The Manns brought their all of their talents- the rhythms of Gospel, the stage craft of television, the power of their brand- to the Ebenezer African Methodist Episcopal Church in Fort Washington Thursday night to kick off the McDonald’s “Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour, a nine city extravaganza hosted by Grammy star Vickie Winans which features the hip-hop/gospel solo act LeCrae and gospel singers John P. Kee and Smokie Norful.
“Wow ! I never could have imagine the song doing what it has done,” said Tamela Mann who needed several police officers to escort her from a table where she signed autographs to her dressing room because so many people wanted to shake her hand in the foyer of the Fort Washington church. “I just thank God that so many people have grabbed hold to the song and it is touching the hearts of so many. ”
The concert was not only a testimony to Tamela Mann’s talents but to the strength of their partnership. She sang several songs while husband David was off to the side of the stage. She opened with an up song entitled “Joy of the Lord,” and concluded with “Take me to the King,” that prompted most people in the church to stand on their feet. During the song she transitioned the old church hymn “I surrender all,” that is very stirring.
After Mann performed she joined her husband and son at the table to sign autographs. She said doing things together has been key to keeping a home full of love in Fort Worth, Texas. “ We do everything together,” Tamela said. “We have a good time and I just want to let other people know that they can have a good time and have good black love. He is m y number one supporter we take care of each other. We try to outdo each other.”
David Mann agreed. Even though his character on “Meet the Browns” is known for loud suits and louder behavior, in real life he strikes a serious demeanor and is committed to a woman who has been his partner, wife and professional colleague for more than 25 years.
“People asked me how do I balance this work, family and all of that, to me there is no balance,” David Mann said in an interview. “Anytime you try to balance something you try to give it the same amount of attention; my family, my marriage, it outweighs everything that I do. We love what we to do. We all love to be around each other. I guess it is good dysfunction, because we love to be with each other.”
During the concert, seated down front were rows of African American men and women who own McDonald’s restaurants in the Washington area and according to Ebenezer’s Rev. Grainger Browning, much more was on stage than gospel artists performing to more than 4,000 people.
“For us we are always blessed when the church becomes the center of the community,” Browning said. “This was corporate American and the church working together. There are more than 400 African American McDonald owners, one of the first women owners is right down the street and when you look at the situations we face in the community, we have to work together.”
Robert Jackson, US Marketing Director for McDonald’s, said coming back to Ebenezer as a corporate executive was personal. “I am from Southeast DC, I started out in Barry Farms and our program is called Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour. This is our 7th year doing this and thousands have turned out as we offer hope, inspiration and a since of giving back.”
“ From a business point of view, here is a company they give back a free gospel concert. What that says is that they understand our community and what is deeply rooted in our very being, “ said Jonathan Rodgers, the former President and CEO of TV 1 who was at the event. . “McDonald’s has an African American chairman and CEO. This is company that has their heart in the right place and God bless them.’
Mary Navies, License operator eight McDonald Restaurants in Maryland, including one a few miles from Ebenezer said the free concert was all about giving back. “We have been though some tough economic times and this was just our chance to say thank you. As African Americans we are spiritually based and at the concert I looked around and saw many of my customers.”
Navies took charge of a Clinton McDonald’s in 1991 and today she and her husband, retired CBS producer Jerome Navies, have stores in Prince George’s County from Fort Washington to College Park, including the store on the campus of the University of Maryland.
Even though the concert was free, a donation was an offering was taken to donate money to the Ronald McDonald House, a program that houses family members when their love one’s face long hospitalizations. “My hope for this tour is that people will be blessed and know that it is just not about us,” She said. “We all should want to give back. We might have to stay in a Ronald McDonald’s house because you might need help because of a hospital bill. Hopefully I can be a blessing to someone else.” Mann, the youngest of 14 children, said she grew up very poor and that has a way of keeping one humble despite success singing with Kirk Franklin and being in stage plays. Television programs and T.D. Jakes movie “Sparkle.”
“I have had a lot of challenges in my life,” She said. “When people were going on trips I couldn’t go because we didn’t have a car and I had to bomb rides. I didn’t let it keep me down. I am just t grateful for the little things in life, even in my suffering, I have learned, I have learned from my mistakes.”