ONYX Magazine celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans and those of the African diaspora.
Celebrating 25 Years of Excellence
ONYX Magazine celebrates the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans and those of the African diaspora.
March 25, 2014
The voice behind every Black picnic, BBQ and wedding of the past four decades discusses the longevity of Maze
Every funk band has a front man. It’s an old-school law obeyed by Maurice White, whose vocals reigned supreme as Earth, Wind and Fire’s fourth element, and Sugarfoot, who kept the Ohio Players roller-coastin’. Frankie Beverly is every bit as iconic—a raw soul master.
He’s the sing-and-sweat powerhouse who personified all-white sexy before Diddy anointed the Hamptons. He’s the stylin’ lady magnet who catapulted the baseball cap as much as the hip-hop movement. And he’s amazing—world-renowned and still selling out world venues with the Maze sextet right behind him.
An inside glimpse reveals a man whose conversation feels familiar without flirtation, save for an occasional “honey” or “sweetie” to segue thoughts. But Frankie Beverly is California cool, a tempered spirit; just an ordinary guy from Philadelphia who turned a “doo-wop” dream into a mind-blowing career.
Born Howard Beverly, the future Frankie Beverly harbored so much love for heartthrob Frankie Lymon that he jacked his name. “I was Frankie Lymon crazy when he came on the scene,” he admits. “People would call me ‘Little Frankie.’ I used to sing Frankie Lymon songs on street corners and people use to throw me money.”
The labyrinth to stardom is a story told over and over, and shared by many in Beverly’s era. In Frankie’s case, church singing transitioned to a teen group called The Butlers, which musically morphed into Frankie Beverly’s Raw Soul. The big break came when the one and only Marvin Gaye made the band his opening act with a single stipulation: change the name. That nudge originated the moniker that stuck: Maze.
Now Beverly is 67, and the Maze’s “raw soul” identity is more frequently marketed as urban contemporary soul. Their loyal fan base is trained to expect timeless music, as Frankie leads “Joy and Pain” and “The Morning After” jam sessions. Both tunes are legendary for making grown women (and some men) straight scream.
Gratitude, God, but no Grammy
Gratitude and humility seem to precede any and all Frankie Beverly motives, and no one is more surprised by his career than the man who made “Happy Feelings” an anthem long before Bobby McFerrin or Pharrell Williams whistled hits.
“I am most amazed by the success of our longevity,” says Beverly. “I never, ever, ever thought it would be like this. I’m laid back, and I know music is a gift given to me to initiate, and I take that serious. I thank God I have people around me I can trust, they’ve been with me for 30 to 40 years. It’s a real blessing.”
Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, ‘Joy and Pain’
Despite an amassed catalogue of classics, the Maze featuring Frankie Beverly Grammy Award remains elusive, but it’s an industry snub Beverly takes in stride. “The love the people give us is most amazing,” he offers. “I don’t care about no Grammys. It’s about the reward, not the award. I walk around on my knees I’m so thankful.”
Sam Cooke—Still His Main Man
Does Frankie Beverly meditate? Yes. Does he work out to stay in shape? Negative. He claims no special fitness regime and cites the stage as his ultimate workout. Beverly also hasn’t eaten red meat in 35 years—occasionally chicken, and fish “for protein.”
A high-octane schedule defines Beverly’s existence, so what (if anything) does he listen to for slowing down his internal metronome?
“I don’t really play a lot of music, believe it or not. And when I do, I prefer jazz,” said Beverly, who reiterated a preference for the standards. “I like smooth jazz too, but Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, those guys really still do it for me. At this time in my life, jazz does it. I tell you who I really like is Chris Botti. His music is very nice. But I still like listening to Sam Cooke.”
The late Cooke remains Beverly’s lifelong inspiration. “We were at Philly’s Uptown Theatre trying to get his autograph. [I] said, ‘Mr. Cooke, Mr. Cooke, can you sign mine?’ He said, ‘Have you guys ever been backstage? Well, come on!’ ” The story is credited for Beverly’s own generosity. “I don’t turn people down. I always think of Sam Cooke and how kind and patient he was. He didn’t have to do that for us.”
