“A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” — Proverbs 18:6
No matter your race, color or creed, we will all feel the void of the loss of the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Proud to have worked in Motown for more than 15 years, and having felt close to Aretha, even seeing her home during a tour by my Detroit friend Lavonia Perryman Fairfax.
One day, our lives crossed paths, and I’m thrilled to share my story. The year was 1993, and Bill Clinton had just gotten elected as president of the United States. As a known major special events coordinator here in Washington, it was my desire to work on the official inaugural committee. I got my chance via a recommendation from Charlene Drew Jarvis, former D.C. Council member and chair of the Clinton inaugural. I’m thankful to have worked with Jarvis and fellow Council member Frank Smith during my 15 years of serving as director of the annual Georgia Avenue Day Festival and Parade.
Me and two of my sisters served as event chairpersons for the official inaugural headquarters in southwest Washington (all presidential inaugural committees have worked out of that facility). We all had photograph badges and were assigned to official inaugural balls. My assignment was the Washington Convention Center, where three balls were being held — including the biggest of all balls, the Arkansas ball, where the Clintons would be.
There were also two others held at the old Convention Center in D.C. — the New England Ball and the MTV Ball. That MTV Ball was how I got to meet Aretha.
All event planners were set up in offices inside the Convention Center. I had more than 200 volunteers to coordinate all of the comings and goings of elected officials from around the world, including then-South African President Nelson Mandela, and Ron Brown who was appointed as secretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce. Many of my volunteers got photographs with Mandela and other celebrities. I did not get any photographs — I was busy coordinating everything that had to do with transportation at the Convention Center, working in conjunction with the city police and the FBI.
Busy handling my business, I got two calls on my walkie-talkie to ask if I would go to escort actor Chevy Chase; then later another call came to ask if I would please go to escort Aretha Franklin to her destination. Ms. Franklin was scheduled to sing for the MTV Ball, and somehow, her limousine driver dropped her off at the wrong door. She was quite far from her destination.
As I approached Ms. Franklin, I felt shy, and though I assisted her, I never asked for her autograph. Back then, we did not have cellphones with cameras, and there was no one from my team around to take a quick picture. However, we walked and walked, and Aretha complained and complained. Because she was so upset by having to walk so far to get to her destination, I definitely would not ask her for an autograph! But what an experience! Never saw Aretha Franklin sing live in a concert, but have enjoyed her music all of these year! It gives me great pleasure to share with the readers, how our lives crossed paths on that day.
Aretha’s gift definitely made room for her, starting from the age of only 5 years old! Wow, I don’t have enough space to name all of her accomplishments! Thankful to have met Aretha Franklin, up close and personal!
Lyndia Grant is a speaker/writer living in the D.C. area. Her radio show, “Think on These Things,” airs Fridays at 6 p.m. on 1340 AM (WYCB), a Radio One station. To reach Grant, visit her website, www.lyndiagrantshow.com, email email@example.com or call 202-558-2107. Follow her on Twitter @LyndiaGrant and on Facebook.