TheVIPPReport: Louisville native Marzz shoots for the stars

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 ABC Louisville

Inside the Mercury Ballroom on a June summer night, Louisville’s newest sensation Marzz waits in anticipation to give fans a show.

As music fills the streets of South Fourth Street, crowds begin lining up with tickets in hand, ready to see the return of the up and coming R&B singer at the Ballroom.

“I feel it’s the atmosphere is what makes it so different,” they said.

Marzz, who is signed to Keep Cool/RCA Records, is back at the venue for a second time where others like fellow Louisvillians Bryson Tiller and Jack Harlow have also graced the stage.

“I just wanted to connect and vibe with yall, this is my home,” they said.

This night, it’s different. It’s the first time since releasing their full-length album “Love Letters” to fans – Martians as they call them, across the country.

“Baby, that’s my heartbeat. Got me looking – going crazy,” they said.

The journey to Marzz started in Louisville for Laria McCormick, a Fairdale High School graduate. The humble beginnings put the singer on the path to reaching for the stars.

They started singing in church from an early age where their mother and grandmother were both heavily involved in church leadership.

“Since I was a kid, I grew up in church. Singing in the children’s choir, I feel like that had a lot influence too. Literally being a pk, my aunties and them always had me singing solo in the choir, I used to hate it cuz it’s like literally all eyes on me,” Marzz said.

Marzz said their sound and gender identity, which is non-binary, moved them away from the church and toward the R&B billboard charts.

Marzz prefers the pronouns “they, their and them” – not “she.”

“I feel like in the church there was a lot of judgmental people. You know what I’m saying, it’s kind of weird to transition from that, but it felt good to transition into a place where I felt welcome – where I knew that ain’t nobody going to judge me,” they said.

Drawing from personal experiences of hardship and heartache, Marzz poured out feelings on pages of notebooks – each with different colors – that would eventually become the inspiration for their debut release.

“I feel like really didn’t start getting into song writing in my music until I was like 11. You know what I’m saying, that’s when my mom and dad was going through a divorce. I kind of just went to notebooks. You know, just expressing myself, I wasn’t a real verbal kid growing up. I have different color notebooks that I write in,” they said.

It wasn’t until an Instagram post, standing out from the typical scrolling, that garnered the attention of super producer Timbaland. The stars began aligning for the young artist.

“Usually, I get like 300 views but then the day that I posted it this Jhené Aiko freestyle I believe. I had went in my phone, I woke up, and I see my phone kept going off – what’s going on with my phone and I look on my Instagram — I seen Timbaland repost it and I was like hold up – I was like hold up I started screaming, I was crying. I was like is this really him?” they said.

The social media post, plus their connection with Timbaland and several recordings in tow, landed them in front of RCA Records.

The songs of love and heartache would be released as a six-track EP that would take on a deeper meaning.

“Just me exploring, you know, figuring out self, loving myself, and understanding who I am as a person, you know what I’m saying.”

The standout single, “Countless Times,” dives right into their world.

The Mercury Ballroom would seem as far away as the moon, where Marzz was headed. 

They captured national attention performing during the Soul Train Awards on the BET Amplified stage, receiving kudos from the likes of JaRule.

From that moment, Marzz skyrocketed into the stratosphere. They have been named a “Future Five Artist” by SiriusXM and Billboard magazine’s “R&B Rookie Artist” in April.

“It was a super humbling moment for me. I was like dang, ‘this is so incredible’, you know what I’m saying? I was like, speechless, I was like they really mess with me. I appreciate all the love cuz what else can I say other than thank you for hearing me,” they said.

The young artist’s career is coming at a time when the tide is changing in the music industry. Social media is playing a huge role in how hits are determined.

Their meaningful melodic vibe is separating them from the rest, pushing the realm of R&B music beyond its limits.

“I think I’m outside the box, like I don’t think that I make just R&B music. I make everything, like, it don’t matter what it is. I don’t even know if it’s got a name to it. The genre or the type of – whatever the beat or wherever the beat is taking me, that’s where I go,” they said.

Music and the way hits are made might be changing, but it’s not about topping the charts for the young artist.

“I ain’t gon’ lie I don’t think I would be this far—you know what I mean? I still have so much more to go but I’m super grateful to be where I am at,” they said.