Beverly on Beyoncé
Frankie Beverly has a simple message for today’s musicians: get back to basics.
“You have to still go back. It’s hard for today’s industry. Studios can’t get business; people are using machines. No matter how much money is at stake, people still want the ‘real deal.’ I want today’s music acts to return to the real deal. No mixing, no machines.”
Black women nationwide owe Beverly a bevy of thanks for time-honored respect. But for the music industry’s hardest working and wealthiest woman, he offers a profitable prediction: “I think Beyoncé is ready to take her next step, and I tell you what I mean by that. She can really sing, but I would like to see her show her skills. I mean, she’s a mom and a wife now. So I’d love to hear her record Christmas carols or perform live with an orchestra… just sing.”
New Music from Maze
A wisdom grin and goatee with gray sprouts are a welcome presence for Beverly, who resides in California’s Bay Area and is “grandpa swaggadocious” to three precocious grand fans he insists “use and abuse him.” Mention retirement and he balks.
“I hope not,” he says. “Something would have to be wrong [with me]. I just want to keep on doing this until I can’t do it anymore.” And he doesn’t plan to stop. But will the eternal performer’s career be complemented by new music?
“I’ve been thinking about it, but ya know, we are a working act,” he says. “It’s not like I can tour and come home. I can’t make great music that way. Back when it was the Kool Jazz and Budweiser Festivals, we could work three months and then take time off to go into the studio. But we aren’t going to piecemeal making music.”
Beverly vows the new music will still be love music—life music— and that he and Maze aren’t going to stray from what they’ve been doing.
“I’m tickled about a new piece on the album titled ‘The Jam of My Life’,” Beverly shared with a sinister snicker. “You meet someone, but you’re already with someone. I know about that all too well, and athletes and these young musicians—or the average person who just has a lot to do—they know these situations all well too.”
We Are One
Maze featuring Frankie Beverly has unified the masses with a legion of hits, but the single closest to Beverly’s heart is 1983’s “We Are One.” No explanation is needed. Still, he offers this: “It’s true. If you are lucky enough to travel around the world, you’ll find we’re all the same and want the same thing: love! People for the most part are good. If not, we would have torn the world apart by now. I’ve learned to not be racist in my life. Our White brothers are our brothers too, and I’m not trying to be some kind of love guru or anything. We are the same.”
Penny Dickerson is a Florida-based journalist whose work can be viewed at pennydickersonwrites.com.
Bernard and Shirley Kinsey personify family with a display of passion and humility often unique to African-Americans. Together, they publicly emerged and claimed space as 21st century global icons who have traveled to more than 91 countries following a dual retirement from the Xerox Corporation where theyenjoyed lucrative careers.
They are powerhouse philanthropists boasting contributions to the nation’s HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) that surpass $28 million. Recently, they challenged Florida A&M University (FAMU), to raise $500,000 by matching the Kinsey’s personal $250,000 contribution. Their alma mater rose to the occasion and new uniforms, instruments, and an equipment truck were purchased for the renowned “Marching 100” band. In tribute, Kinsey is monogrammed on the back of uniform sleeves.
They are insatiable art curators who positively changed the trajectory of how America perceives African American history and art by intersecting the two in a ground-breaking exhibit at the American Adventure Pavilion at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center. Distinctly titled “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey,” it is estimated that eight to 10 million tourists viewed the installation during a five-year duration.
They are phenomenal, to say the least. A charming couple whose matrimony celebrated 51-years in February, they are proud parents to son Khalil who serves as CEO and general manager of operations for The Kinsey Collection. It’s a family affair for the Kinseys who currently reside in the patriarch’s hometown of Los Angeles, Calif. Shirley is a St. Augustine, Fla., native, and the enthusing tale of how two people from separate U.S. coasts met is the beginning of Kinsey history as shared with ONYX Magazine.
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BY PENNY DICKERSON
Poverty and homelessness have lathered the Florida landscape with statistics growing at a rate that far surpasses the state’s ability to promote tourism.
