Custom Search

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Whitney Houston's Funeral Shines Spotlight On Newark's Forgotten BLACK Community

Whitney Houston's funeral brings Newark together as entertainers, fans mourn star

The body of singer Whitney Houston, inside a gold hearse, led a procession of three limousines, four police motorcycles and a police cruiser down Martin Luther King Boulevard on a sunny, brisk Saturday morning. Shortly before 9:30, the column slowly pulled out onto the street for the short journey from Whigham Funeral Home to New Hope Baptist Church, while a fan played “I Will Always Love You” from his car.

Several minutes later, the procession arrived at the church, where services will begin at noon.

Earlier, the Rev. Jesse Jackson had stopped at Whigham to view Houston’s body, then spoke to the media.

"There is a heaviness of heart. We've lost a lot, yet we rejoice,” Jackson said. “She covered as much ground in 48 years as many people cover in 96. When she was on stage she reached unfathomable heights."

Jackson continued: "We have no idea the depths of her pain. What we mostly knew about her is she sang so beautifully ... This is a day of mercy, this is a day of celebration, this is a day of rejoicing."

Houston died last Saturday in the bathroom of her hotel room at the Beverly Hills Hilton. While the autopsy report still reads “deferred” for cause of death, many fear the 48-year-old pop legend finally succumbed to the effects of illegal drugs she once called “the biggest devil.”

Lauretta Malloy, a family friend of the Houston family who said she was preparing to attend the singer's funeral today, said the death of the star and entertainer has been weighing on her heart.

"It's going to be hard," said Malloy, a local singer and performer. "I thought coming here would help work it out of my system.

"I see the love," she added as she looked over at the mini shrine fans made in the church's fence. "I came over here to recognize this is real. Because everyday I kept saying, it didn't happen, it didn't happen."

Malloy's daughter, LeeAnet Noble, a young performer, said she used to long for a day when she would get to work with Houston.

"I was so excited about 'Sparkle' and there was a lot going on - she was healthy and vibrant," said Noble of Houston's upcoming movie project. "People said she was glowing before her death."

New Hope Baptist Church is where Houston regularly wowed the congregation with what would become known as “The Voice.” The crystalline mezzo-soprano became noticeably damaged by drugs, alcohol and cigarettes over the past decade. Recent news reports say a voice coach, Gary Catona, began working with Houston in 2005 to help her recover that voice.

Catona, who appears in an interview on ABC's "20/20 " program tonight, said Houston was “completely hoarse” when he began working with her and that eventually he could only help her get back 75 percent to 80 percent of her voice’s original quality.

The diminution of Houston’s voice failed to dissuade many fans from regarding her, even in recent years, as still one of the greatest pop singers of all time.
Hedwig Berthold and Rhonda Owens hopped a flight from Miami just to stand in the crowd at the funeral home and church today.

"Just being around this area — and sharing our sorrows with everyone else — is worth every penny," Berthold said. "Whitney didn’t know us, but we knew her."

The city was hoping to host public gatherings today where East Orange residents could gather to watch the Associated Press webcast of the funeral, but the family did not grant city officials permission to display the video feed at a public venue, Jeffries said.

"We’re going to respect the family’s wishes," he said.
Many fans, however, have expressed frustration.

"We're missing something too," Bunny Palmer, 50, of Manhattan, said this morning.
Palmer said he got up at 3 a.m. to drive to Newark for today's services. The 50-year-old, who stood across the street from the red brick church, marveled at how close he was to the building.

"I'm glad I came early," he said.

Palmer said Houston should be remembered for her music.

"That's how we knew her," he said. "All the negativity should die when she died and all you can talk about now is the great music she made and all the people she made happy."
Angela Smith left her home in Millville at 3 this morning in hopes of arriving early enough that she could get close to the church and view the cards, candles and balloons left for the pop star in recent days.

"I've been a Whitney fan all my life, since I was in grade school," Smith said. When I first heard the news, I thought it wasn't real."

"To me it's a legend lost," said Donna Holmes, 33, of Williamstown, who arrived this morning after a 90 -minute drive with two friends, listening to Houston's greatest hits along the way. "We came just to get pictures and show our respect. ... We don’t have this in New Jersey a lot."

Sabrina Hoskins, 38, and Kisha Kamara, 32, both of Camden County, said Houston’s music, which defined their youth, was why they needed to be close to the funeral today. Early this morning they huddled in their black SUV, two blocks away from New Hope. The two women drove up from Camden last night to set up a merchandise table at the corner of Lock St. and Central Ave. where they were still selling long-stem roses, Whitney Houston posters, framed photos, CDs and T-shirts with the iconic singer’s image. Already the pair had taken in more than $700, they said.

“I grew up with Whitney, especially 'The Bodyguard,'" Kamara said, referring to the movie Houston made with Kevin Costner in the 1990s. “She was awesome.”
Both women said they wished they could pay their own respects.

“I wanted to see her body,” Hoskins said. “It would just mean so much. She was a legend."

Among the visitors to Friday's private wake at Whigham Funeral Home were Houston’s mom, Cissy, teenage daughter Bobbi Kristina Brown, cousin Dionne Warwick and Clive Davis, the record producer who signed the singer affectionately known as "Nippy."
The wake was a chance for family and friends to have a quiet moment with the singing sensation they knew on a much more human level.

Rock star Rod Stewart was expected to join a Hollywood Walk of Fame attendee list today that also includes Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, David Bowie, Kevin Costner and Oprah Winfrey. Two high-powered New Jersey politicians, Republican Gov. Chris Christie and Democratic Newark Mayor Cory Booker, who ordered flags lowered to half-staff in the state and city, have confirmed they will attend.

Houston will be buried Sunday at Fairview Cemetery in the same plot where her father is buried.

Houston’s funeral also inspired several of Newark’s gang leaders to call for a day of peace today to honor the Brick City-born pop diva.

The push started after Hykine Johnson — a former high-ranking member of the Sex, Money, Murder set of the Bloods who is better known around Newark by his street handle, "HAK" — published a Facebook post Wednesday night calling for citywide peace on the day of Houston’s services.

"If anyone out there is gang banging lets show Whitney Houston respect by commiting no crimes on saturday ... No shootings No robbing No car jacking basically no crazy (stuff) let us show some respect she helped alot of people in Nj lets show lov," Johnson, now an author and filmmaker, wrote in the slang-filled post.

Two other known members of the city’s gang community told The Star-Ledger Friday they would heed Johnson’s call for peace.

View Larger Map

Sources: CNN,, Youtube, Google Maps

No comments: