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JEWEL Awards suited for ‘Mahalia’ star

  • Written by Terry Schlichenmeyer
  • Published in News
A coat once owned by Gospel Queen Mahalia Jackson would be of value to be many, and the one now possessed by Deborah Manning Thomas is a jewel. JACKSON, Tenn. – A coat once owned by Gospel Queen Mahalia Jackson would be of value to be many, and the one now possessed by Deborah Manning Thomas is a jewel.

 Norma Bundy (right) surprised Deborah Manning Thomas with a coat once-owned by Gospel music icon Mahalia Jackson. (Photo by Ester Patrick)

From “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” to “Yes, God Is Real” in the first set, Thomas delivered the songs of Mahalia Jackson in terrific form at the 10th Annual JEWEL Awards Banquet this past weekend in Jackson, Tenn.

Billed as the titled star from Hattiloo Theatre’s production of “Mahalia,” Thomas herself was wowed during the intermission when audience member Norma Bundy, a Jackson resident, brought her a black, custom-made coat once owned by the Gospel Queen. Jackson’s initials were monogrammed on the coat lining.

Thomas wore the coat back to the stage.

“It was Persian wool, a heavy coat… a real nice coat and it once had white fur trim around the collar,” said Thomas, who is a member of Christ Missionary Baptist Church. “It felt so good to have on an article of clothing that she once wore.”

An acronym, J.E.W.E.L stands for “Joining Entrepreneurs with Enterprising Leadership.” The Jackson Madison County African American Chamber of Commerce hosts the annual event the last Friday in February to honor outstanding black business owners, past and present, and to raise funds for its Follow Me Into Business youth development program. Nearly 300 people attended the event (Feb. 25) in the Activity Center at New St. Luke Baptist Church.

In his official welcome, President Clarence D. Boone said the Chamber embarked on the event 10 years ago because it realized that there were many African-American entrepreneurs who had not and were not being recognized. Recognition of historical entrepreneurs was added to the program in 2007.

“Since that time, we have honored more than 50 business men and women that many people in the community knew little or nothing about their contributions and support for their families,” said Boone, owner of D&L Grocery and Catering.   

“While we laud and hold these individuals in high esteem, there is still much needed growth in this arena because history reveals that blacks owned and operated more businesses in the forties than we do at present.”

The Historical Entrepreneur awards recognized historian Dr. Anna L. Cooke, former grocers Tommy and Harriett Marshall, late civil rights activists and property owners the Rev. William Monroe and Myrtle Monroe, and beauty school founder Lucille Eddings and her late husband J.L. Eddings, owner of Eddings Barber Shop.  

Four contemporary business award winners were announced: Ruby Award (1-5 years) – Pierre DuVentre, DTOP Roofing Company, Jackson; Diamond Award (6-10 years) – Bruce Joy, A-Best Construction Inc., Jackson; Emerald Award (11-20 years) – Cynthia Pearson, Covered N’ Blessings, Trenton; and the Jewel Award (20-plus years) – Michelle Griffin Bolden, Michelle’s Magical Treasure Daycare, Bolivar.

(For more information about the Jackson Madison County African American Chamber of Commerce, call 731-424-2030 or visit www.jmcaac.org.)

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