According to the 2014 annual homeless assessment report, a staggering 31,000 individuals suffer from homelessness in Florida every day. The disturbing figure represents the third largest in the entire country behind California and New York. Continue Reading »
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Bryanna Anderson is an African-American senior enrolled at Mainland High School in Daytona Beach. Amidst tears and fragile nerves, she shared an emotional story this month that chronicles a life of poverty and homelessness. Continue Reading »
BY PENNY DICKERSON
Father’s Day celebrations are tough for Ron Davis. The June holiday reserved for Hallmark cards and the gifting of new ties has remained solemn since the Nov. 23, 2012 death of his 17-year-old son, Jordan.
Davis said he will spend Father’s Day clutching the final letter Jordan wrote. In it, Jordan declared his dad his “hero.”
The student at Samuel Wolfson High School in Jacksonville was killed when Michael Dunn, a 45-year-old White male, sprayed a round of bullets into the parked SUV at a Jacksonville gas station where Davis and three friends were listening to rap music. Continue Reading »
Andrew Gillum, Patrick Cannon, Ray Nagin, Kwame Kilpatrick, Marion Barry, Richard Thomas and Catherine Pugh all share a common title: Black American mayors. They share a common fate, too. They have either been accused of criminal behavior; been previously or is currently being investigated; or worse, been imprisoned in connection with the job of leading a municipality. At a minimum, when the government comes sniffing, it leaves reputations in tatters.
This is but a shortlist of Black power symbols, either toppled or shaken during their meteoric rise, while they tried to transform underserved communities.
In the book, “African-American Mayors: Race, Politics, and the African-American City,” political historians David R. Colburn and Jeffrey S. Adler aptly illustrate their plight:
“Black mayors assumed office during economic downturns and confronted the intractable problems of decaying inner cities, while flight, a dwindling tax base, violent crime, and diminishing federal support for social programs. Many encountered hostility from their own parties, city councils, and police departments; others worked against long-established power structures dominated by local business owners or politicians. Still others, while trying to respond to multiple demands from a diverse constituency, were viewed as traitors by Blacks expecting special attention from a leader of their own race.”
Black mayors demonstrate how the same circumstances that set the stage for the victories can exaggerate the obstacles and accusations. For Florida, bitter is the memory of not only the defeat of former Tallahassee mayor, Gillum, but also a mounting probe that some say was a direct cause.
In January, Florida Commission on Ethics found probable cause to investigate Gillum, who allegedly received gifts valued over $100 while in office in the form of a stay at a Costa Rica Villa, a Broadway ticket and a boat ride. Ethics commission advocate Elizabeth Miller recently requested that Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early delay a decision in Gillum’s hearing for five months to accommodate the mayor’s former comrade-turned-Judas, lobbyist Adam Corey, who insists his ill attorney’s presence is essential for him to testify.
Two weeks ago, Early received yet one more motion by Miller to hold the record open until August and defer any judgment.
Gillum is represented by Barry Richard, a prominent Tallahassee attorney who once represented George W. Bush in legal battles over the 2000 presidential election.
“Granting the motion to hold the evidence open until August would render the denial of a continuance meaningless, and [Gillum] would still be forced to wait several months with a cloud hanging over his head,” Richard said.
Dark days for Black mayors
That cloud has become a familiar threat following a wave of Black mayors who have positively transformed American municipalities formerly plagued by violent crime, poor education and quality of life. In ground-breaking elections, these audacious leaders defeated incumbents, most have enjoyed a season as media darlings and some are singled-out as futurists by analysts nationwide.
By all accounts, Black mayors are their own new black until the emergence of a crippling shift — allegations of corruption are lobbied. These charges, which have the dubious commonality of emerging following an FBI presence, run the gamut from ethics misconduct to conflict-of-interest and criminality. Too often, they relegate Black mayors from an illuminated status to being blindsided targets who suffer public disdain. The frequency of their fall has created a historical quandary.
