While Whitney Houston’s private homegoing service was being held at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, N.J., the fans in Pittsburgh had a home going celebration of their own at Coston Funeral Homes Inc. in East Liberty.

More than 100 people came to the memorial service of Whitney Houston. The service was the brainchild of Bethany Criswell, who is a longtime fan of the singer.

WHITNEY REMEMBERED—Full of Grace—The Institute of Excellence group in front of Whitney Houston portrait. (Photo by Ashley G. Woodson)

Along with her husband, Roland Coston-Criswell, they put together a home going service for the many fans in Pittsburgh, who needed to grieve and celebrate the life and legacy of Whitney Houston.

“Whitney was one of my all-time favorite music artists. Growing up as a kid in the 80s, I just reveled in her beauty and song and all of the joy that her music brought in my life,” Criswell said. “When we had the Michael Jackson tribute after his death, I told my husband that if Whitney Houston passes, we have to do a service for her. I want everyone to know that Whitney was a woman of God and she always had a spirit of love and wanted to convey the message that she loved the lord.”

It was an evening filled with emotional from beginning to end. There was crying and laughter and even dancing throughout the service. The highlight of the service was when the video of “The Star Spangled Banner” was played and everyone rose to their feet and tears were flowing from everyone.

Bethany Criswell, knew that fans in Pittsburgh needed to celebrate Whitney Houston’s life and grieve at the same time.

“I would like everyone to remember the gift that she gave to the world was her beautiful voice and through her music, she will live on forever,” she said.

Roland Coston-Criswell, already knew that if Houston passed away, they would have to have a service for the fans that live in Pittsburgh.

“I was just thinking how Whitney sang from her heart and connected with a lot of people’s heart as well. I remember everyone in elementary school singing “The Greatest Love of All” at every graduation ceremony,” he said. She was a Christian and to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord, so we were blessed to have her for as long as we did.”

They had a poet, dancers and played hits from her greatest hits album. “She was a cultural icon and a part of our African-American community; we felt that it was very important we pay tribute to her in Pittsburgh. Maya Angelo did a poem and she said from Pittsburgh to Johannesburg they are paying tribute to Whitney, so we made history today,” he said.

The host and narrator of the evening was comedienne Comma’ Dee, who took the audience through the life of Whitney from beginning to end. She also made the service a very uplifting experience during this sad occasion.

“Whitney was a role model on so many levels as an African-American female,” Comma’ Dee said. “She always presented a positive image ever since she was a little girl. “The Greatest Love of All” was the song that everyone sang at every talent show back in the 80’s. She carried herself with poise and was very much a lady. We should remember the good things that Whitney did in her life. She had a beautiful spirit and was a great singer. Her voice commanded attention and she could stop anyone in their tracks when she opened her mouth. All of the things that she gave to us were great for African-American women. She opened the doors for a lot of African-American women singers being on MTV and much more. Until Whitney, MTV did not feature African- American women on her level.

“When you think about the demons that possessed her, we all have them. If you had all of our lives under a microscope, I wouldn’t be here today. Being famous is hard enough, so I appreciate everything that Whitney brought to the table.”

Full of Grace – The Institute of Excellence did a dance tribute to Whitney, while poet Dessie Bey did a wonder poem called “Didn’t We Almost Have It All.” There was also a segment for fans to speak on how Whitney touched their life.

“We used to always play “Saving All My Love for You” until it wore out,” Sonia Coston said. “My husband had his own album and I had my own album. We played both albums so much that we had to buy a third Whitney Houston album.”

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