By Patsy Isenberg
Last Friday, April 13, Grammy-award winning singer, songwriter and pastor John P. Kee and his New Life Community Choir paid a visit to a packed Burton church to perform for the congregation and many visitors. Adding to the lively music, the event also brought in donations for a new boiler for Doyle Ryder Elementary School and a truckload of water for the city.
Key, 56, a Durham, N.C. native, sang lots of gospel and many of his contemporary songs while playing keyboards. The audience at Harris Memorial Church of God in Christ clearly enjoyed his music and his ministry. The Harris church choir was also in house, singing and wearing “Flint Lives Matter” teeshirts.
The church, at 4317 Lippincott Blvd., was founded by Supt. Theodore Harris and Bishop Walter Bogan was the church’s former pastor. The current minister is Pastor Eric Bogan.
Kee is not what you would expect. He’s funny and very generous. He brought Flint a truckload of water for one thing, and noted another truckload is on its way. He also didn’t charge anything for the performance. Not only that but he called out the names of several people he knew about who were there and donated money for various local causes.
Kee is pretty laid back too. No robes for him or his choir. They wore “Change the World Tour” teeshirts and cases of water were stacked up at the edge of the stage.
It turns out Kee had a local connection, an old acquaintanceship with Doyle Ryder Elementary School Principal Kevelin Jones. Kee said he knew Jones from their early days when they were both trying to make it in the music business. He noted Jones still enjoys singing and has at least one CD of his music available. Kee expressed surprise that Jones ended up an educator and laughed about that.
Before Kee came out to perform, Principal Jones asked his staff and all the students there to stand up and be recognized. He passed out awards to several and pointed out other Flint notables in attendance. Then he collected donations for a new boiler for Doyle Ryder. Getting a little emotional on behalf of his students, Jones said the schoolrooms get up to 89-93 degrees on some days and a new boiler should alleviate some of that discomfort.
Kee asks, “What about Flint?”
Several months ago, Kee said, he started posting on social media the question, “What About Flint?” He explained he organized the tour and made sure to stop in Flint to try to lift everybody up. Kee said the acoustics in Harris Memorial Church are pretty good too. He sang some familiar favorites such as “Show Me the Way” and “Nothing but the Holy Ghost” as well as upbeat gospel pieces that really got the crowd going. He also brought up some talented local female vocalists to sing solos alongside him
According to Wikipedia, it “was during a trip to Michigan with his choir that he [Kee] received a calling from God to be a preacher.” He did become an ordained minister and founded the New Life Fellowship Center near Charlotte, N.C. where he said he once ran against the law. He joked about that now actually; he’s moved beyond that life to win numerous music awards including Grammys for his singing and songwriting.
Kee gave Flint a great time and was in no rush to get off the stage, performing for an hour and a half.. It seems his “What About Flint” campaign made a difference, at least for one musically exuberant night.
EVM Staff Writer Patsy Isenberg can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.