It took 53 years for Smithville, Mississippi native Stephen B. Steward to know when he hit “the right time.” While many men his age are looking forward to retirement, this California law enforcer of 28 years is ready to release an album. And no, Steward isn’t trying to rock out, but praise in.
Growing up in a musical family of 11 siblings, Steward missed out on being a part of his family’s gospel troupe. “I was too young to join,” the 9th born of a large Pentecostal family told me during an interview. “By the time I was mature and ready, most of my siblings were married and had children of their own.”
Many years passed before he considered pursuing music. He would go on to complete college and begin an interest in the California Department of Corrections. It would not be until the late 80s where he would have three major life changes. He would marry his wife of 28 years, Onesha, begin a career in law enforcement where he now serves as a parole agent, and develop a serious passion for songwriting.
"At the time, I was still not ready to release music of my own because I wanted to be the best father I could be for my children… I wanted them to never have an excuse to not succeed," the father of two mentioned. So for several years, he would be their sports team coach, music mentor, and proudly highlight his perfect Parent/Teacher Conference attendance. As a result, his daughter and son are now pursuing college and professional music endeavors.
But throughout the years, raising children was not just the only thing Steward did. His wife, Onesha, a senior management analyst for the City of Los Angeles’ Department of Building & Safety, helped support her husband through various business and philanthropic work.
They were the first black franchise owners of Subway restaurants in South Central, LA. They marriage counseled many diverse and interracial couples for two years. And they would help spearhead the Youth Music Program of LOV Olive Branches; a faith based non-profit organization that was started by Onesha’s family in ministry.
It was in this moment that Stephen got a chance to work with at risk youth and help them to tap into their musical talents. Music practice has been reported in recent years to help improve test scores and employment opportunities for youth and this further encouraged the couple to expand their scope. This year, the program launched their inaugural Youth Music Festival in Pasadena, California this past weekend. The event spotlighted many of the youth they have mentored and opened it up to many others as well.
It would also be the place where Stephan would go public about his lifelong dream. He was finally ready to perform and prove to the world that it was his time.
"The festival was a great opportunity for me to promote my music to everyone…I’ve been working on this album for 2 years and have written 300 songs, I’ve longed for this."
Stephen’s debut album, Enter Your Gates, scheduled for release on May 20, is his way of “drawing people to the heart of God.” A man of strong faith and religious principle, he considers this an album of “praise and worship.”
"This album touches themes of forgiveness, restoration, healing and declaration… I want people to feel God’s grace."
The 13-track record features numerous production collaborations, but audiences should expect to hear Steward’s voice lead this album. His unconventional, faith-driven tenacity can be felt throughout the entire album. But one song in particular carries a depth that brought the artist to tears before he performed it in front of a packed arena in Pasadena.
"With My Whole Heart," his lead single off the new album, has already begun to spur positive buzz amongst gospel fans in the industry. "My mother always told me that whatever you do, do it with your whole heart," he said when discussing the inspiration behind the song. The track has already been nominated for Song of the Year and Songwriter of the Year for Stephen at the upcoming Rhythm of Gospel Awards. He is also nominated for Traditional Male Gospel Artist for his performance on the album as well.
With an upcoming TBN Television performance, the upcoming Rhythm of Gospel Awards, and his highly anticipated promotional tour, Steward feels more ready and confident than ever. “The album is universal and I haven’t been more ready to let many feel the spiritual power of God through my many influences of gospel, acoustic, Latin, Jazz and African rhythms on this record.”
But one influence that Steward will forever be grateful for was that of his longtime mentor, multi-Grammy winner, Andre Crouch. Crouch, who also performed during Steward’s showcase in Pasadena this weekend, built a relationship with Stephan that has lasted for over 20 years.
"God told me to just be his friend," Steward said when first meeting him in 1992 at a songwriter’s event in Colorado. "To now be blessed to grace the same stage with him was an honor."
Moments like this could never have been envisioned for Stephen B. Steward when he wrote hundreds of songs while overlooking valleys atop the patio of his home in Altadena, California. For many years he lived a life longing for this moment. Decades parenting, serving, praying, and working.
But if his debut album, Enter Your Gates, is a testament of his past 53 years, the world should be ready for an artist that is willing to devout his “whole heart” to the craft.
(Source: The Huffington Post)
A young woman was sexually assaulted at my school and came forward in the most visible and public way possible. She revealed her full name and face to my campus newspaper.
I know far too many women of color who have gone through the struggle.
