(NNPA)—I just returned from the seven-day Tom Joyner Foundation Fantastic Voyage from Miami to St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Coco Cay, Bahamas. This was my first time on the cruise and if you’ve never been on one, picture “The Tom Joyner Morning Show” on steroids.

As was the case when I attended the first Essence Music Festival in 2002, I was advised to pace myself. Even though I tried—skipping some events and sleeping late after going to bed some mornings at 4:30 a.m.—I still couldn’t wait to crash once I got back home. Don’t go on the cruise thinking you’re going to rest.


Of all my world travels, I had never taken the time to go on a cruise and wouldn’t have gone on this one without the encouragement of Neil Foote, a longtime friend who handles publicity for the foundation.

In the early 1970s, when I was a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I did an interview with Father Theodore Hesburgh, former president of the University of Notre Dame and noted civil rights activist. Hesburgh said one of his dreams was to go on a relaxing cruise and read 40 books. That was nearly 40 years ago but that’s something I’ve always wanted to do since Father Hesburgh planted the idea. However, I knew that riding the waves of the Atlantic Ocean with Tom Joyner and his crew would not fulfill that longtime dream. So I took only one book with me, one on W.E.B. DuBois, my hero, and did not open it. It was tough enough keeping my eyes open amid the flurry of concerts and activities.

Nearly everyone was excited to see Ron Isley return to the stage. Other performers included Frankie Beverly and Maze, Charlie Wilson, Angie Stone, Chuck Brown, the Ohio Players, Bar-Kays, Con Funk Shun, Chubb Rock, Montell Jordan, Common, Dru Hill, Kem, Tyrese, Doug E Fresh, Biz Markie, Najee, Kid ‘N Play, Ledisi, Avant and the Fat Boys.

Charlie Wilson, formerly of the Gap Band, gave an outstanding performance and was also transparent about his past struggles with drugs and alcohol. Kem talked about his low period as well, mentioning that he served time in prison, was homeless and survived because of his renewed faith in God. Both “Uncle Charlie” and Kem appeared to be sincere as they discussed their faith.

Enough of the serious stuff.

I’ve always enjoyed a good joke and the clowning we always do at family reunions. But when you mix a dozen top-notch comedians with Tom Joyner’s fun-loving followers, it’s a laugh-a-minute production that keeps you laughing long after the program is over.

There was one comedian known As T-Row who bombed one night and days later was a hit. Of course, the other comedians ribbed him between the two performances. But he came back strong. He had one skit that featured Joe Jackson taking off his belt and lining up the Jacksons for a whipping.

“Jermaine, why do you have all that greasy activator in your hair? I am walking behind you at the trial and you better not make me slip.”

The Joe Jackson character strikes the seat on the bar stool and tells Jermaine, “Get in the car.”

Next up: Janet.

“Don’t bring that little Gremlin Jermaine Dupri around me.” A couple of licks and then off to the car.

Before Joe Jackson starts in on Michael, he said, “Pick up your nose.”

“Reebie.” Just calling her name incited laughter.

“What are you doing selling only 400 records—and I bought all them. This is a platinum family.” After a couple of whacks, he orders her to get into the car.

Not only was the skit funny, a loving audience was glad to applaud the comedian’s recovery.

Another comedian, AJ Jamal, likes to joke about his dark complexion.

For a minute, he appeared to be serious when talking about slavery. AJ explained that light-skinned slaves received special treatment and often worked in the Big House. After setting the audience up, he added, “My family didn’t know there was a Big House. We were so far away that we were two steps from freedom and didn’t know it.”

None of the above are direct quotes, but an approximation of what I remembered while trying to keep from falling on the floor.

The greatest ovation was given to Micah “Bam-Bamm” White. You had to be present to fully appreciate his performance. He essentially contrasted the halftime bands of two White universities and two Black colleges. Micah’s imitation of a drum major at a HBCU, replete with the soaring music, was so good that host J. Anthony Brown had him repeat it, which delighted the crowd even more.

This was partying with a purpose at its best. The Tom Joyner Foundation has contributed $52 million to HBCUs. And his 11th annual cruise will contribute another $1 million. Thanks, Tom. My alma mater, Knoxville College, and other HBCUs cannot find a more consistent and dedicated advocate for these important institutions.

(George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator and media coach. He can be reached through his website, http://www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at http://www.twitter.com/currygeorge.)

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