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December 21, 2014

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When it comes to kicking off an inspirational tour headlined by Grammy Award-winning vocalist CeCe Winans, what better way would it be than for McDonald's to begin their third annual gospel concert series through humidity in the lone star state of Texas?

The fast food giant served up a value meal of gospel hotness over the weekend in Dallas and Houston, where it debuted this year's 'Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour.'

In addition to fans catching uplifting sets from the aforementioned diva, alongside PAJAM/Zomba recording artist J Moss, the nine-city trek will also feature performances from local gospel groups. All of the shows are free of charge (with the exception of the Newark, New Jersey stop). Scheduled tour dates below.

For Winans, it's the idea of the franchise's benevolent deeds that has attracted her to participate as this year's headliner.

Top-Selling Gospel Artists

    CeCe Winans
    The eighth of 10 siblings in the gospel-singing Winans family, CeCe recorded music with brother BeBe. The dynamic duo scored two No. 1 R&B singles, 'Addictive Love' and 'I'll Take You There.' As a soloist, CeCe has won six Grammys and her collection of R&B hits includes 'Count on Me,' her duet with Whitney Houston from the 'Waiting to Exhale' soundtrack.

    (Photo: Getty)

    BeBe Winans
    After years as a duet with sister CeCe, BeBe Winans went solo and released a self-titled album in 1997. Featuring singles 'In Harms' Way,' 'Thank You,' and 'I Wanna Be The Only One,' the album did well on gospel and secular charts. BeBe is a two-time Grammy winner, one as co-producer of the 'Bodyguard' soundtrack.

    (Photo: Pieter M. van Hattem, AOL)

    Kierra "KiKi" Sheard
    KiKi Sheard is a third-generation gospel artist. Her mother is Karen Clark Sheard of the famed Clark Sisters and her grandmother is gospel pioneer Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. Shortly after graduating high school, Sheard released her second album 'This Is Me,' which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Gospel charts in 2006.

    (Photo: John Shearer, WireImage.com)

    Mahalia Jackson
    Regarded as the "world's greatest gospel singer," Jackson's spirit-filled force produced gospel classics such as 'Move On Up a Little Higher,' 'He's Got the Whole World in His Hands' (a Top 100 pop single) and 'How I Got Over.' She sang for Presidents Eisenhower & Kennedy, and for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. immediately before his "I Have a Dream" speech.

    (Photo: Getty Images)

    James Cleveland
    A pianist, singer, composer and producer, Cleveland was revered by the music world as the King of Gospel and even taught a Queen (of soul), Aretha Franklin a few things about gospel. Cleveland is credited with writing and arranging more than 400 gospel songs, including 'Everything Will Be All Right,' 'The Love of God' and 'Peace Be Still.'

    (Photo: Time Life/Getty)

    Kirk Franklin
    Kirk Franklin came up in the church, but often reworks his church messages into a hip-hop mix. Franklin's 1998 hit 'Stomp' propelled him to the best-selling gospel artist of the modern era. Moving beyond music, Franklin has hosted 'Sunday Best,' a music competition on BET, in addition to working the speaker circuit.

    (Photo: Jesse Grant, Getty Images)

    The Winans
    The Winans, comprised of five-time Grammy-winning brothers Marvin, Carvin, Michael and Ronald, put out 10 albums from 1982 to 1995, spawning hits such as 'Let My People Go' and 'It's Time and a Friend.' Their own sons went on to form the third-generation group Winans Phase 2.

    (Photo: AOL)

    Yolanda Adams
    Though initially criticized in the Christian community for embracing R&B and jazz rhythms and "immodest" fashion to accompany her holy music, Adams scored quickly with gospel audiences. Her 1999 album, 'Mountain High...Valley Low' earned Adams her first Grammy for Best Contemporary Soul Gospel.

    (Photo: Lester Cohen, WireImage.com)

    Mary Mary
    Sisters Erica and Tina Atkins formed gospel duo Mary Mary, named after biblical Mary Magdalene and Mary, mother of Jesus. Their debut album, 'Thankful,' boasting smash single 'Shackles (Praise You),' was a crossover hit earning the duo Grammy and American Music Awards. The single received rotation on mainstream radio and MTV.

    (Photo: WireImage.com)

    Andraé Crouch
    After founding the Disciples in 1965, André Crouch garnered mainstream success, appearing on 'The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson' and at Carnegie Hall. The Disciples contemporary gospel sound, complete with soothing melodies of pop rather than traditional hymns, helped the group develop a racially diverse audience.

