Contributed by Lynn Ward Gray, Treasurer-Juneteenth Celebration Committee
BATTLE CREEK (MICH.)-The 2017 Juneteenth Family Day Planning Committee announces their headliner and featured artists for Saturday, June 17th. The main stage will have a short program and entertainment from Noon to 6 p.m.
The headliner for the 2017 Juneteenth Family Day is gospel artist Vera Riley of Lansing, MI. She takes the stage at 4 p.m. If passion had a human voice, it would resonate through the vocal chords of Vera Riley. Vera has been blessed with a rare musical gift and ability to connect with all types of audiences. Award-winning gospel artist Vickie Winans says that from the moment Vera opens her mouth, you get “goose bumps”…
Vera’s love for music began at an early age in Saginaw/Lansing, Michigan. Her mother taught music, and introduced her daughter to various styles of music, including; classical, jazz, the standards, and gospel. Those different styles of music would help shape Vera as a singer.
During her senior year in high school, Vera traveled to Chicago to compete in the NAACP Afro-Academic, Cultural, Technological and Scientific Olympics (ACT-SO). She competed against hundreds of youth from across the country in the contemporary vocal category. She sang a rendition of Billie Holiday’s “God Bless the Child”. Vera conveyed the melancholy tune with such passion that the judging panel which included Motown legends Martha Reeves and Claudette Robinson were literally left in tears. Vera would go on to win the competition.
Gospel musical playwright Freddie L. Thomas recruited Vera to for the lead role in his 2005 gospel musical stage play “When Love Goes Bad”. She traveled across the country with the production for over a year receiving rave reviews for her role as Jackie McClain, a drug addict who would eventually bring her broken family back together.
Vera has been fortunate to share the stage with premiere gospel artists, including her mentor Vickie Winans, Micah Stampley, and Beverly Crawford— just to name a few. In 2016 she was honored to sing the National Anthem for Vice President Mike Pence during the MAGA campaign.
In 2008, Vera released a maxi-single CD entitled “Simply Vera. Her 2011 single entitled “Grateful” was released digitally through Universal Motown (UniMO). The internet portal emusic.com listed “Grateful” as the most downloaded song by a UniMo Digital Distribution artist for the month of March. It was the only release by a Christian artist on the label.
Featured artists are local bands, Blvcksheep and Minor Element, they take the stage at 3 p.m. There will be poets, dancers and a host of other entertainers to round out a day of fun and fellowship with a few surprises. A gospel showcase with choirs, praise dancers and more is also planned.
Free hot dogs, chips and red pop are available beginning at 11:00 a.m. until it’s gone. Bring your lawn chair and enjoy the show both Saturday for the entertainment and Friday for the softball game (along with your mitt) and the outdoor movie…The Wiz…Live!
The 3-on-3 basketball tournament has been cancelled but entries into the essay contest for students grades 3rd-12th are encouraged through midnight on June 12th. Prizes for the Juneteenth Family Day essay contest are for 1st and 2nd place winners in each category. The prize this year are Amazon Fire 7” 8GB tablets, essay contest applications are available at the Urban League of Battle Creek or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’d like to volunteer or have questions, please contact the Juneteenth Celebration Committee chair, Sam Gray at (269) 209-0293 or email@example.com to sign up. If you would like to support the 2017 Juneteenth Family Day through sponsorship, please contact the treasurer, Lynn Ward Gray at (269) 830-2456 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you for your interest.