But after several days of speculation and talk among my community, the various cultural resource centers and organizations that support them have not yet released a statement or have taken a very visible proactive step in addressing the matter at all.
One woman sexually assaulted is one woman too many. When I look back at my four years at the University of Pennsylvania, I have come to realize that much has not been done to enforce and inform students on my campus visiting such cultural centers what consensual sex truly is.
For all the condoms and lubricant that grace the bowls of these facilitates, there are no booklets about consent or rape prevention. And for all of our programming done on campus about dating and college romance, to expect a section on sexual assault prevention is shooting for the stars.
But I am no longer looking to the sky for answers. I am now demanding them.
Given the lack of involvement my black cultural resource center and student-driven campus groups within it has on advocating against rape culture, I took the initiative.
I created a rape culture awareness week on campus. I collaborated with outside student groups to promote a film screening. I talked to critically acclaimed filmmakers such as Cecilia Peck Voll (daughter of legendary actor Gregory Peck and director and producer of the new documentary Brave Miss World), who helped me with a social media campaign to raise awareness. I also had a public demonstration within a highly popular walkway on my campus as well.
But despite my attempts at mobilizing students within my community to get involved, I did not receive the support of the black cultural resource center I desperately was trying to reach out to. For example, I was denied permission and authorization to have it sent out along with other groups through their daily newsletter of events. The rationale: I was not an “official” student organization and they wanted to reduce the ton of information that they had already sent out.
Even though I had become the first student in recent years in our community to publicly put on a campus wide event pertaining to sexual assault awareness, the black community at Penn seemed reluctant to acknowledge my efforts.
I lost friends and received passive-aggressive insults. No organizations within their umbrella groups even wanted to respond to my emails offering to develop think tanks on spreading public awareness.
And while I must admit that my passion for this cause may have intimidated or turned off a few, I just could not bear knowing that students of color were going through the agony of sexual assault and did not have a campus community within their diaspora that visibly protected them.
So I am no longer asking, but demanding. Because for far too long I have asked and been rejected for speaking my mind and trying to follow the failed politics of respectability.
I have made a petition, and I am standing behind it. I am demanding that my university enforce higher expectations and opportunities for cultural resource centers on my campus to prevent rape and sexual assault.
Because the cycle is as follows:
1) Increases in reported and unreported rape and sexual assault cases keep occurring.
2) Many of the aggressors argue that they are unaware of the protocol pertaining to consensual sex.
3) Cultural campus resources centers are currently lacking in their ability to provide their own programming and advocacy within their communities in providing this information.
4) And as a result, #1 happens and the cycle repeats.
My petition is one step closer to creating a more proactive community across the board on my campus. As a man, I recognize my male privilege and I want more to be aware of it as well.
Numerous women on my campus do not have the luxury to feel safe and secure at campus parties as much as I do. The patriarch that has been created to allow men to throw campus parties in their living rooms while women are discouraged to further sets up a social dichotomy within our community. Automatically, women are placed in unfair power dynamics where they are spectacles. And with alcohol, misguided ideals about masculinity, and ignorance about true consent, rape is often the aftermath.
I am tired of shaking my head when I see headlines about this across my laptop screen. Tired of crying when I hear the numbers of campus rape cases read back to me. Tired of hearing men say that rape is only happening in far off places where poverty and high crime exists and not here. And I am tired of being one of the only few men of color in my community taking a very bold stance against this issue.
Too often I have been chastised for my directness, teased for my sensitivity, and mocked for my compassion. Since I am among a flock of Ivy Leaguers, many have jumped to assume that this is only to boost my own personal ego rather than increase my drive to help members of the community. Many have tried to preach to me the politics of respectability. I have been told that to be a black man at this school I should not yell for victims and bystanders of sexual assault and rape but instead I “should just tone it down.”
And while that may have been the more popular approach among a sea of passive folk who rather belittle my actions, I cannot take any of them seriously given the fact that none of them are making any swift moves to combat this problem.
To be more frank, less talk and more walk.
Campuses across the nation, let us demand a change. Let us stop waiting, asking, persuading, scheming and let’s instead just demand it. Because previous advocacy has proven to us before that those who don’t demand what they want, won’t get what they want.
Dr. King, Mandela, Gandhi, Thatcher, Steinem, and many others demanded their existence and respect.
That is what we should all be doing when it comes to protecting our peers against sexual assault and rape.
Demand a change, forget asking.
(Source: The Huffington Post)