Patrick Cannon is 52 years old and made a quantum leap from mayor of Charlotte to ex-convict. In 2014, he was released from a Federal Corrections Institution in Morgantown where he served half of a 44-month sentence on charges of accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents; two years of supervised release followed. Cannon paid a $10,000 fine and $50,000 in restitution, and resides in suburban Charlotte where he hosts a community affairs radio program.
Additionally, he is a corporate and skilled labor executive and a marketing and business development consultant. There is buzz of a political comeback. Cannon may run for one of the four at-large council seats, which many believe is a precursor to a congressional bid in 2020. (Filings are July 5 – 19; election Nov. 5). Cannon first won a council seat in 2011 prior to being elected mayor.
In 2013, Cannon was elected mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina. Five months into his term, he was arrested and charged with accepting more than $48,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as businessmen seeking city contracts. Cannon served half of a 44-month sentence.
Nagin, former New Orleans mayor, was convicted in 2014 on 20 counts of wire fraud, bribery and money laundering related to Hurricane Katrina. He was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Former mayor of Detroit, Kilpatrick is serving 28 years in a federal prison for mail fraud, wire fraud and racketeering.
And the demise of Capital City Mayor Marion Barry arguably reigns as the most prolific example of a Black mayor who both murdered and resuscitated his own career. Barry was an unwitting part of a 1990 FBI sting. He was videotaped in a hotel room smoking crack cocaine, arrested and subsequently sentenced to six months in federal prison. Upon his 1992 release, Barry was elected to the D.C. city council and re-elected mayor in 1995.
Marvin Dunn, a Black historian, and former city of Miami mayoral candidate, acknowledges that Black politicians are more vulnerable.
“Once you become high profile, you’re subject to investigation. You’re over-policed by media and prosecutors looking for dirt,” he said. “There is a certain amount of targeting going on.”
Data and demographics
Suffice to say that life for the Black mayor “ain’t been no crystal stair. It’s had tacks in it, and splinters, and boards torn up.” This excerpt from Langston Hughes’ iconic poem is an unfortunate fit for a political cohort that simultaneously grows and weakens.
“Black mayors in big cities are already surrounded by criminal activity,” said Dunn, retired chairman, of the Department of Psychology, at Florida International University. “There is a higher propensity for bribes, extortion and black mail – significantly more than in suburban areas. There is greater temptation.”
According to governing.com, a digital platform for “States and Localities,” “In 2000, there were 19 Black mayors in the 50 largest American cities. In 2018, there were seven … .”
“Part of the challenge is many African-Americans have left places … where Black politicians once held significant power,” offered Michael Leo Owens, an Emory University political scientist.
On April 2, the people of Chicago proved political power is still theirs.
Lori Lightfoot was elected the first Black woman mayor. A campaign long-shot, Lightfoot swept all of Chicago’s 50 wards. When she’s sworn in on May 20 as the city’s 56th mayor, will she dodge scrutiny or join the statistical ranks of Black mayors whose triumph historically comes under attack?
Relegate the rising stars
Gillum championed America’s political landscape when he was elected Tallahassee mayor in 2014. He inherited Leon County, a mecca for higher education but the state’s leader in crime according to data and a city where murder reached record highs. Among his intrepid moves, in 2015, Gillum petitioned former Gov. Rick Scott to declare a state of emergency that would suspend the “Stand Your Ground” law.
The Miami native lost that battle, but later won a political war: he was elected the 2018 democratic nominee for governor to become Florida’s first Black gubernatorial candidate. Following a dynamic campaign that garnered a razor-thin margin of votes, Gillum conceded to Republican opponent Rick DeSantis. Now, Gillum’s days are shadowed by accusations, juxtaposed against New York Times columnist Frank Bruni’s label as one of his “14 Young Democrats to Watch.”
New mayor, same pattern
On April 5, Douglas J. Martino of the New York firm Martino & Weiss, filed a “Motion to Dismiss” charges that likely shouldn’t exist against their client, Mayor Richard Thomas of Mount Vernon, New York.
