During a sound check for the evening gospel show, actress and gospel singer Tamala Mann paused for a picture. (Photo: Johnathan Martin)

During the National Baptist Congress Convention 2018, I attended the Youth Rally on day four of the five-day gathering. In attendance were gospel musician Johnathan McReynold, Israel “Izzy” Idonjine, former NFL player from the “Chicago Bears” and founder and CEO of Blessed Communion. Idonjine’s company makes the communion cups used by churches.

I spoke with James Shaw Jr., the hero from the recent Waffle House shooting that happened in Nashville. He disarmed a gunman toting an AR-15 rifle during a violent encounter that happened at 3 o’clock in the morning. Shaw is credited with saving lives, and as a result, he was awarded the R. H. Boyd Humanitarian Award during the Youth Rally.

As I was coming up the escalator at the Cook Convention Center I spotted Shaw. I decided I wanted to capture the moment. I asked Shaw if I could take a picture with him, wondering what my editor would think of the idea. My editor had told me to get an interview, but time did not allow for that. As I went for the photo request, I got a smile in return. Shaw told me, “You caught me just in time.” Shortly after the picture, I shook his hand and thanked him for his heroic act.

The National Baptist Congress Convention, which was held June 17-22, showcased a wide range of products and services related to the religion sector.

Day 4 of the convention featured speakers and plenty of toe-tapping gospel music that night at “Praise and Laughs,” a combination of gospel music and comedy.

Television personalities Tamela and David Mann were the main attraction at the “Praise and Laugh” gospel show. David Mann hosted the show, spicing it with comedy between performances.

First Baptist Church-Broad, pastored by the Rev. Keith Norman, had a strong presence at the evening event and throughout the convention. After the church’s mass choir performance, David Mann introduced his wife.

The Mann’s are well-known actors from Tyler Perry’s stage plays and movies. Tamela Mann, a stellar gospel singer, sang several of her hit singles, including “Take Me To The King.” As Mann performed, many in the audience moved to capture the experience with their cell phone cameras. Mann encouraged the audience to put the phones aside and focus on the message.

Earlier that day, I’d met the Manns as they prepared for that evening’s show. During sound check I briefly spoke with each of them. I went to the convention with the intention of interviewing the Manns. They arrived in Memphis later than they had planned, making it impossible to go forward with an interview with The New Tri-State Defender.

The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc. is the largest predominantly African American Christian denomination in the United States. It is headquartered at the Baptist World Center in Nashville. The denomination claims approximately 31,000 congregations.

(De Ja Simpson, a rising sophomore at East Tennessee State University, is an MPLOY Youth Summer Experience program intern at The New Tri-State Defender.)