by Sheilah Belle
From (l to r) Keesha Brickhouse, Louise Buie, Kim Walker, Anthony Buie, The Belle, Phil Thornton, V. Michael McKay, Mark Taylor and Cedric Ballard
When most people think of Gospel music, names like Albertina Walker, Evg. Shirley Caesar and Dr. Bobby Jones come to mind. Contemporary singers like Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Kim Burrell, The Clark Sisters, J Moss and Earl Bynum are also near the top of the list.
When it comes to where to go to hear great Gospel music, events like the Stellar Awards in Nashville, TN, COGIC Annual Convention in St. Louis and Gospel Music Fest with “The Belle” in Richmond, VA also now becoming house hold names and “THEE” must attend events of the year.
However who would have thought that Fairbanks, Alaska, more than three and a half hours away by plane, from Seattle, Washington, would become a destination for consideration when it comes to Gospel music? Well it has, thanks to the vision of Mr. Anthony Buie and his Gospel platform “Together We Stand.”
A lover of Christ and God’s people, Buie has had a heart for people for some time. Born and raised in Durham, North Carolina, he never thought in a million years he would end up in Alaska, but years later, that’s where God has placed him for the last twenty-seven years, touching and changing the lives of many.
Along his journey, God dropped in his life, the vision of “Together We Stand.” Buie says, “The vision behind “Together We Stand” is to build a more united American society.” Ask anyone else what “Together We Stand” stands for and they will tell you, “It is a cohesive melting pot of God’s love that crosses all races, nationalities and strives to make a difference in all walks of life.”
While “Together We Stand” is currently a yearly event, it has become a lifestyle for Buie and his wife Louise who are constantly sowing seeds into the lives of many in the Fairbanks, Alaskan community.
Most recently the Buie’s invited nineteen special guests from the lower 48 (states), to their annual weekly workshop for “Together We Stand.” The goal for the week, which began on Monday, November 7th and wouldn’t end until Sunday, November 13th, was to conduct an intense Gospel Music Workshop, with V. Michael McKay at the helm, put on a concert with special guests, Jessica Reedy, Mali Music and The Belle, showcase the Together We Stand Workshop Choir and give local Alaskan Gospel singers a chance to shine in their own element during the first ever Alaska Got Talent Showcase with the winner taking home $25,000 in industry prizes.
By the end of the week, all of their goals had been reached including a fabulous turn out for the workshop that included V. Michael McKay and his full band.
During rehearsal, McKay would often tell the singers, “Sing with your whole body. Sing with your hands. Let God minister through you!”
Gradually, one by one for many of these singers, you could see them take on McKay’s instructions with a gradual metamorphic like disposition with their outlook at singing along with their body language. The passion grew throughout each night with many rehearsals ending in a praise session.
McKay said, “When you can teach a choir to sing with so much authority that the deaf do not need an interpreter, it is then, when you have done your job as a singer and a teacher.”
During the day, the Buie’s also brought their other campaign to life for their special guests.
While “Together We Stand” is also a humanitarian campaign and is used to raise funds for two Beneficiary organizations, including Joel’s Place and Rescue Missions, each of their guests were taken to the two locations so they could see for themselves just how great the need is for some families and how their presence in Fairbanks would make a difference.
McKay said, “I don’t remember which artist talked about being homeless and how living in their car was difficult…I get it, but what I saw today touched my soul. Can you imagine, a family of five living in one room and the father trying to be the head of his family, while trying to get a job, but unsuccessful…that really touched my heart and made the vision for “Together We Stand” clear for me.”
His sentiments were shared by everyone who had also visit the various locations of Joel’s Place and more so during their time at the Rescue Mission.
*Joel’s Place is a faith based youth center whose mission is to provide a creative, fun filled positive atmosphere for youth and the Rescue Mission has become the place many have turned to for spiritual, physical, mental, emotional help during challenging times and many of the Buie’s guests could clearly see some of their challenging times.
By the end of the week and with the visions clear, the stage was set as bonding over the week had taken place and everyone was ready to deliver their best.
The kick off event was “Alaska Got Talent” held at the Hering Auditorium. This was a first for the cold country of Fairbanks that was now bringing attention to their growing Gospel Community which was also well attended and with much anticipation.
With twelve groups making the final cut to perform, they showcased their talent of singing, dancing, rapping while standing in front of six judges including, Jessica Reedy, Mali Music, Mark Taylor, Phil Thornton, Larry Walker and V, Michael McKay, along with The Belle serving as the emcee for the evening.
In the end, Katie Baum was named the grand prize winner of more than $25,000 in industry prizes including opening up for the Mali Music and Jessica Reedy concert slated to take place later that night, Artist Development for 12 months under Sound Walk Music Group, Produced track from National Recording Artist and BET Music Matters Showcase Artist “Mali Music”, National Exposure in The Belle Report, a recording package with RedDott Studios (including 4 hours of studio time with engineer recording mixing, mastering one single, photo shoot, graphic design, 100 copies of a single with a two page full color insert and 1 jewel case) and a $500 Gift Certificate at Music Mart.
Needless to say but Baum was extremely blown away when her name was called as the Grand Prize winner.
Later that evening, the community was treated by Jessica Reedy and Mali Music with an intimate concert of Praise and Worship, along with Baum opening up the concert with her winning song performed only hours before.
For many this would mark their first time seeing Reedy in concert and she did not disappoint. Her love for God was apparent as she performed with an angel like voice with an incredible range from soprano to tenor to a bass voice.
In between verses, Reedy said, “God loves us so much. He wants our problems to be His problems, but we insist on handling our own problems. But it’s ageing us, making us sick. Just give it to Him.”
Mali Music performed last with such creativity and edge, it was almost like a priceless moment in time, as we watched this ordained minister of music freely and publicly praise God’s name and share his love for his heavenly Father. It was truly a worship experience.
The closing night offered a free concert with V. Michael McKay, the Together We Stand Mass Choir, Cedric Ballard and The Belle.
McKay said, “If people could understand where this choir started on Monday and where they are now, it is simply amazing. They have grown in so many ways, from their over all sound to their spiritual understanding of how to minister music to the saints.”
Also helping to bring some of these songs to life was Cedric Ballard, truly a rare gem, when it comes to talent and singing Gospel music.
However a lot of this credit goes back to McKay who is truly gifted and extremely talented in his own right when it comes to simply “creating” and “teaching” music. It’s a joy to watch and even more of a joy to participate when he is at the helm.
Needless to say, but the week long effort, far exceeded its goal as it touched the lives of everyone involved as well as the “Together We Stand” team including, Anthony Buie, Louise Buie, Elder White, Linda White, Kim Walker, Larry Walker, Jr., Keesha Brickhouse, Winifred Robinson and Sheilah Belle aka The Belle.
This was a blessed trip, however Buie said, “For us, Fairbanks is merely the beginning. What God has in store for “Together We Stand’ is for the Nations, so with God guiding this vehicle, there is no telling, where you will find us next year or the year after that.”