Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame celebrates inductees at inaugural ceremony

Gospel great Shirley Caesar checks out her plaque on the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in downtown Atlanta.
Caption
Gospel great Shirley Caesar checks out her plaque on the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in downtown Atlanta.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Missy Elliott, Shirley Caesar among the honorees in attendance.

“This is the only event like this in the world in Black music,” Jermaine Dupri said, standing behind a Lucite podium in the VIP lounge of Mercedes-Benz Stadium. “I feel this will be the most important award ceremony in our business.”

Dupri was preparing to induct Otis Redding into the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame, a ceremony that began late Thursday morning on the blistering sidewalk near the stadium — close to the intersection of Northside and Martin Luther King Jr. drives — and continued inside the venue with a formal presentation.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (fifth from left) poses with the founders of the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame.
Caption
Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (fifth from left) poses with the founders of the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The walk of fame is a collaboration between the Georgia Entertainment Caucus and the Black American Music Association. Plans call for at least an annual – if not twice-yearly – ceremony to honor Black entertainment greatness with plaques installed along the sidewalk.

The inaugural class also included James Brown, Quincy Jones, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Shirley Caesar, Missy Elliott, OutKast, Beyonce, Sean Combs, Kirk Franklin and Usher.

ExploreAtlanta-based Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame will celebrate Black artists, culture

Some artists, including Elliott, Caesar, Franklin and OutKast’s Big Boi, participated in the event, while others, such as Jones, sent thanks via video and some posthumous honorees were represented by family.

Sitting at a table with her sisters, Brown’s daughter, Deanna Brown Thomas, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that she hopes younger generations will be inspired by seeing her father’s plaque and the crown emblem emblazoning it and salute the trailblazers of his generation.

“I love being James Brown’s daughter on days like this,” she said. “It’s important for people to remember that in his day, he had to do the work. There was no Auto-Tune to make you sound better, no social media. You had to come in with raw talent. AND he was doing it in the days of segregation…He left this world better than the world he was born into. He left us all messaging that will be here ‘til the end of time.”

Christian Combs, son of Sean Combs, poses with his father's plaque on the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in downtown Atlanta.
Caption
Christian Combs, son of Sean Combs, poses with his father's plaque on the Black Music and Entertainment Walk of Fame in downtown Atlanta.

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Another honoree, Sean Combs, wasn’t able to attend because of work commitments in Los Angeles (he’s recording a new album). But his lookalike son, Christian, told the AJC about how his father’s legendary work ethic has affected him.

“I know it sounds clichéd, but to never stop, can’t stop, won’t stop and go harder than anyone else, that’s what he’s taught me,” the 23-year-old Combs said.

He added that the walk of fame honor is one of his father’s “biggest accomplishments” because, “his main goal is to shed light on Black excellence.”

06/17/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Dr. Yamma Brown, from left, Deanna Brown Thomas, center, and Jeanette Bellinger, right, accept the Black Music and Entertainment Hall of Hame award on behalf of their father, James Brown, during the inaugural induction ceremony at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Thursday, June 17, 2021.  (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)
Caption
06/17/2021 — Atlanta, Georgia — Dr. Yamma Brown, from left, Deanna Brown Thomas, center, and Jeanette Bellinger, right, accept the Black Music and Entertainment Hall of Hame award on behalf of their father, James Brown, during the inaugural induction ceremony at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Thursday, June 17, 2021. (Alyssa Pointer / Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com)

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Credit: Alyssa Pointer/Alyssa.Pointer@ajc.com

Prior to the outdoor ceremony kicking off, the Pebblebrook High School marching band paraded down Martin Luther King Jr. Drive with a performance that introduced comments from state Rep. Erica Thomas (“We are going to see in the news that we are celebrating our Black history!”); Michael Mauldin, chairman of the Black American Music Association (“This whole block and beyond will be lined for years to come.”); and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance-Bottoms, herself related to music royalty as the daughter of ’60s R&B singer Major Lance (“Big Boi is here — my kids are going to be so excited about that,” she joked).

As Atlanta-based producer Dallas Austin mingled with the Brown family, taking photos of his plaque, and Caesar and her family posed for photos with well-wishers, the scene symbolized celebration and respect — both of which will live on in those Atlanta sidewalks.

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