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Event Mon Apr 08 2013

Legends and Luminaries Celebrate WVON's 50th Anniversary

A golden anniversary is a milestone--a reason to celebrate in grand fashion--and for WVON, Chicago's only black owned and operated radio station, the milestone was marked in a major way.

WVON1.jpg

Held Saturday night at the Chicago Theatre and hosted by WVON personality Matt McGill ("The Matt McGill Morning Show") and actress Tracee Ellis Ross ("Girlfriends"), the event, dubbed "Impact 50," was feted by politicians, performers, and personalities from Chicago and beyond, all who came to pay tribute to the iconic radio station: Comedian and activist Dick Gregory, Rev. Al Sharpton, director George Lucas, Radio Hall of Fame inductee Herb Kent, filmmaker and Chicago native Robert Townsend, Chicago White Sox's Kenny Williams, TV and radio executive Cathy Hughes, and Governor Pat Quinn, were among them. For Quinn, the commemoration brought back childhood memories. "I can still remember the disc jockeys and Wesley South with his talk show, talking about the important issues in the 60s--civil rights," he said.

The King College Prep High School Marching Band kicked off the festivities, followed by a dance performance by the Andrea Kelly Dance Theater. Other performances included comedic tributes by Gregory and Townsend, spoken word by Chicago artist Malik Yusef and an "in memoriam" tribute to WVON DJs and staff (Don Cornelius, Lu Palmer, et al.), sung by Terisa Griffin. The event was also marked by a special declaration by longtime Chicago radio executive Marv Dyson, who announced that WVON trailblazer Pervis "The Blues Man" Spann, would be awarded the Illinois Broadcast Association's 2013 "Broadcast Pioneer Award" later this year.

The evening's highlight came via a concert with six-time Grammy Award-winning R&B singer, Toni Braxton, who thrilled the crowd with a string of her chart toppers including "He Wasn't Man Enough," "Seven Whole Days," and "I Don't Want To," a track written and produced by R. Kelly.

WVON3.jpg

Singer Toni Braxton; WVON Impact 50.

For station president and general manager Melody Spann-Cooper, the support from station sponsors and listeners was recognized. "We are so touched by you being here," she said. "Two years ago, I didn't know if we'd make it; it was just that tough."

And despite the tough road, WVON's status as a Chicago institution was acknowledged all the way from the White House. "The President called the radio station and he was a little excited about the 50th," Spann-Cooper said. "That was awfully special for him to do that; it speaks to just how special the station is."

Photos courtesy of Darryl Hammond.

 
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Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
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Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

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