Photos by Jeylin White
Comedian Cedric the Entertainer (from right) Lisa Price, AJ Calloway, and VaShawn Mitchell shared their stories of success at the American Family Insurance Dream Out Loud tour, at the Fox Theater in Atlanta.
McDonough gospel recording artist VaShawn Mitchell’s voice resonated throughout the Fox Theater in Atlanta, as he performed his hit songs “Nobody Greater,” and “Turning Around For Me.”
The audience waved their hands in the air, clapped, some were moved to yell out “Hallelujah” and “Thank you, Jesus!” while tears streamed down the faces of others.
However, it was not Sunday worship service at the Fox that day, nor was Mitchell there for a concert. Rather, it was to inspire people to live out their dreams.
“I want to be known for my music and legacy more than my name,” Mitchell told the packed house. Mitchell leads praise and worship service at Higher Living Christian Church, in McDonough, where Pastor Andre Landers is the overseer.
A six-time Stellar Award Winner, Mitchell was part of the American Family Insurance “Dream Out Loud” tour. Francissca Brown, the director of multicultural marketing, said the tour derived from the Dreams Campaign, which started a year ago.
“We wanted to take it a step further and use people who are well known to really inspire people to follow their dreams,” said Brown.
Comedian Cedric the Entertainer, AJ Calloway, host of Extra TV, and Lisa Price, founder of Carol’s Daughter, were there to give attendees an interactive experience, sharing their stories of success, offering advice about resources and opportunities of ways to fulfill one’s dreams.
Elizabeth Morris, of McDonough, toted her three children — Jeremiah, 10, Tatiana, 9, and Miciah, 6 — to the event on Sunday.
“I really wanted my children to see people who are successful and living out their dreams,” said Morris, who found out about the event through social media.
“I have a few friends who were at the event that I follow on Twitter and I thought this would be a great opportunity for my children to experience. I’m all about celebrating my kids,” said the proud mother.
After the event, Calloway, host of Extra took some time out to get acquainted with her son, who wants to be an actor.
“[Calloway] was a really nice guy. I was very pleased with how things turned out and I felt truly inspired,” said Morris.
Mitchell, whose humble beginnings began in the rough parts of the south side of Chicago, was also an inspiration to a few youngsters and inspiring singers among the attendees. During a Q&A session one singer asked Mitchell, “When did you know that your songs or words would impact the nation?” His response was, “I have been writing since I was 16.” He then recalled a situation where he had to take a test he did not study for and from that came the hit song “It’s Only A Test,” performed by several church choirs and well-known gospel artist. “I taught my song to a choir and recorded it. When I started seeing other choirs and gospel artist performing the song I had written on TV I knew then I had something,” said Mitchell.
Another youngster who was celebrating his 11th birthday that day asked him, “I really want to be a singer. What can I do to make my dreams come true and live happily ever after?”
Mitchell and the crowd erupted in laughter, before he responded. “Sing every chance you get,” he told the 11-year-old. “Work on maturing your voice.”
There were a lot of candid moments and laughter that Sunday afternoon. One was Cedric the Entertainer who gave his rendition of the ABC’s while imitating the late singer Luther Vandross. He told the crowd before he became a mega star he would do stand-up comedy for some chicken wings and drinks.
“Sometimes when you’re on your journey, the money is not always going to be there. That’s why you got to love what you do. The dream exists inside,” he told the crowd. “It’s the audience [fans] who will dictate how good you are — not you.”
He also shared with the crowd that he didn’t quit his job as an insurance agent until he started booking enough shows to make a living.
Overall, the central theme of advice from all the presenters that day was to stay away from dream killers. In other words, stay away from those in your life who are negative and not supportive of what you are trying to do in life.
“I’m not MC Hammer, so I can’t take everybody with me,” said the Entertainer.
Brown said they will tour four cities this fall and the next stop will be Chicago. She said the tour will feature other nationally recognized professionals in business, entertainment, and philanthropy “who personify and have achieved the American dream.” She said attendees will also have a chance to enter into the American Family Insurance $10,000 Sweepstakes, where they can transform their idea into a dream.
“It’s important that we encourage people, even in this distressed economy,” said Mitchell. He added his favorite scripture is Phillipians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ which streghthens me.”