It’s the emotions of break-up and finding new love that gives Marzz and their Martians a world of their own .Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.comor follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram

To see the story click the link: https://www.whas11.com/article/news/local/marzz-louisville-music-r-b-music/417-64505fd4-3d92-4a20-a750-66a6ec7f50bf

TheVIPPReport: The face and shirt behind the Louisville Fairness Ordinance

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11, ABC Louisville

I sat down with the person who helped change the landscape for ‘fairness’ in Louisville.  

It all started with this t-shirt. Creating a cultural shift in the Louisville community.

“I always wanted too. If I was gonna get in this, I was in this for the fight. Because I knew it wasn’t just my fight. It was a fight for lots of people.” Says Alicia Pedreira.

Pedreira was thrust into the spotlight after thousands of people saw this photo at the Kentucky Star Fair in 1998.  It led to her firing from the Kentucky Baptist Homes for Children Inc… where she had worked for six months.

She says “So, I had two interviews and on the second one when I thought it was serious that they were going to actually perhaps hire me, that’s when I told them on the second interview that I was gay, and that if that was a problem, not to hire me.”

She was hired and loved the job. So, when the photo of her and her then partner Nance was taken she had no idea of the repercussions.  Her lawsuit against the company pushed her into the forefront of a movement that she was not expecting.  

Pedreira says “Absolutely not! No, I was a volunteer. As a matter of fact, I think Nance at the time was a volunteer coordinator for the fairness campaign. And I volunteered but neither one of us would have imagined.”

So, how did the t-shirt come into play and when did she wear it? She says “This was a walk for AIDS and it was at the Belvedere.  And that was my then girlfriend, Nance Goodman was her name then her name has since changed and we were waiting for the festivities to start because it was kind of like a party before they needed the walk or whatever… I remember a photographer came by and I’m kind of a ham and so we just smiled at the camera and he took his picture went on his way and that was it.”

Out of the lawsuit, the Louisville Fairness Ordinance went into effect after three attempts on January 26, 1999.  Giving legal protection in the workplace and the right to live anywhere you want. That was a pivotal moment.  Pedreira agreed saying “Yes, yes. I mean, for I think it was a cultural shift for the queer community, because we live in fear that if someone were to find out, then they could throw you out of your home. I actually didn’t live in fear.  I wasn’t put in that situation when it all came out. I was renting a house and my lovely landlords called me up and said, We don’t care. You guys are great. We love you and we stand by you don’t have to worry about that.”

Fast forward twenty years later, Pedreira finally got some type of closure in the court system but not in a monetary way.  “Well, I didn’t get a settlement, because that usually sounds like I got money. I didn’t get a dime ever. As a matter of fact, I signed with the ACLU not too settle because those attorneys all wanted to change law. They wanted it for everyone.”

So, this shirt, won as a door prize in a local bar becomes a conversation piece. Starting a conversation of change. But with all of the heartache, setbacks and years in litigation was worth it? She say “Honestly, I want to say yes,  and if it isn’t my fight, then it’ll be somebody else’s.”

►Contact WHAS11’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. 

Here’s the link to my story: https://www.whas11.com/article/news/community/moments-that-matter/pride-louisville-fairness-ordinance-creation-lgbtq-issues-local/417-47beae98-fdcd-4959-a409-baa2c88df3a2

TheVIPPReport: Meet the leader behind the MOLO Village

Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson is building back her community one block at a time

Special Report by Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 ABC Louisville

Kentuckiana has so many fascinating women leaders working for the betterment of the community.  Dr. Jamesetta Ferguson had a vision that takes up a whole block. I spoke to the visionary in today’s Moments that Matter. 

Ferguson spent a lot of time just across the street in Beecher Terrace at her aunt’s when her mother was at work. Not knowing as a little girl that someday she would be able to turn the parking lot into a block of desperately needed resources.  But before she had the vision Dr. Ferguson also fondly known as Pastor  J travelled to Africa on a mission trip where her vision became clear.   

Ferguson says “I visited a young woman who had, who was taking the anti-viral drug. She had HIV. She had a young son and the mission that I went there for working with people infected or effected by HIV and AIDS because reckoning race and reconciliation. So when we went to this young woman’s house. I came into her house  and she grab me and starting weeping  and started saying MOLO momma MOLO and learned that meant ‘welcome home’.” 

While in Africa. Ferguson spoke to a minister with a large congregation. He shared his success and how to be resourceful. The minister said to Ferguson, “I used what I got! I use what I got! I had the mindset prior to that, that we had this historical building next door but we were not using the entire building.” She went on to say “So when I came back. We changed our attitudes  to use what we got . God would not bless us more until we start using what God had provided for us already.” 

