It’s not often a person gets to be the warm-up act for sixties music legend Chubby Checkers, but that’s what happened Sunday. Well, kind of. Mabee Red Shield Boys & Girls Club Director Jerome Smith and Red Shield Athletic Director Sam Berry both took the stage at the Jazz Depot to be honored for their contributions to youth and music. The awards ceremony was the last in the Juneteenth celebration, held Saturday and Sunday. Leon Rollerson, MC and originator of the event, said Jerome’s work with the young people at the North Harvard Club was outstanding.
“A lot of people talk the game, but you do the game. You’re telling kids, not hundreds, but thousands of kids through the years, ‘we’re here for you’ and you are,” Rollerson said. When he recognized Sam, he said that 10 years ago there were 10-15 gospel groups performing in Tulsa and now there are only four or five. “You are the last of the gospel singers and you’re passing it on to the kids,” he said. Rollerson teased the audience by pretending to introduce several celebrities during the event, then saying they couldn’t make it to Tulsa. So by the time Chubby Checkers was introduced, the audience was prepared to be let down. Instead, Mr. “Let’s Do the Twist” took the stage to wild applause. But for The Salvation Army, parents and kids, Jerome and Sam deserve the most applause for hanging in there, year after year. No one-hit wonders at Mabee Red Shield! Congratulations Sam and Jerome!