1. Chuck Berry (Charles Edward Anderson Berry), guitarist, singer, and songwriter, and considered one of the pioneers of rock and roll music. With songs such as “Maybellene” (1955), “Roll Over Beethoven” (1956), “Rock and Roll Music” (1957) and “Johnny B. Goode” (1958), Chuck Berry refined and developed rhythm and blues into the major elements that made rock and roll distinctive, with lyrics focusing on teen life and consumerism and utilizing guitar solos and showmanship that would be a major influence on subsequent rock music.
2. Ntozake Shange( Paulette Williams), playwright, and poet. As a self proclaimed black feminist, much of the content of her work addresses issues relating to race and feminism. Shange is best-known for the Obie Award-winning play For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf. She also wrote Betsey Brown, a novel about an African American girl who runs away from home. Among her honors and awards are fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, and a Pushcart Prize.
3. Terry McMillan, Novelist, editor, and educator, author. Her interest in books comes from working at alibrary when she was sixteen. She received her BA in journalism in 1986 at University of California, Berkeley. Her work is characterized by strong female protagonists. Her first book, Mama, was self-published. She achieved national attention in 1992 with her third novel, Waiting to Exhale, which remained on The New York Times bestseller list for many months. In 1995, Forest Whitaker turned it into a film starring Whitney Houston. In 1998, another of McMillan’s novels, How Stella Got Her Groove Back, was made into a movie. McMillan’s novel Disappearing Acts was subsequently produced as a direct-to-cable feature, starring Wesley Snipes and Sanaa Lathan. She also wrote the best seller A Day Late and a Dollar Short. The Interruption of Everything was published on July 19, 2005. Getting to Happy, the long-awaited sequel toWaiting to Exhale, was published on September 7, 2010.
4. Tommy Hearns, retired boxer. He won 8 world titles in six different weight divisions. Hearns became the first boxer in history to win world titles in four divisions. He would also become the first fighter in history to conquer 5 world titles in 5 different divisions. He has scored many memorable knockouts in his career and is widely considered to be one of the greatest knockout artists of all time. Hearns was voted the greatest Super Welterweight of all time and received the “Fighter of the Year” award in 1980 and 1984.
He fought 21 current, past or future world champions. Blessed with exceptional height for a welterweight (6’1″), a broad back, and unusually long arms, Hearns had a unique build combined with destructive punching power. He is known best for his devastating right hand, his powerful left hook and for carrying his left hand low—a stance he used to lure foes into an exchange, as well as to maximize the speed and change the angle of his jab, a technique called the “flicker jab”.
As a fighter, his aggression set him apart, controlling fights with his incredible reach, power and great boxing skills. He lost only one decision in his entire career, at the age of 33, to Iran “The Blade” Barkley.
5. Wynton Learson Marsalis, Trumpeter, composer, bandleader, music educator, and Artistic Director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. Marsalis has promoted the appreciation of classical and jazz music often to young audiences. Marsalis has been awarded nine Grammys in both genres, and was awarded the first Pulitzer Prize for Music for a jazz recording. Marsalis is the son of jazz musician Ellis Marsalis, Jr. (pianist), grandson to Ellis Marsalis, Sr., and brother to Branford (saxophonist),Delfeayo (trombonist), Mboya, and Jason (drummer).
6. Cheryl “Pepsii” Riley-Grace (born October 18, 1968) is an American R&B/gospel singer and actress, best known for her 1988 ballad, “Thanks for My Child.”
Cheryl Riley, who worked as a nurse for handicapped children for ten years before beginning her singing career, topped the US R&B chartand hit the Top 40 on the pop chart at #32 with the 1988 ballad, “Thanks for My Child,” a song written by Full Force. It peaked at #75 in theUK Singles Chart in January 1989. The genesis of “Thanks for My Child” began with Full Force member Bowlegged Lou’s experience with the complications of his wife’s first pregnancy.
As pivotal as “Thanks for My Child” was for Riley’s career, it was not the first song Lou offered to her. She refused his offer to record “I Wonder If I Take You Home” because she did not want to spread herself too thin, but after it became a million-selling hit for Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam in 1985, she thought she had missed her big break. Lou then offered her “Thanks for My Child”. Riley still had her nurse’s job when the song went to number one on the R&B chart.
The title track single to her debut LP Me Myself and I made it to number 18 on the R&B charts in early 1989. Another single, “Every Little Thing About You,” peaked at number 55 on the R&B charts later that year. Her second LP, Chapters, was issued and yielded the singles “How Can You Hurt the One You Love” and a cover of Aretha Franklin’s 1968 hit “Ain’t No Way”. Her third album All That! was released by Reprise, and featured the singles “Gimme” and “Guess I’m in Love.”
After a hiatus from the entertainment industry, Riley re-emerged in the early 2000s as a star in a number of gospel plays for best-selling playwright Tyler Perry, including Madea’s Class Reunion, Madea Goes to Jail, Why Did I Get Married? and the film version of Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Madea’s Big Happy Family.
7. Vickie Winans, Gospel recording artist.