner and, GRAMMY®-Award winning recording artist, I honestly didn’t expect the onslaught of folk that were trying to get up in the church. The parking lot was full, folk parked in the surrounding neighborhood and an overflow parking lot nearby the mall was getting action too. I ended up parking in the grass and almost got in a tiff with two older ladies who had their eye on the parking spot that I was trying to stake out! LOL. But after that, everything flowed pretty smoothly.

This is the stage/altar area of the dReam Center…Pretty traditional…

So just ahead of me I noticed Shekinah Anderson, who is the best friend of Tiny Harris and a reality star in her own right. Of course, I had to look around for Tiny or T.I., but I did not see them. I also noticed Egypt Sherrod, former radio personality and current realtor and host of HGTV’s “Property Virgins.”

So I’ve never seen a church with this type of sign affixed to the architecture…”Get In Where You Fit In.” Okay…not traditional…

Pastor William Murphy asked everyone to turn on their cell phone lights (so I don’t know how to do that LOL) because in his words, “It’s about to be a ‘lit’uation.” “Light it up and let the world know who Jesus is.”

That’s pretty, huh?

So Pastor Murphy told what I thought was a pretty powerful story about when he first stated the dReam center on Jan. 15, 2006. He said he thoroughly prepared for the sermon he delivered on that Sunday. Although there were roughly 350 people there, only one person joined the church. He said he tried to act like he wasn’t bothered by the fact that only one person joined. That person, however, was Tasha Cobbs. This was years before she recorded her first album, but look at the impact she has had in the name of God since then. It just goes to show that through one person you can impact the world, and you never know who will be that one person! I mean it was standing room only at that church for Tasha Cobbs Leonard, and I saw a few people who were turned away…

Pastor Murphy also shared how Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s album HEART. PASSION. PURSUIT. was recorded nearby where the Interstate 85 bridge in Atlanta collapsed in March and how he thought that was significant as the goal of the album is to build bridges between different races, cultures and ethnicities.

Then it was time for Tasha to saaang….

If you look closely, you can see her hubby Kenneth Leonard, just behind her to the right, looking like he’s supervising everything…Photo Credit: Tonya Reeves & Michael Walker/UMeek Images

I like this photo because everyone’s hands are lifted up, but she is getting down…

Tasha Cobbs Leonard and Kierra Sheard. Kierra is featured on the song “Your Spirit.” So I kept looking around for Nicki Minaj, who is featured on “I’m Getting Ready,” but I guess she wasn’t there…Photo Credit: Tonya Reeves & Michael Walker/UMeek Images

 So this teenager or preteenager (The older I get, the harder it is for me to tell…) came up during the middle of the concert and pressed some money in Tasha’s hands….Obviously, she was moved…Photo Credit: Tonya Reeves & Michael Walker/UMeek Images

And even her fellow singers were moved…

A Holy Ghost dance…

Attorney Phaedra Parks, formerly of the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” was there and feeling it…See Pastor Kim of the “Preachers of Atlanta” behind her…

At the end of the concert, Tasha Cobbs Leonard gave an altar call and spoke about the purpose of her album….

Also in attendance were Jimi Cravity, Breona Lawrence, Anna Golden, Bishop Paul S. Morton, Catherine Brewton, Bishop Travis Jennings, Pastor John Gray, Aventer Gray, Y’Anna Crawley, Todd Galberth, Bryan Pierce and more. So I hope you feel like you were there at Tasha Cobbs Leonard’s album release party…

The highly anticipated album, HEART. PASSION. PURSUIT. (Motown Gospel), from multiple Stellar and Dove Award winner and, GRAMMY®-Award winning recording artist Tasha Cobbs Leonard, is available now in stores, and online everywhere.For more information about Tasha Cobbs Leonard visit: www.TashaCobbs.org
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‘Love Jones’ Actress Bernadette Speakes Shares About the Movie’s 20th Anniversary, Being a Christian in Hollywood & More…

Hello World,

If  you came of age in the ’90s, you know it was the golden age of black cinema…Let me hit you with just a few — “House Party” (1990) “Boyz in the Hood” (1991), “New Jack City” (1991), “Juice” (1992), “Menace to Society” (1993),”Jason’s Lyric” (1993) “Friday” (1995), “Above the Rim” (1995), “Waiting to Exhale” (1995), “Love Jones” (1997) and “The Best Man” in 1999…One of those films “Love Jones” is being celebrated for reaching its 2oth anniversary as of this March with much fanfare, and I’m here for it, particularly as one of my Delta Sigma Theta sorority sisters, who also pledged the sorority at the University of Georgia, co-starred in the film! The movie captured a time period in my life just after college when I fancied myself a budding poet (the great poet Nikki Giovanni, also a Delta, even critiqued one of my poems!) and traveled to poetry readings around town with friends. So when I discovered that Bernadette Clarke now Bernadette Speakes, on top of acting in one of my favorite movies of all time and being a Delta, is also a Christian, I knew I had to interview here on After the Altar Call about her journey, particularly as it is the 20th anniversary of the release of “Love Jones.”

