BIOGRAPHY: MAHALIA JACKSON

Writer: Ubamara Ezenobi

 

She was one of the greatest gospel singers who ever lived.

Mahalia Jackson was born on October 26, 1911, in New Orleans, Louisiana. She was born to Johnson A. Jackson Snr and Charity Clark. Popularly known as ‘the Queen of Gospel’, Mahalia had a powerful and commanding voice, and she was known as the greatest gospel singer of the world while she lived. She started singing when she was four, at the well-known Mount Moriah Baptist Church. Later on she joined the Greater Salem Baptist Church.

The formative years of Mahalia’s life were far from rosy. At birth, Jackson suffered from Genu varum, or ‘bowed legs’. Doctors wanted to perform surgery by breaking her legs, but one of her aunts opposed it. Her mother died at 25 when she was only four or five, and she was left in the care of her Aunt Duke who did not spare the little girl any maltreatment. She and her brother had to do virtually all the work at home at a very tender age, and if the house was not cleaned enough, she was beaten.

Mahalia got married in 1936 to Isaac Lanes Grey Hockenhull. Sadly the marriage did not last. Isaac often tried getting her to sing secular music, something she vowed not to do all her life. He was also addicted to gambling on racehorses, and in 1941 Jackson divorced him.

She began touring her city’s churches and surrounding areas with the Johnson Gospel Singers, one of the earliest professional gospel groups. Sometime later Jackson met the composer Thomas Dorsey, known as the Father of Gospel Music. He gave her musical advice, and in 1939 they began a five-year association of touring, with Jackson singing Dorsey’s songs in church programs and at conventions. His ‘Take My Hand, Precious Lord’ became her signature song.

The song that brought Mahalia world recognition was to come in 1948. Jackson had signed up with Apollo Label the previous year and that year she recorded the song ‘Move on up a Little Higher’. It got so popular that stores couldn’t even meet up demand. The song rocketed her to fame in the USA, and from there on there was no stopping her. Other songs she released had wide praise and won her several awards.

mahalia jackson 2

Mahalia Jackson. Photo credit: BBC.

In 1950, Jackson became the first gospel singer to perform at Carnegie Hall. She started touring Europe in 1952 and was hailed by critics as the world’s greatest gospel singer. In Paris she was called the Angel of Peace, and throughout the continent, she sang to capacity audiences. The tour, however, had to be cut short due to exhaustion.

With her mainstream success, Jackson was criticized by some gospel purists who complained about her hand-clapping and foot-stomping and about her bringing “jazz into the church”. She had many notable accomplishments during this period, including her performance of many songs in the 1958 film ‘St Louis Blues’, singing “Trouble of the World” in 1959’s ‘Imitation of Life’ (an American romantic drama film), and recording with Percy Faith. When she recorded The Power and the Glory with Faith, the orchestra arched their bows to honour her in solemn recognition of her great voice.

She ended her career in 1971 with a concert in Germany, and when she returned to the U.S., made one of her final television appearances on ‘The Flip Wilson Show’. She devoted much of her time and energy to helping others. She established the Mahalia Jackson Scholarship Foundation for young people who wanted to attend college. Her last album was ‘What the World Needs Now’, which she released in 1969. The next year, in 1970, she and Louis Armstrong performed “Just a Closer Walk with Thee” and “When the Saints Go Marching In” together.

Jackson died on January 27, 1972.

 

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BOOK REVIEW: NORTH by BUSAYO KEHINDE

Reviewer: Ubamara Ezenobi.

Life happens to everyone. It’s inevitable. The things that you never imagine would ever happen to you could take place in the blink of an eye. You could become a person you never imagined you would be in the space of a few days. In these times we are thrown off balance, left to decide who or what to hold onto as anchor. In this book, North, Busayo Kehinde tells us in the best way possible, the best direction to follow.

North is the story of a young woman, Laura, who goes through much distress in life despite her love for God. First, she loses her younger brother to leukaemia. Next is her dad who walks out on them. And then, as though she has not lost enough, she loses her fiancé who loved God so much, to a lifestyle of drugs and women. Eventually, he dies. These tragedies turn her south, and she decides she doesn’t believe in God anymore.

