Florida A&M Gospel Choir Lifts Bethel AME for Black History Month


The Florida A&M (FAMU) Gospel Choir performed at a such a high level at the Bethel AME Church at 511 Woodland Drive on last Friday evening, that there were rumors that God sent down some of his angels to bless the entire event.  Zion Hope Primitive Baptist Church was the original site for the concert however the rehabilitation of the church’s sanctuary caused the event to be relocated to Bethel AME.

Rev. Willie Farrow of Fort Walton Beach, with the McGriff Community Development Corporation (CDC). organized the event in collaboration with the university to assist the educational institution in broadening its footprint in the African-American community.  Rev. Farrow is focused on the Black Church becoming the vehicle for the enhancement of the strategic relationship.  The McGriff CDC is spearheading the relationship development through the churches and the grass-roots community.

The CDC is working to regain the historical collaboration between the Black Colleges and churches reminiscent from the days of segregation. Rev. Farrow stated, “We’ve worked with the schools encouraging them to bring their students out and talk to recruiters and learn what it means and what it takes to be a college student”!  Robert Eason, the gospel choir’s organist, is a first year FAMU student matriculating through the Music Industry Program.  Originally from Quincy, Eason told the Gulf Coast Voice that, “The reason I am in the Music Industry Program is because music is my passion. I plan to perform with various acts and to write and develop other new talent”.

This young man is just one example of the energy, passion, and talent depicted by the entire choir that evening at Bethel.  The gestures of their hands, the movement of their heads and their bodies made for an intriguing presentation to a packed church sanctuary.  Some of the songs presented were: I Want to Be Ready, All My Help by Hezekiah Walker, Hallelujah by Tiff Joy, and More Like Him by Bishop Eric McDaniel.  The presentation reminded many in the audience of the legacy of music in the survival of an enslaved people. One thing for sure is that the Florida A&M Gospel Choir will have many in the audience searching for the names of the writers of the gospel songs performed.

However, Rev. Willie Farrow is a man on a strategic mission. With the State of Florida negotiating with BP Oil for a $2 Billion economic settlement and $300,000,000 expected to be made available for projects by the end of 2017, Farrow believes that FAMU is a key instrument of the Lord in bringing the African-American communities of the Northwest Florida Gulf Coast together. It was just like the Christian faithful were brought together in an upper room “creating a Pentecostal moment”. Farrow stated, “I believe that Northwest Florida can create a Pentecostal Movement that can transform our communities, businesses, and our workforce”!     

The formal name of the 501©3 non-profit organization is McGriff Community Development and Service’s Corporation. The mission of the CDC is to revitalize the community through innovative ideas by providing new construction and renovation of existing structures; provide social services that will include workshops on employment, soft skills, job training, economic development and counseling.

The specific purposes for which the corporation was formed are:

      To Provide housing for low-moderate income families

        To Enhance educational opportunities for teens and adults

        To Provide employment counseling and training

        To Provide job services

        To Provide social services (counseling to trouble youth, unwed mothers; drug prevention education; assistance with filing applications and interpreting documents/paperwork)

        To Develop economic development initiatives ( family financial planning, financial services and training for minority owned businesses).

No wonder Farrow is utilizing the McGriff CDC works within the community to spearhead this collaboration between the church the university, and the community.

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