Pure, unadulterated class, substance and authenticity. That is my first description of and for my new friend, Grammy award recipient and talented actress Jennifer Holiday. I first met Jennifer with my Goddaughter Kirstin Fouche' when we decided at the last minute to attend the Watch Night services at Ebenezer Church, my new church here in Atlanta, on New Year's Eve. After an appearance that left me speechless, Jennifer came and sat down next to me amongst the congregation. I immediately moved so that my Goddaughter Kirstin could sit next to her, as Kirstin admired and still admires Jennifer greatly. Jennifer could not be more loving and gracious to Kirstin, both then and after her performance back in the offices of Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock. I knew I liked and respected her at that moment. I have often said, "I would prefer you respect me and learn to like me, rather than like me, and never respect me." Well, I quickly learned to both like and respect Jennifer.
Within weeks Jennifer and I found ourself engulfed in a 5 hour conversation and "hang out," talking about things that mattered in this world, her pain (most of which people did not know), and proving something else to me -- that Jennifer Holliday was also a leader in the making. A role model for girls here and all around the world who are struggling with their identity, appearance and self-esteem. It wasn't long before I found myself inspired enough to want others to learn about her "way of life, and living," rainbows after storms. And this inspiration, with Jennifer's blessing, gave birth to the March 27th, 2010, reception in salute to Jennifer Holliday, co-hosted by me and Reverend Dr. Raphael Warnock at my home. The only problem with all of this, well, wa Jennifer. She is naturally humble and avoids bringing attention to herself. With her blessing, we not only put on an intimate, warm tribute to her, but Jennifer Holliday decided to bless those in attendance with a performance that made no doubt of her global talent.
A special thank you to Leon Tembo, my friend whom I met through my mentee and friend Tyrese, who performed that night also in honor of Jennifer Holliday. To everyone's surprise, Ambassador Andrew Young also got up and decided to sing, with his wife Carolyn Young's blessing (smile), TO Jennifer! Priceless, and caught on tape (I believe). Smile.
Also joining us for this special evening included my friend Elder Bernice King and so many heroes and sheroes from the Atlanta, and Ebenezer community. Special, and the bare minimum of the recognition that Jennifer deserves. Since this special day, Jennifer Holliday is living Love Leadership. Most recently she organized and hosted a women's leadership session at Ebenezer Church, to raise money for the new Ebenezer center planned in honor Martin Luther King, Sr. Jennifer lives a life that gives, even when she gets.
Enough said though, enjoy the complete and amazing "An Evening Salute to Jennifer Holliday" reception photo album here. You will almost feel as though you are right there with us.
Onward with HOPE
John Hope Bryant