The annual Community Night Out returned this year for the first time since the pandemic. This year was the eighth time that the celebration has been held, although it would have been its tenth year if not for the pandemic. The event was held at the Glory Empowerment Center, located at 115 Maddox Road (Jackson, Mississippi) on March 31, 2023.
Linda Walker and Dr. Brinda Fuller Willis, contributing writers for the Jackson Advocate newspaper, served as the Mistresses of Ceremony, acknowledging contributions of community leaders and introductions of special guests.
Opening remarks and the invocation were offered by Jackson State University’s Philosophy and Ethics Professor Barron Banks, Alphonso Crump, and Zachery Beasley.
Professor Banks made a special introduction of Jackson State University’s interim president, Dr. Elayne Hayes-Anthony. Dr. Hayes-Anthony acknowledged the privilege of being invited to the Community Night Out and commented on how this type of event is essential to creating goodwill throughout the neighborhoods of Jackson. She said, “I look forward to being involved and representing JSU during events like this throughout my tenure as acting president and hopefully as the next permanent president. I am very proud to see so many JSU students present tonight for this event.”
The audience was welcomed by Elder Stephen Brandon and Kaylan and Briana Banks of the Glory Empowerment Center, along with Dr. Mario Azevedo, chair of the JSU History Department. With special music, “The Creation of the HBCU” was presented by Dr. Mark Henderson and MADDRAMA of Jackson State’s Art and Theatre Department. Dr. Alisa Mosley, JSU provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, officially greeted the large crowd.
The occasion was offered by Dr. Bessie-House Soremekun, interim dean and professor of political science for College of Liberal Arts. Hugh Davis and Young Men of Praise presented a highly energetic song of praise performance that evoked a standing ovation from the audience. Additional remarks, regarding the impetus of a Community Night Out, were espoused upon by Bishop Thomas Jenkins of New Dimensions International Ministries and First Lady of the City of Jackson Dr. Ebony Lumumba, who is also chair and associate professor in JSU’s Department of English and Foreign Languages and Speech Communication. Special presentations of thanks and support were delivered by Professor Banks to members of the community.
The annual Community Night Out committee exemplified “Using the Power of Music and Speaking to Heal Our Society,” as it was the resounding theme of the night. National recording artist Joseph Banks used his talents to heal the audience by singing several of his original songs; he also connected with the crowd by performing standards that everyone could sing along to.
Professor Banks served as the anchor sponsor of the program and has been a constant supporter for more than ten years. Professor Banks stated, “JSU students in my classes have been tasked to write papers on the theme: ‘Using the Power of Music and Speaking to Heal Our Society’ to provide insights into the power of music to address social issues that plague the city of Jackson based upon their observations of the diverse music presented at the annual Community Night Out event.”
During a personal interview, Joseph Banks revealed that he worked as a full-time featured musician with Grammy Award winner Bobby Rush Band & Revue from 2000 to 2009, traveling throughout the country and internationally to Europe, Australia, and Japan. Additionally, he has worked with Hattiesburg native and Grammy Award winner Vasti Jackson and with bluesman and soul singer Stevie J on several occasions over several years.
Joseph Banks said, “I have, in recent years, worked as an independent Christian musician with Gifts of Grace Community Choir [which was] founded by Hugh Davis. And I serve as worship leader for my church in Nashville, Tennessee. As a child, I grew up with music on both sides of my family, playing music now for more than 25 years in the Christian and R&B sectors. Piano and keyboards are my main instruments, but I can play other instruments. I was self-taught to some degree, but I took lessons with Toby Johnson and Barry Bolden and then took more formal lessons at Richard’s Music in South Jackson.
“I produced my first project in 2010, and for the last two years, I have been working on original music. I’m working on an album that will be an independent release in April of 2023 and is tentatively titled ‘Purpose’ or ‘Ready.’”
Joseph Banks is a 42-year-old native of Cincinnati, Ohio, and has lived in Florida and now resides in Nashville. He attended elementary school in Atlanta, Georgia, and graduated from Forest Hill High School in Jackson, Mississippi then graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi with a degree in Music Industry Studies in 2003. Since the pandemic, he has worked as a truck driver in the transportation industry. He has been married to Candice Banks for 11 years and they have two children, Cadynce and Ciyah.
Joseph Banks continues his music business under J-Flow Productions. To find out more, visit his website: https://jmbanksnow.com.
At the end of the program, a charge to the community and prayer was offered by Captain and Minister Abraham Thompson, who is a part of the Investigative Services Bureau, and Pastor and Councilman Aaron B. Banks.