Below is my interview with her (which I edited for for the sake of brevity):

1.You were born in New York, raised in Chicago and received a bachelor’s degree in Theater from the University of Georgia in Athens. How did you get from Athens to being cast as Sheila Downes in what has become a classic film “Love Jones?”

After I graduated, I moved back to Chicago, and I began pursuing my career. I ended up meeting Ted (writer and director of ‘Love Jones’) during a master’s thesis film we were doing for someone. He was doing sound. I was one of the actors on the film. And that’s how we first met. And it was very interesting because everybody that was on that shoot, especially one gentleman in particular, kept bragging and kind of boasting about all of these projects and things he had coming up. And Ted really didn’t say anything, he was just kind of joking around and just kind of laid back. We got along really, really well. Next thing I know, like, I think it was less than a year later, I get called on an audition for a film. I walk into the audition room, and it’s Ted. And he’s like, ‘Hey, what’s up?’ And I said, ‘Oh my gosh, is this yours?’ He goes, ‘Yeah.’ And I said, ‘Did you have this in the works when we were working together?’ He said, ‘Yeah, it was kind of coming together, but I didn’t want to say anything.’ And that’s how I got cast.

On what set Bernadette apart from other actresses auditioning for the role…

I think Ted could answer that question better than I can, but I will say this about my last audition. I don’t know if you remember in the movie, I do this African dance. So when he wrote that, it was kind of like everybody had been drinking. My character who hadn’t been written yet does this thing, and it’s really simple. And when I auditioned, my agent said you need to come in there with an African dance. And I was like, ‘What?’ And that was my 4th call back. And I said, ‘Is that it? Is that all I have to do?’ And she was like, ‘Yes, they want to see a two-minute African dance.’ I said, ‘Okay.’

God puts things in divine order. I was already dancing with a West African troupe, and I went to one of my friends. We choreographed a routine. I walked into that audition very raw I would say because a very close friend of mine, I didn’t know if he was going to live or die that day because he had AIDS. So I wasn’t even going to go to this audition when I would found out that that he may not make it. I had said I’m not going. And my agent was really mad because I said I was going to visit my friend instead. Well, he found out that I wasn’t going to go to the audition. So he called me, and he swore up and down, he promised me that he would hold on and he said I needed to go do this. He told me he wouldn’t see if I didn’t go do it. So I called my agent and said I was going to go, but I went in there raw. And I guess I put all of that energy into the routine. I went in there with no shoes on, no make up on, these African pants and a leotard. I did my thing, and I was ready to bounce.

And Ted was like, ‘Wait, wait, wait.’ I said, ‘Oh, I’m sorry. What’s up?’ He said, ‘I actually wrote something for you that I want you to read on camera.’ I was like, ‘Really? I have no makeup on.’ He said, ‘Naw, it’s all good. I just want to hear how you do it.’ I said, ‘Do you have a note that you want to give me before I read it?’ because it was a cold read. And he said, ‘Yeah. You know those girls who go to Whitney Young? You’re one of those girls.’ And that’s a note that only you being from Chicago (where the film was shot) would understand. Whitney Young (former First Lady Michelle Obama is a graduate) is a predominantly black high school, and it’s like a prep high school. It’s kind of bougie. And my sister went to Whitney Young so I totally knew what he meant when he gave me that note. So that is exactly what I did, and he said, ‘That’s it.’ And when I was finished, I said, ‘Gotta go. Peace out.’

And I think just being authentic and real in that moment is what got me the role. Not to say no one else was, but that is who Sheila is. She is very authentic and real, calls it like she sees it, very loyal to her friends, not fake. So I think the way that whole day kind of evolved brought all of that into place.  I ended up being a co-star in the film which was huge for my first film!

 

2.Twenty years ago, “Love Jones” debuted on March 14. Did you have any idea that it would be a hit movie that continues to resonate with audiences even today?