She had a shift in her mindset. Her faithful team started serving about a thousand people a week.  Plus, providing a long list of resources and services.  “We had the clothes ministry,  we had recovery ministry, we had Dare to Care ministry, Senior ministry, We had Youth ministry. We had everything in that building. We no longer worried about the condition of the building.  It wasn’t that it was falling down  it just needed some repair.” 

Early, 2006, Dr. Ferguson was welcomed to church but not with some opposition but later being named pastor of the congregation.  She says “And at that point there were 15 German-American senior adults at the church of that 15, one left cause he did not want to worship with a person that look like me. 

Even though she could not speak German but she had an appreciation of their culture because her father. Ferguson says “My father actually was the first student at Louisville Municipal College which was the Black portion of the University of Louisville to major in German.” 

They went into planning, and creating partnerships of how to utilize the city block they owned. They started the process to resurrect the community.  “We decided to take the east parking lot of the church and develop the Village of West Jefferson. Being in a community one without for such a long period of time.  This facility here is the first new construction on Jefferson Street of West Jefferson Street in over 30 years.” 

Dr. Ferguson tells me she’s far from being done. She has a lot more work to do. Her next big undertaking will be in the renovation of St. Peter’s United Church of Christ. 

The MOLO Village is located at 1219 W. Jefferson Street in West Louisville. 

►Contact WHAS11’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@whas11.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram. 

To see the television of the story, just click the link provided: https://www.whas11.com/article/news/community/moments-that-matter/molo-village-jamesetta-ferguson-west-jefferson-russell-outreach-ministry-africa/417-0abc671e-f2b2-47cd-8007-af312c638a74

TheVIPPReport: Jamey Aebersold shares his love for jazz

Jamey Aebersold

Tucked away on a New Albany street named after his family. Jazz master Jamey Aebersold has been playing music for most of his life. I caught up with him in his studio which is covered with some 15 thousand vinyl albums, thousands of photos which he calls the Smithsonian Jazz Institute of the Midwest. He talks to me about how he was introduced to jazz.  He says “Jazz is the coming thing. When I was young, I got my driver’s license at 16. I got me a 35 dollar car.  I drove to Louisville, in westend where jazz was playing. Every club had jazz. Rock-n-roll had not been invented yet.  Country western wasn’t popular so jazz was basically everywhere. I would go to those places and listen to them.  I would wonder what was going on in their minds.

He never liked to stick to the traditional format. Aebersold says “My dad like Dixieland music. I bought some records. Yeah, I liked it but then when I heard Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, I kinda went that way.” As he hand gestured.   

He goes on to say “It was years later, I would realize that was the foundation that I needed those scales and cords and the fingering of it, so forth…because that would allow me to play what I heard in my head.  (as he hummed a tune) then add a cord to it. That’s how I got started.” 

Jamey told me that he was not a good student and the teacher actually returned his money because he just didn’t have the patience to play the standard scales and cords. In his mind, he was just copying what he saw in the music book.  He wanted to play what was in his head which we know today as improvisation.  When he got older he did receive his formal training and we talked about it.  He said, “I went to Indiana University and they didn’t have saxophone but they put me on the woodwind degree. So, I had to take lessons in oboe the flute, the basson, clarinet, and I don’t think I took saxophone lessons from anyone but the second year a guy was getting his graduate degree and they let him give me lessons. I played the first jazz recital at Indiana University which was a big deal back then 1960/61.” He talked about the audience giving his a standing ovation for that performance.   

Aebersold was very humble, knowledgeable, and full wisdom that we could of literally stayed with him all day and still would not of been able to cover everything he’s accomplished.  He  Performing in the all over the world and receiving so many accolades along the way.  From receiving the National Endowment for the Arts which is the highest honor given to jazz musicians in the U.S. to receiving the Indiana Governor’s Arts Award by Mitch Daniels. He had a table full of awards, even a letter from the White House from President Barack Obama.   

I wanted to know if he thought jazz was a lost art. He responded quickly by saying “No, no, no. I tell you why. When people play jazz they use their imagination. They are very creative and its coming from here to the fingers and that’s not going to stop.”

He says anyone can improvise. He says, “Too many don’t even try because they feel like they are not good enough”. 

I wanted to know what would be his legacy.  He says there’s to much to do now to worry about the future.  There’s still so much to do now.  He gave some good advice that he hopes more people would apply to their life and that was to be nice to people. 