    (Photo: Rick Diamond, WireImage.com)


"I think the main thing that I love is what they do, " the 'Throne Room' singer told The BV Newswire. "All the funds and whatever they raise in offering will go to children. First of all, I should say they're offering it for free, which I think is amazing and I think it's something that's needed. And that people need to be inspired and be encouraged, especially during these times."

"But then the other main thing is the work of Ronald McDonald House," she continued. "Knowing what they do for children and what they been doing for years. And whenever we can be a part of something like that it's an honor for me."

Giving the fact that both Winans and Moss come from musical enriched families (Moss is cousins with Kierra "KiKi" Sheard and The Clark Sisters) and all grew up together in Detroit made it that much easier for the two to come together on the road.

"It's definitely an honor," Moss agreed. "You know CeCe's responsible for so much, from back in the BeBe and CeCe days all the way up to her own solo career and she's always been good people to me, my family, KiKi [Sheard], the Clarks [Sisters], you know everybody. It's just been a good vibe."

"We all grew up together in Detroit, went to the same schools," he continued. "She's a little older than I am but we were all just kind of there together. So it feels great, spice it up a little bit to bring my style and accompany it with her style I think it'll be a great family night for everybody."

Not only does the tour intend to uplift and inspire everyone to reach their higher self, it's also a centerpiece of McDonald's groundbreaking 365Black campaign.

"This tour is purely one example of how McDonald's recognizes and celebrates African American culture, heritage and achievements all year long – 365Black! McDonald's is proud to be deeply rooted in the African American community," McDonald's USA Marketing Director Carol Sagers said.

The tour is scheduled to run in select cities through September 13, and Moss and his team are eager to include those who aren't as fortunate to catch a glimpse.

"If we're not coming to a city near you there's always ways that you could try to get us to a city near you," he explained. "We're open for that if that's what needs to be. But definitely keep your ears open."

Last year's successful trek featured Grammy Award-winning EMI Gospel recording artist Smokie Norful, along with Myron Butler & Levi.


2009 McDonald's "Inspiration Celebration Gospel Tour"

May 8 – Dallas, TX (Friendship West Baptist Church)
May 9 – Houston, TX (Windsor Village United Methodist Church @ the KBC)
May 14 – Philadelphia, PA (Deliverance Evangelistic Church)
May 15 – Detroit, MI (Greater Grace Temple)
May 16 – Chicago, IL (Christ Universal Temple)
May 23 – Atlanta, GA (Ray of Hope Christian Church)
June 13 – Newark, NJ (McDonald's GospelFest -Prudential Center) - Tickets for this
tour stop are not free and can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com.

Sep. 13 – Washington, DC (National Black Family Reunion Celebration Festival -
Washington Mall)
Date TBD – Norfolk, VA (TBD)

For more information about the concert tickets, log onto www.365Black.com.

Influential Black Spiritual Leaders

    Influential Black Spiritual Leaders
    People around the world look to pastors, preachers, bishops and reverends for spiritual guidance and inspirational nourishment. In the black community, popular clergymen such as Bishop T.D. Jakes, Prophetess Juanita Bynum and Rev. Al Sharpton are held in high esteem and have much influence over congregations and countless followers, alike. Take a look at them, and other influential black spiritual leaders.

    FilmMagic / Getty Images

    Bishop T.D. Jakes, The Potter's House
    AGE: 51 HOMETOWN: South Charleston, West Virginia ABOUT HIM: The entrepreneur and chief pastor of the The Potter's House, a 30,000 member a non-denominational megachurch church in Dallas. FACTOID: Jakes, who was named among America's "Top 10 Religious Leaders" by 'Time' magazine, has recorded Grammy and Dove Award nominated music projects. He also produced the movies 'Woman Thou Art Loosed' and 'Not Easily Broken.'

    Michael Loccisano, FilmMagic

    Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ
    AGE: 67 HOMETOWN: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania ABOUT HIM: For 36 years, Wright was the Senior Pastor of the Chicago megachurch -- which boasted around 8,500 members. Controversial remarks made during his sermon shed negative light on the popular church, and one of its most well known parishioners: Illinois Senator and U.S. presidential candidate Barack Obama. FACTOID: Named one of 'Ebony' magazine's top 15 preachers, Wright has received a Rockefeller Fellowship and seven honorary doctorate degrees, including from Colgate University, Lincoln University, Valparaiso University, United Theological Seminary and Chicago Theological Seminary.

    Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

    Juanita Bynum, televangelist
    AGE: 49 HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois ABOUT HER: A former beautician, flight attendant and drug abuser, Bynum transformed herself into one of the most popular celebrity clergywomen after being introduced to the masses by Bishop TD Jakes. With a highly rated TBN show and a thriving television ministry, she gained national attention in 2007 when her estranged husband, Bishop Thomas Weeks, III, allegedly attacked her in a hotel parking lot. FACTOID: Bynum, a best-selling recording artist and author, has crossed over into entertainment; In 2008, she starred on episodes of the hit ABC Family network TV series 'Lincoln Heights' and will also appear in the big movie adaptation of the hit Off Broadway musical 'Mama I Want To Sing,' alongside Ciara, Lynn Whitfield and Patti LaBelle.

    Chad Buchanan, Getty Images

    Bishop Eddie L. Long, New Birth Missionary Baptist
    HOMETOWN: North Carolina ABOUT HIM: He first served as pastor in 1987 for a congregation consisting of just more than 300 members. Now the Lithonia, Georgia-based mega-church's membership has totaled to over 30,000 members. FACTOID: Long has authored numerous books, including 'What a Man Wants, What a Woman Needs' and 'The Blessing in Giving.' The Bishop is also featured on rapper Ludacris' latest album 'Release Therapy' and appeared on the hit Bravo reality show, 'Real Housewives of Atlanta.'

    Johnny Nunez, Wire Image

    Rev. Al Sharpton, National Action Network
    AGE: 54 HOMETOWN: Brooklyn, New York ABOUT HIM: Mostly recognized as a staunch civil rights activist for people of color, the former James Brown tour manager is the founder the National Action Network, a not-for-profit, civil rights organization with over forty active chapters nationwide. FACTOID: A 2004 U.S. Presidential candidate, the divorced father of two daughters has written a memoir (with Karen Hunter), hosted his own TV show (on TV One) and nationally syndicated radio program.

    Ragozzino William, Getty Images

    Bishop Noel Jones, City of Refuge Church
    AGE: 57 HOMETOWN: Spanish Town, Jamaica ABOUT HIM: In 1994, Bishop Jones founded Noel Jones Ministries (NJM) (formerly known as Jesus Alternative Ministries), in an effort to address religion's inability to offer real relevance to the changing climate of the times. His Gardenia, California based church boasts 7,000 members. FACTOID: One of seven children born to Bishop Robert and Marjorie Jones, Bishop Jones attended St. Jago High School and went on to attain a Bachelors of Science in Theology from Aenon Bible College. He is the younger brother of entertainer Grace Jones.

    Vince Bucci, Getty Images

    Jamal Harrison Bryant, The Empowerment Temple
    ABOUT HIM: Bryant founded Baltimore's The Empowerment Temple in April 2000, which became the fastest growing church in the A.M.E. denomination with over 11,000 members. Prior to his role as pastor, he served as the director of the NAACP's youth and college division. FACTOID: Despite dropping out of high school, Bryant later obtained a GED and went on to further his education receiving a degree from Morehouse College, a Masters of Divinity from Duke University and Doctorate of Ministry Degree. Today, his 'Power for Life' broadcast is heard weekly across the United States, the Caribbean, England, and throughout the continent of Africa.

    Reggie Anderson, Empowerment Temple

    Pastor Cynthia Hale, Ray of Hope Christian Church
    HOMETOWN: Roanoke, Virginia ABOUT HER: Hale is the founding and Senior Pastor of the Ray of Hope Christian Church in Decatur, Georgia, which has an active membership of 5,000 and an average of 1,500 in worship each Sunday morning. FACTOID: In 2004, Hale established a mentorship program to assist in the spiritual as well as practical development of pastors and church leaders. She has been recognized by 'Ebony' magazine as one of the greatest black women preachers in America.

    Youtube.com

    Bishop Larry Trotter, Sweet Holy Spirit Church
    HOMETOWN: Chicago, Illinois ABOUT HIM: Since 1981, Trotter has expanded his congregation at The Windy City's Sweet Holy Spirit Church from 22 members to over 5,000. FACTOID: In addition to his preaching ministry, Trotter is also an accomplished musician who was nominated for a Stellar Award in 2003 for his rendition of 'Jesus is the Best Thing that Ever Happened to Me.'

    Douglas C. Pizac, AP



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