No, I didn’t.  I don’t know if any of us did. We knew we were doing something unique because nothing had been done in regards to the Chicago scene, the poetry scene or anything like that up until that point. And also, nothing had been done in a real positive, eclectic way of looking at African-American life in this type of setting so we all kind of knew that, but we didn’t know that it would burst. The irony is that it didn’t do well financially. It didn’t cost a lot to make, but it wasn’t in the theaters for a really long time. But it became this pop culture film, and once it went to video and television and online streaming and all of that stuff, it started to reach the masses in different geographical settings. My daughter, she is a millennial, and all of her friends know about the movie. People in my parents’ age group, they know about the movie so it became this really iconic film. And we had no idea that is what we were doing.

And for me, it wasn’t just about the movie. It was about the soundtrack too. Even today, you can listen to the soundtrack, and it’s still good.

And I really credit all of that to Ted. Ted is an amazing visionary artist. He’s a photographer. He’s a connoisseur of music, jazz, classical, R&B, blues. Like he loves it all. And he put all of that in the film.

3.I read that last month the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosted the event “In the Mood for ‘Love Jones’ – The Academy Celebrates the Film’s 20th Anniversary,” which included a screening of the film at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills. What was it like to reunite with the entire cast, and was this your first time reuniting with everyone since the movie debuted?

No, in February, we all saw each other at the ABFF (American Black Film Festival) Awards which was awesome! It was amazing to see all of us older. When we first did the film, none of us were married.  Well, actually, Isaiah was married, and I was the only one who had a child. And we were all like in our early 20s. So when we see each other 20 years later, we’re all married. We all have kids. We’re older, wise, a lot more debonair. (laughter) And then it was really great to see each other again (at the academy event). And everyone is doing well in their lives. I had seen Bill Bellamy and Nia in passing at different events, but we all didn’t keep in touch. Well, I personally didn’t. I think some of them are closer in relationships than I am with them, but it was really beautiful for all of us to be together again.

4.In addition to “Love Jones,” you were featured along side Oscar Award-Winning Actor Sidney Poitier in “To Sir with Love II.” You’ve appeared in several TV shows such as ParenthoodMonk and Boston Legal. And you have acted in several theater productions in addition to being CEO of Dreams Take a Minute Productions in Los Angeles. Have you had a strategy in advancing in your acting career or do you have a principle that has guided you as you’ve made moves in your career?

I think the main thing that I do, I think most people would say, you should focus on one thing, Represent yourself well in that one thing and then move on to the next thing. And I’m more of an eclectic person. I can’t just focus on one thing. And also, I’m a stay-at-home mom taking care of my kids. So it was like what can I do to stay creative but not jeopardize or sacrifice this time in my children’s lives. And that fueled my decision making.

I feel like the industry isn’t going anywhere. It’s always going to evolve and grow, but it’s not going anywhere. So for me, I didn’t want to miss the legacy of my family and missing moments of when my kids grow up and taking steps toward their mark in the world for the sake of my dreams. I would rather still stay productive in my career, watch them grow, get them to a point where they can jump off the cliff so to speak into their dreams and then usher in mine. I don’t regret making that decision. I know I’m not where I could have been. I have not accomplished half of what my colleagues have, and I’m so happy for and proud of them. But for me, my family is my pride and joy. I look at my kids and how they are today, and I’m so glad  I put them first. And my marriage is solid. My husband and I have been together 18 years. I think marriage is hard regardless of whether you’re in the Hollywood scene or not, two people trying to live together with flaws and all. But I think definitely my husband and I have cultivated something that is amazing. We’re each other’s biggest fan.

And now we’re at a point in our lives where are our kids are going, ‘Go do you thing.’ They want to see us soar, especially me. My kids definitely realize what I’ve given up in a sense and now they’re like , ‘Go soar Mom’ and that feels so good.

5.In addition to your acting career, I also admire that you are a Christian. How and when did you find your way to Christianity? Tell me about that journey. What is it like to be a Christian in Hollywood?

It was a journey within itself. My mom’s family are Baptists, and my dad’s are Catholics so I was always around some type of faith-based environment. But it didn’t really appeal to me honestly because I saw a lot of hypocrisy so I wasn’t interested. But then when I got to college, I felt lost. And I felt like I wanted to be a better version of me, but I didn’t really know what that meant. But I chose to become a Muslim. When I went back to Chicago, there is a very large population of Muslims where I lived which was Hyde Park, so I studied with an imam under Sunni Muslims. But I still felt like my soul was crying out for something.