To learn more about Jamey Aebersold and his Jazz Play-A-Longs, go to jazzbooks.com.  you may even see him a classroom if you attend Bellarmine, I-U, or U of L.     

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.com or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

To see the television version of the story. Click the link provided: https://www.whas11.com/article/news/community/moments-that-matter/jamey-aebersold-new-albany-jazz-muscian-beallarmine-uofl-indiana-university-teacher-music/417-c14b168b-979e-430c-b9e6-198f5d81fe57

TheVIPPReport: Vincent James Sr, Dare to Care’s new president

Vincent James Sr. works “faithfully” in the community. Once the Chief of Community Building for Metro Louisville, and pastor of Elim Baptist Church, to now… President and CEO of the fourth largest non-profit in Louisville.

James says “I went to Stephen Foster Elementary School, Gutermuth Elementary School because bussing had started at that time and graduated from elementary school went to Southern Middle/High at the time the middle school and high school were actually in the same facility.”

James graduated from Atherton High and got a finance degree from UofL with hopes of becoming a Wall Street investment banker, but he told his church, his purpose in life shifted.  
He said “We are going to be involved and engaged in the community and pretty much we were doing things in isolation as many churches do.”

Then violence renewed his purpose.  He will never forget. “It was a life changing moment.  May 17, 2012 there was a triple homicide outside my church. I was there.  I actually arrived when the first responders arrived.  I saw two young men who had shot at each other and had killed each other and that was devastating to me. And then a couple of hours later a couple of ladies with 60 police officers, detectives and news reporters shot another young lady shot her that was traumatic for the community, myself. I said whatever I need to do I’m going to do it.”

Then Mayor Fischer put James in the forefront.  James says “I know I made a change. When I look at not as much as I want too but when I look at the response of the community. How our community was hurting.  Things in terms of the administration was in. what was happening across the country one of the things I intentionally did as a pastor and chief of community building was how do we begin to build healing in our community.”

 James believes he laid the ground work for the office, and now he plans to nourish the community after being named President and CEO of Dare to Care. “I’m excited! I can’t tell you enough how excited I am about Dare to Care Food Bank.  It’s an incredible organization. Dare to Care’s mission is to led the community feed the hungry and ending the cycle of need.”

 James has found his mission in life.   “I’m walking in my purpose.  I get excited every morning when I wake up and I get to live out my dream in terms of helping people.”

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.com or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

To see the story, click the link https://www.whas11.com/article/news/community/vincent-james-sr-dare-to-care-elim-baptist-church-chief-community-building/417-53813831-6c28-4de9-8933-38f1551bb636

The VIPP Report: Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month by talking to Olympic Silver Medalist Grandmaster Hwang

Sherlene M. Shanklin

May is Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month.  I spoke to a man who was born in Korea but now calls Louisville his home.
Raising a family and teaching our children the art of Taekwondo.  In today’s Moments that Matter, I introduce you to Jung Oh Grandmaster Hwang.

I have seen the business & community leader many times but this was the first time I had the opportunity to sit down with him.  I had so many questions and he was sincere and patient with me.

Grandmaster Hwang called me before the interview to make sure I found his studio.  I told him I was just waiting outside awaiting my photojournalist to arrive.  The door swings open and he came out to greet me.  He stood out there with me until we were ready to begin. 

As we entered Hwang’s Marital Arts we were welcomed by students.  They were clapping and cheering as we entered the venue.  Once we entered they gave us a demonstration of what they have learned under Hwang.  His daughter Mimi was directing the students but he was off to the side giving additional instruction.    

Mimi led me to his office so we could sit and talk.  I had so many questions.  Some of the most simple questions in Asian culture like is it disrespectful to bow when you don’t know the meaning.  I have to say he was very patient with me to make sure I understood. 

So, when we officially started the interview I asked him to give the pronunciation of his name. 

He says “My name is Jung Oh Hwang”.  He tells me where he was born. “I’m from South Korea. I come to the United States in 1987 I studied at the University of Tennessee.”
When he was in elementary school in South Korea he started learning taekwondo and judo.  Leading him to the Olympics not once but twice.  He missed the opportunity of a third because his country sat out.  Hwang says “Seoul Korea boycotted the Olympic games so he had to wait for more years for his chance to compete. 
1984 changed my life I got a silver medal at that time.” 

Hwang also tells me that he was the international referee for his sport in the 1988 Seoul Olympics. 