Busola helps us realize that it’s not really about the many challenges you face, but about what you choose at the end of the day: life, or not. By placing special characters like little Ire who battles with sickle cell anaemia yet has unwavering faith in God, and other people who constantly remind her of God’s love, especially for her, the author shows us that God knows us inside out, and knows how best to proceed with healing us, and blessing us beyond our wildest dreams.

For Busola Kehinde, North is the direction that leads us above, and to choose north, is to choose life. In the epilogue, she shares from her personal experience how she has had to choose north at different points in her life, just like her key character. She enjoins us to choose life, to keep choosing life no matter what, and to never lose trust in God.

North is a book to read now. No matter where you are, it’s going to meet you right there and bless you tremendously.

Click HERE to Get the book

© Ubamara Ezenobi, 2019

Hope full

Despair is when I look at myself and I see nothing.

In the past few days, you see, I’ve been evaluating.

And I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s nothing good in me anymore.

Nothing good, just pitiful emptiness.

I’ve tried to search for the air I once had, the freedom that was once mine, and I’ve found none.

I’ve looked to find the friends I once had, the family that once believed in me, and I’ve found none.

It’s in these moments that I realize how slippery life can be when you start to lose it.

It’s in these moments also, that I have found hope, its meaning.
Hope is when I look at myself, and even though I do not see the admirable person I used to be, I see a better me emerging. I see one who won’t just be admired, but looked up to.

Hope is when I evaluate my life, its seeming emptiness, and still come to the conclusion that it is well.

Hope is when I believe for the best, in spite of myself.

Hope is when I trust in someone greater than my heart to save me.

Hope is when I trust in God.

Hope is when I cling to that part of me that refuses to give in, despite the naysayers in my head.

Hope is when I love myself, because I was created by a God who is called Love.

Hope is when I embrace myself, past and present, because I choose to believe that these work together for good, to give me a beautiful future.
– Ezenobi Ubamara

EverydayJesus hangs out with the Father!

A friend said and I quote, “to be much for God we have to be much with Him”.

 

Going through a piece recently, I realized something, that as much as we want to study books that expound the word of God, we might never have faith to do mighty things if we neglect to hang out with the ‘One’ who is the Word. The Spirit and Life.

 

Jesus Christ said, the words that I speak to you they are spirit and they are life. He was talking about himself. The words Jesus spoke as man were no different from the words God speak as God, in efficacy and power, reason being that the same power was at work in them.

 

And now Jesus had a habit of hanging out with the Father. Bible tells us he would go out of his way to climb a hill just so he could be alone with God. Little wonder then, that he had confidence enough in the power of his Father at work in him. He would say to the dead, rise, and he would say to the lame, walk.

 

So, spending time talking with God is key to doing much in his name, because of course, you’ll be conscious of his power enough to do his works. Cut a long story short, studying the Word, gets you to know what’s been given freely and gets you conscious of the power that has been made available for you to walk in all that’s been given. Hanging out with God gives you an opportunity to thank God immensely for all He’s given.

By Ubamara, Ezenobi; 2017.

 

EverydayJesus does good!

Acts 10 verse 38 says, and you no doubt know that Jesus of Nazareth was appointed by God with the Holy Spirit and with power, and he went around doing good and healing all who were possessed by demons, for God was with him.

 

I read the above scripture this morning, and I realized something that I consider profound. All of us who are believers, meet the implied conditions for DOING GOOD AND HEALING ALL WHO ARE POSSESSED BY DEMONS. We have the Holy Ghost and power, because God is with us. That was all Jesus needed to do good, including heal. That is all we need. Let’s start already. How? Believe and speak, believing. There really is nothing else to do. Speak, believing. That’s what the word teaches. And whether or not our intended good, works out according to our mind’s design, all the glory goes to God. You’re just expressing a life, you see. That life is Christ, the same life that has been given to you.

 

So step out of your shell today. Wherever you see that good needs to be done, do the good. Speak life to situations. Speak Christ. That’s the least you can do. Sometimes, maybe, the most.

By Ubamara, Ezenobi; 2017.

#EverydayJesus is our password 1

“I will behave myself wisely in a perfect way. O when wilt thou come unto me? ”

Who is man that God is mindful of him?

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If David, who was a man after God’s own heart and served God with a perfect heart, still needed works to attract the presence of God, what can we say to God in gratitude? For we need only come on the basis of Jesus’ blood and perfect sacrifice to Him who lives in us. We are part of the election of grace…. by grace alone. Glory.