There’s a reputable theatre in Chicago called the Steppenwolf Theatre, and I ended up being cast in two shows that same year with that theatre company, and God put Christians in both shows. It was the first time that I saw Christians not only own their imperfections but were authentic. Like they weren’t ‘judgy’ or judgmental or religious like a Pharisee or legalistic. And they were extremely talented women in the arts whom I highly respected. And all of that kind of piqued my interest and made me think, ‘Well maybe I have this whole Christianity thing wrong.’

So these women studied the Bible with me, and I asked 50 million questions because I had a lot of bitterness in my heart. They helped me sort through a lot of it. So I fell in love with Jesus. He was this masterful storyteller, the very thing that I am, he is the epitome of. I fell in love with the Bible. It became a no brainer for me to follow Him.

On how her faith helped Bernadette to transition to Hollywood…

So I was converted in Chicago, and when I moved to California, the church that I was a part of in Chicago, had a sister church in California, and they just actually moved me here. I moved here with nothing. It was literally my child, my clothes and my car. And the ministry in California gave me a household with roommates and a community that I’ve been with for almost 22 years. My church is called Turning Point LA. We changed our name. It used to be AMS, which stands for Arts Media Sports in the Los Angeles Church of Christ.

Being a Christian in Hollywood, I feel like it’s the fire that fuels me. And not because I’m trying to go out here with fire and brimstone. I’ve always been rebellious in my nature. Like I was the first to get tattoos in my family, the first to get piercings in my family, I had a baby out of wedlock. But now I get to be rebellious in a whole different way. When you look at Hollywood, you can say there are innovators absolutely, but I want to be defiant in a different way. So it definitely fuels me where I feel like I don’t have to compromise or give up anything just because I’m a Christian. What’s mine is still going to be mine and what isn’t isn’t. And I’m not going to apologize for who I am because I’m an actor and a storyteller. It doesn’t hinder me at all.

6.I know that you had a bout with illness. How did your faith sustain you during what I’m sure was a difficult time in your life?

It was 2014, and I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. It was cancer of my bone marrow. It was stage 4, and it was aggressive. I had a tumor in my back that cracked my vertebrae. I had been sick for six months before I found out that I even had cancer. It was a progressive cancer to say the least. And it caused excruciating pain that wasn’t helped by morphine or Percocet. And I was hallucinating with the dosages they gave me to so I didn’t want the dosages because I didn’t have a clear mind when I was using them. I had the choice to do medical marijuana which I prayed a lot about, and I chose not to do that either. It was a time when I felt like the physical pain, the emotional anguish and the spiritual suffering that Jesus went through when He went to the cross, this is an opportunity for me to experience that intimacy, even on a small scale, with Christ.

On choosing to focus on joy and gratitude during illness…

I think when you go through suffering, it can either be a burden or it can be a joy. And joy doesn’t mean happiness. Joy means I think your perspective and your gratitude. For me, I chose a joyful, grateful perspective going into it and that is what sustained me. I was sick for just over a year. When you have Non-Hodgkins lymphoma, there is only one combination that is curable. The combination that I had which is stage 4 aggressive was a curable combination for the type of chemo prescribed for me. I’m in remission now. I’m technically not cured until the 3 to 5 year mark.

7.Obviously, outside of acting, you have other interests. You are now a Rodan + Fields sales consultant. Why?

The women who created these skincare products are amazing women. They are very smart. They are doctors. They are graduates of Stanford. They teach at Stanford. They are moms. They are wives. They came up with a product called Proactiv. I used Proactiv, and I liked the results. My daughter used it and liked the results. Their customer service was awesome. I always felt taken care of. So I had respect for these women long before I became a consultant. But what pushed me over the edge is I was looking for something. I’m 50. Black does not crack, but we do sag. So I’m like I’m not going to do the whole Botox thing so I did some research on Rodan+Fields. It’s a part time opportunity, and the stream of income allows me to have freedom. The products are not cheap, but the average woman can purchase them.

Is there anything else you want to add?

I’m not done yet. I may have not been on the scene for a while, but trust me when I tell you, I’m not done yet.

Bernadette Speakes recently completed two films, and is about to step into another in mid-February. She has been adventurous on stage in 2014, stepping into her first COMEDY…Elephant Theatre’s West Coast Premiere of “North Plan,” directed by David Fofi. During the 2013 Fringe Festival, she portrayed Tituba, in “The Crucible.” She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre from the University of Georgia; and presently continues to hone her craft at various acting studios around the Los Angeles area.

