ROCKFORD, IL – The banquet room in the Hilton Garden Inn was nearly filled to capacity with family, friends, musicians, church goers, admires of Gospel music and Rockford residents whom all came out to honor Michelle Williams. The event started with an introduction to the luncheon with a prayer and lunch served while guests waited for the program to start. Event organizer, Justin Djuane Francis and Michelle’s aunt Beverly Washington shared hosting duties for the afternoon. During lunch, the guests were asked to welcome Michelle Williams, who arrived in a stunning dark plum colored dress with gold sequins reminiscent of designs from one of her favorite designers, BCBG Max Azria.
The program began shortly after Michelle’s arrival with family friend Elaine Wright singing “Praise Is What I Do.” Backed by a group of background singers, Ms. Wright kicked of the ceremony with a powerful and moving performance. Next, Mrs. Washington informed guests on the history of the I Love Gospel Music convention. The convention is a week-long series that takes place with workshops, concerts and special events such as the Honors Luncheon for Michelle Williams. The convention had started years earlier, but rebooted this year in honor of the original founders, Walter Washington and the late Ann Holloway.
Family friends; Carlton Coleman, Lynn Penix and Renee Webb sang a soul stirring rendition of “Marvelous”. Guests were so overjoyed with their performance that many stood up and joined in the performance as the banquet room quickly turned into a gospel church service. While guests enjoyed the festivities, a representative from the mayor’s office spoke to the room as she proclaimed how proud Michelle made her hometown, “On this day, October 19, 2013, on behalf of the city of Rockford, we proclaim this day Michelle Williams Day. “ Everyone cheered as Michelle smiled and clapped.
Songwriter Darius Paulk moved the audience with the song he wrote for gospel artist Vashawn Mitchell, “Nobody Greater”. Mr. Paulk did an excellent job as many guests showed their appreciation during his performance with shouts, claps and a standing ovation. Afterward, Sachelle Saunders was introduced to enlighten guests of the history on Michelle Williams. Guests were taken on a journey throughout Michelle’s life with a slideshow of how she got her start singing. Michelle and guests were then treated to a video tribute featuring former Destiny’s Child members LeToya Luckett and Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, whom both congratulated Michelle on being honored by the city the Rockford. Michelle watched in silence as she seemed to fully understand her impact on others and the city of Rockford.
Next, Jovonta Patton & Deliverance For Youth (DFY) got the crowd to their feet with a special rendition of Destiny’s Child “Gospel Medley” and “I Don’t Know What You Came To Do (Watch Me Praise Him)”, a song Michelle recorded for her upcoming album, “Journey To Freedom”. While previously working with Michelle, Jovanta observed that Michelle had a signature move when she performed. He and DFY taught the crowd how to do “The Michelle”. Michelle and the guests were really amused as the dance was really accurate.
Sheree Holman and Stephanie Goldsmith continued the tributes to Michelle. Ms. Holman sang a medley of “Survivor” by Destiny’s Child and “Everything” from Michelle’s first album, Heart To Yours. Ms. Goldsmith sang a heartfelt rendition of “Do You Know”, from Michelle’s second album of the same name, which brought many to tears. Michelle was so moved by Ms. Goldsmith’s performance she jumped up with her hands in the air to show she was really pleased.
Next up was Gospel artist and Winner of Sunday Best Season 4, Amber Bullock. Amber put the crowd in daze with her beautiful, jazzy, and soulful rendition of Michelle’s first solo single, “Heard A Word”. Everyone was on their feet with a standing ovation when Ms. Bullock finished singing.
Many onlookers included Michelle’s parents, siblings, extended family and friends, and producer Harmony Samuels watched as Michelle was welcomed to the stage to accept her award. Michelle was nearly speechless as she looked around the crowd and saw many familiar faces. She thanked her parents and shared funny stories of growing up listening to a variety of music besides gospel. She thanked her brother Erron, who played keyboard during her acceptance speech, and her sisters Cammy & Danielle. Michelle thanked a host of other family and friends who’ve been in her life such as Lynn Penix whom she credited for teaching her how to sing.
Michelle and her former group United Harmony; Bianca Chappell Penix, Anqunette Parham, and sister Cameron “Cammy” Williams, came together to perform “Look To Me”. The ladies hadn’t rehearsed or performed in 13 years. However, the ladies still got it and sounded beautiful together.
Michelle closed the luncheon with a performance of another song she recorded for her album entitled, “When Jesus Says Yes, Nobody Can Say No.” Music producer Harmony Samuels joined Michelle and played the keyboard during her impromptu performance. The crowd really got into the performance and started singing back to Michelle.
The day was full of exciting performances, laughs, bonding and an event that won’t be forgotten! Congrats to Michelle Williams on being honored by your hometown Rockford, Illinois.
Special thanks to Michelle Williams, Justin Djuane Francis, Cameron Williams, and Anita Williams whom were all welcoming to Unexpected Michelle staff member Keyta. Your generosity was greatly appreciated! 😉