Richard Smallwood
Richard Smallwood is a composer, music director, pianist and arranger. (Courtesy of

In recognition and salute to dynamic individuals who have made great strides in his or her respective careers, Emmanuel Seventh-day Adventist Church will honor gospel legend Richard Smallwood with its 17th annual Living Legend Award.

Set to take place Saturday, Feb. 25, at 18800 New Hampshire Avenue in Ashton, Maryland, at 6 p.m., the event will pay homage to the eight-time Grammy-nominated singer, who not too long ago battled a deep depression.

Born the only child of a single mother whose stepfather he described as “physically abusive,” the longtime gospel singer  recounted his experience with depression and how his faith and resolve in God helped to bring him into a positive place.

“Sometimes, depression is anger turned inward,” Smallwood told an audience during a November church conference in Charlotte, North Carolina, QCityMetro reported. “When you’re a kid, you don’t have anything you can say. You can’t retaliate. You certainly can’t talk back if you live in a black household. … Way back then, nobody knew what depression was, certainly not in the black community. You just sort of dealt with it.”

Despite his tremendous talent, Smallwood said he frequently felt insecure about his abilities, often comparing himself to other gospel artists who appeared to have far greater commercial success.

After years of being sad for “no apparent reason,” Smallwood was diagnosed with clinical depression in 2002 at the age of 54.

Apprehensive to taking medications for fear of “walking around in a coma, coked up or like a zombie,” Smallwood, with the help of a Christian psychiatrist, began to get the help that he needed, medication included.

Though Smallwood has now been off medication since 2010, an achievement he attributes to professional therapy, he advises others who may be suffering from depression to “get help.”

Despite his years of pain, Smallwood said since going public with his diagnosis, he is sometimes approached by strangers who simply want to thank him for giving voice to an illness often shrouded in shame.

“So God has sort of made it a little more obvious and clear to me why it was I was dealing with this,” he said. “Because ministry sometimes extends beyond what we think our ministries are. Sometimes God stretches us to take us to other places so that we can help other people.

“It’s not been an easy road, but certainly, I am grateful for it, because, as the old hymn says, ‘If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain,” Smallwood said. “So as we grow and mature, God reveals to us more what our purposes are. We are all here for a purpose. You are all preordained to do certain things. And it may not come when you are in your 20s and 30s. It may come later. But God will open the doors and create the pathways so that you can walk in your purpose.”

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Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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