An excerpt reads: “The mayor is being selectively charged with campaign violations that at worst should have been processed administratively and two counts of filing allegedly false Financial Forms with the City Ethics Board for crimes that not only do not exist … . Moreover, because the Mount Vernon Board of Ethics is illegally constituted, the charges involving required campaign reporting are non-existent and must be dismissed.”
In 2018, Thomas was arraigned on criminal charges as part of a local government corruption probe by the New York State Attorney General’s Office initiated days after Thomas won his 2015 primary. The state inquiry led to local government matters and campaign finance technicalities. Now, he faces charges of third-degree larceny and filing false information with the city’s Board of Ethics. Thomas pled not guilty and was freed without bail.
Thomas catapulted his way onto the political scene in 2015 when he was elected the city’s youngest mayor in Mount Vernon in a landslide victory. He was 33, married with two young children, educated and with his boyish good looks, any political consultant would dub him a constituent magnet.
Qualified for greatness
The City of Hope’s optimistic leader earned both a bachelor’s degree in economics and an executive MBA in finance and leadership from New York University’s prestigious Leonard N. Stern School of Business; he additionally studied at The London School of Economics & Political Science. A reverent think-tank who excels in due diligence, quantitative analysis, branding and marketing, Thomas previously served as executive director for the New York Affordable Reliable Electricity Alliance and regional director for the New York State governor’s office.
But, despite pristine qualifications that precede political zeal and proven electability, Thomas stands accused of “stealing more than $12,000 from his campaign committee “Friends of Richard Thomas” and then lying about it. He is also accused of failing to report items on his city ethics forms that are not legally required and was indicted for not reporting said items before the deadline to submit the forms. Westchester County Court Judge Barry Warhit will likely set a trial date and hear arguments on the dismissal of counts 7 and 8 on April 19.
A Bevy of bravos
The beauty of the Baltimore Harbor has long remained a backdrop to the city’s poverty, violent crime and burgeoning drug trade. Eliminating the latter three has been an impossibility, but curtailing their dominance is one that Mayor Pugh has tackled both with grace and success.
Pugh has earned a bevy of bravos. She pursued an aggressive agenda to revitalize neighborhoods, create pathways of opportunity for young people and enhance the safety of citizens, while ushering in a new era of community policing and accountability within the Baltimore Police Department.
Circa 2019 — Pugh is on an indefinite leave of absence as mayor of Baltimore due to health. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has asked the state prosecutor to investigate Pugh regarding a conflict of interest stemming from an alleged no-bid book deal with the University of Maryland Medical System valued at $500,000. It is alleged that the university benefited from more than 40 bills sponsored/co-sponsored by Pugh while she served on the board of directors and subsequently purchased copies of Pugh’s self-published “Healthy Holly” books for children, which were then distributed to Baltimore schools and daycare centers. Pugh was paid $500,000 for 100,000 books over the course of five transactions in years 2012 – 2018.
In a statement to the New York Times, state comptroller Peter Franchot stated, “This is a window into the shadowy, seamy side of politics, where powerful insiders self-deal. I haven’t gotten over the shock of it. It’s almost juvenile.” Franchot has called for an independent audit.
Less reported are numerous occasions when Pugh donated free books to neighborhood events. While she has been asked to resign, Pugh does not face charges.
Same treatment for white mayors?
Political corruption is not specific to Blacks. White mayors and politicians have also been subjects of investigations, convicted and jailed. However, disparity reigns, as recent history reveals that the treatment of Black and white mayors is not the same.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, back in the spring of 2017, narrowly escaped federal indictment on corruption charges of pay-to-play. He allegedly used city money to successfully defend himself from various election and government corruption allegations. One of de Blasio’s top campaign donors was convicted, yet the mayor stated the case, “didn’t involve him.” De Blasio has moved forward without recompense of lingering clouds and is courting a 2020 presidential bid.
Thomas of Mount Vernon identifies a disturbing pattern: “The history of attacks on Black mayors is troubling. If you are bold and buck the system to benefit the people, the system strikes back by any means necessary. The pattern and practice suggest that there is a double standard. This is why the next generation of leaders must level up to survive the suppression and seize every incremental opportunity to protect the people.”