Hwang, his wife Sun and their two year daughter Mimi came to America in 1987. Eventually moving to Louisville and opening three martial arts studios in the city.  He says “Louisville is my hometown.  I love Louisville. Louisville is the best city. I love Louisville.” 

He also loves to teach children the core values of his heritage that we all can relate to regardless of where you are from.  “I wanted to give more opportunity to children to learn respect, discipline, and positive attitude.  He can do, she can do, why not me? Yes I can positive attitude.” 

Grandmaster Hwang believes every person should have the following: Focus, Discipline and Respect this is very very important.
In Asian culture It’s mind and body together. That’s respect.  That’s for all Asians especially Marital Arts.  Giving over a million dollars to charity like the Crusade for Children, and now starting his own foundation.  He just wants to leave a legacy of hope. 

Hwang says “I want to share my Olympic three’s. Never, never never give up. You know.  Teach the generation they quickly give up. We always never, never, never give up. Yes, I can I can do it!”

Contact Sherlene Shanklin at sherlene@sherleneshanklin.com or follow me on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.

To see the story, click the link https://www.whas11.com/amp/article/news/community/moments-that-matter/grandmaster-hwang-teaches-his-students-respect-and-discipline-in-louisville/417-8fd30281-40c1-4b7b-8aea-9832046c7f3b

What do you know about Kentucky native Whitney Young Jr.?

Lincoln Institute remembers civil rights leader Whitney M. Young Jr.’s historical impact on Kentucky, nation

He’s advised presidents and even held the top post at the National Urban League. Young also had a role in the famous March on Washington more than 50 years ago.

Photo Courtesy: The Lincoln Institute

The Lincoln Institute remembers civil rights leader Kentucky native Whitney M. Young Jr.’s and his impact on the Civil Rights Movement

By Sherlene Shanklin

SIMPSONVILLE, Ky. — Whitney M. Young Jr. had the respect of many, especially around the state of Kentucky.

He was an advisor to Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon.

Young was born on the campus of the Lincoln Institute – a boarding high school for Blacks created by trustees of Berea College after integrated education was outlawed in Kentucky in 1904 due to the Day Law.

“I am not anxious to be the loudest voice or the most popular. But I would like to think that at a crucial moment, I was an effective voice of the voiceless, an effective hope of the hopeless.”.

He served as president for the National Urban League and played a significant role in the Civil Rights movement.

“He was part of the Big 6 and how President Nixon even asked him to be part of his cabinet and he felt like he could do more for us as a race if he used his platform versus being in the cabinet,” Vivian Warren Overall, a retired community member and Lincoln Foundation board of trustee member said.

Young also helped organized the March on Washington for jobs and freedom with his Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity brother, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

His parents also played an important role in history.

“Whitney Young Sr. was the first African American president of Lincoln Institute certainly having his own prominence as well as Whitney Jr.’s mom was the first African American postmaster in Kentucky and second in the nation,” Paula Campbell, development director said.

The permanent exhibit in Young’s childhood home is like taking a journey to the past. Campbell said there’s so much history – not just Kentucky history but US history that’s steeped on the land.

Young died on March 11, 1971 at the age of 49.

“He was overseas in Lagos, Nigeria for a conference and had gone swimming and the story is that he drowned,” Campbell said. “Some suspect that was not the case, including his sister. He was a champion swimmer she does not believe he accidentally drowned.”

Campbell explained there are many people who believe that Young may have been one of the leaders during the movement that may have been assassinated. She said it’s something they will never know because it’s been a big mystery.

“President Nixon sent his personal jet over to bring his body back and at that time – one of the Tuskegee Airmen flew that jet now that was special,” Overall said.

Young’s funeral was held in Kentucky with thousands in attendance which included Rev. Jesse Jackson and Dr. King’s widow, Coretta Scott King. The eulogy was given by President Nixon.

“The funeral procession part of it came back here to the campus and circled the campus. That was his last ride,” Overall said.

What would Young think about the fight for social justice happening now?  

“I think this correlation between the 1960’s and now – because all of the things he did to fight for equal rights,” Campbell said.

To see the story click the following link-> https://www.whas11.com/article/news/local/black-history/whitney-m-young-jr-black-history-month-draft/417-edb48591-ade6-4b58-8a16-26bad7b8b721

►Contact The VIPP Report’s Sherlene Shanklin at sshanklin@vippcommunications.com or follow her on FacebookTwitter, or Instagram.