By Ron Wynn
In an ideal partnership, Cafe Mocha, the nation’s number one nationally syndicated radio show for women of color, is joining forces with the country’s foremost showcase for Black creative sounds, The National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM). This year’s Salute THEM Awards will be streamed from the Museum, 510 Broadway, Sunday at 6 PM CST; followed by broadcast on BNC TV at 9PM CST. The ceremony will be hosted by Café Mocha Gracie Awards Winners Loni Love, Yo-Yo, and “Ain’t Too Proud” Broadway star Saint Aubyn. The event is sponsored by AARP and Toyota, with musical alliances NMAAM, the Essence Festival and the Living Legends Foundation.
“We couldn’t think of a better way to kick off Black Music Month than to do the awards show in conjunction with the Museum,” Shelia Eldridge, creator of the Salute Them Awards and executive producer/creator of the Cafe Mocha show. “We’ve wanted to do something with them since they started, and we hope this will be the start of a long partnership.”
“We started the Salute THEM Awards because we wanted to honor people who don’t always get recognized, and more importantly we wanted to honor the culture and recognize people who are contributing to it in ways beyond just performances and making music,” Eldridge continued. “Our honorees are people who are doing tremendous things in the community, making a difference in the world and in the culture.”
“This won’t be just another awards show,” she added. “I think people who check out this program will see a lot of things that are different, contemporary, vibrant. It won’t be the same old thing by any means.” This year’s honorees include Sly Stone, musician, songwriter and record producer, Legend Award; June Ambrose, award-winning creative director, stylist, costume designer, and entrepreneur, Woman of Style Award; Jamal Josef, celebrity choreographer and author, Champion for Children Award; Earth, Wind & Fire, 6x Grammy Award-winning male group, Creating the Legacy Award; Bille Woodruff, award-winning music video and film director, Director’s Award; Dr. Bobby Jones, singer, TV host and “Ambassador of Gospel Music”, Spirit Award; Patrice Rushen, Grammy Award-nominated jazz pianist and producer, Trailblazer Award; Ludacris, 3x Grammy Award-winning hip hop artist, actor and philanthropist, Game Changer Award; and Darlene Love, legendary songstress, Soul Solidarity Award.
Tribute performers include 2021 ACM Awards new male artist of the year Jimmie Allen, multi-Stellar Award nominee and GMA Dove Award winner Maranda Curtis; and multi-GRAMMY nominated songwriting and production duo Louis York, the outstanding production/performance duo of Claude Kelly and Chuck Harmony. They will be performing a tribute to Sly Stone as part of the program and talked about his impact and importance, as well as his influence on their careers.
“When you talk about Sly Stone, everything that’s he’s done, his music, production skills, without question he’s a huge influence on us. One of the things that’s been somewhat missing in Black music in recent years has been the groups. A lot of individuals get mentioned, but for us we also want to see recognition for the groups and we’re thrilled to be honoring Sly Stone.”
Louis York also has a Nashville connection. They’ve had the imprint Weirdo Workshop based out of Franklin for the past five years, and recently did the “Theme From Black Bottom Saints,” a single in conjunction with novelist Alice Randall’s novel “Black Bottom Saints.” Their last LP “American Griots” was widely praised for its broad scope and idiomatic versatility, and they’re now working on a new LP to be released later this year. “We had been looking for some space in either New York or Los Angeles,” they continued. “But someone suggested Nashville. We decided to check it out, fell in love with the area and the musical community, and it’s really worked out well for us.”
The Salute THEM Awards benefits the Mocha Cares Foundation to support housing and services to combat homelessness and domestic violence through mentorship programs. In addition to viewing the awards, either streamed or broadcast, fans can register for a special gift at www.SaluteTHEMAwards.com.