Bernadette was a part of the Producing Queens of The Trunk Show… which brings its own uniqueness in the world of storytelling. She is also the creator and producer of “Get Up Stand Up…Clean Comedy 4 A Change,” a comedy showcase that bridges the gap of laughter and charity together. Bernadette has also appeared in several acclaimed shows, such as The Elephant Theater’s “In Arabia We’d Be Kings,” and The Fountain Theater’s West Coast Production of Direct from Death Row…”The Scottsboro Boys.” She’s performed at the Steppenwolf Theater, Goodman, Washington D.C.’s Kennedy Center, and the Matrix’s LA Premier of An Evening with Shakespeare featuring Charles S. Dutton.

Awards include an Emmy Nomination for “A Stage of Our Own,” with James Earl Jones, The LA Drama Critic’s Circle, and the LA Weekly. Other Film & TV Credits include…”The Soloist,” “Heroes,” “Parenthood,”” To Sir with Love II” with Mr. Sidney Poitier, and the 1997 Sundance Festival Winner, “Love Jones,” which was honored this year, the 20th anniversary of its release, at the 2017 ABFF AWARDS for its contribution as a cinematic classic in African-American films!

Bernadette is also a Rodan + Fields sales consultant. For more information, please click HERE.

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“Greenleaf’s”GregAlan Williams, Kim Fields, Jekalynn Carr & More to Appear at the International Faith & Family Film Festival!

Hello World,

We have to wait until August for OWN’s “Greenleaf” to return, but you don’t have to wait until then to see at least one of our favorite stars of “Greenleaf!” GregAlan Williams, who portrays Mac “the Molester” McCready and archnemesis to Grace Greenleaf (I’m still thinking about their showdown in the Mid-Season Finale), will appear in the “A Question of Faith” session on Saturday from 6-8 p.m. as a part of the International Faith and Family Film Festival, which starts THIS Thursday through Saturday! But he is not the only star who will be in the house!

In fact, as an aspiring actor, screenwriter, or director, imagine if you had an exclusive opportunity to glean insights from Hollywood’s elite. Imagine if you had a chance to attend faith-based film screenings led by a panel of entertainment’s most sought-after talent. The International Faith and Family Film Festival (IFFFF), founded by Bishop T.D. Jakes, will afford aspiring faith-based creatives a chance to attend film screenings; network with Hollywood’s elite; and learn more about film production and direction during live Q&A sessions, among other topics. During this engaging four-day IFFFF experience, expect to be inspired and transformed!

Whether you’re passionate about cinematography or music composition, you definitely want to maximize this opportunity to glean new insights, as well as expand your professional film and entertainment network. From Hollywood’s leading screenwriters, music composers, actors, to directors, producers, and executives, the talent represented at the International Faith and Family Film Festival is sure to make Dallas (Omni Hotel ) one of the most coveted cities for entertainment this summer!

Below is a preview of a portion of the schedule:

Veteran actress Kim Fields will take part in Women In Hollywood session on Friday June, 30 2017 at 4:45 PM – 5:45 PM and A Question of Faith session on Saturday July, 01 2017 from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

Gospel star Jekalyn Carr will perform in the McDonald’s Inspirational Gospel Celebration Tour on Friday June, 30 2017 from 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM! Also, she will take part in the Never Heard session also on Friday June, 30 2017
from 10:00 PM – 11:30 PM.

Other highlights from the schedule include:

Morning Inspiration with DeVon Franklin on Friday, June 30

Moderator: Debra Langford

Begin this glorious day at the International Faith & Family Film Festival with words of inspiration by one of Hollywood’s top personalities who believes in the power of God and faith-based media.

The Second Coming screening on Friday, June 30

Narrated by James Earl Jones as well as directed by and starring Blair Underwood, who will be at the festival, as a present-day Christ who is committed to an asylum for the criminally insane after being falsely accused of raping a young white girl. The film, celebrating the 25th anniversary of its release in 2017, sheds lights on the image of the Black Messiah.

Leading Men in Hollywood on Thursday, June 29

Moderator: DeVon Franklin

This session features some of Hollywood’s hottest leading men and their perspectives on the industry such as Brian White, Laz Alonso, Richard T. Jones, Malik Yoba & John Singleton

The International Faith & Family Film Festival
2017 SCHEDULE INCLUDES
  • Dynamic Breakout Sessions
  • Interactive Panel Discussions
  • Insightful Master Classes
  • Exclusive Film Screenings

See the International Faith & Family Film Festival Promo below:

 

For the complete schedule, a roster of ALL of the stars and luminaries  (and they are aplenty) who will be in attendance & to register, which costs $99, go to, mega-fest.org. (And if you go, ask Mac what’s going to happen on “Greenleaf” when it comes back in August 🙂 ! )
Any thoughts?