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Della Reese, ‘Touched by an Angel’ Star and R&B Singer, Dies at 86

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Della Reese, the vocal powerhouse who segued from pop and jazz singing stardom in the ‘50s and ‘60s to a long career as a popular TV actress on “Touched by an Angel” and other shows, died Sunday night at her home in California. She was 86.

“She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” actress Roma Downey, Reese’s co-star on “Touched by an Angel,” said in a statement announcing Reese’s death. “She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on ‘Touched by an Angel.’ I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts.”

Actress Della Reese arrives for the Screen Actors Guild Awards, Sunday, March 8, 1998, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

CBS, home of “Touched by an Angel,” also hailed Reese’s legacy as an entertainer who focused her career on uplifting her audience.

“For nine years, we were privileged to have Della as part of the CBS family when she delivered encouragement and optimism to millions of viewers as Tess on ‘Touched By An Angel,’ ” CBS said. “We will forever cherish her warm embraces and generosity of spirit. She will be greatly missed. Another angel has gotten her wings.”

Reared in gospel, Reese became a seductive, big-voiced secular music star with her No. 1 R&B and No. 2 pop hit “Don’t You Know” in 1959. The 45, her first single on RCA Records, was a ballad drawn from an aria from Puccini’s opera “La Boheme.”

She ranged through a series of releases that showed off her mastery of standards, jazz and contemporary pop through the early ‘70s, and over the course of her career she received four Grammy Award nominations.

By 1969 she had launched her TV show “Della” – the first talker hosted by an African-American woman – and had begun a move into an acting career that would take her to even greater national prominence.

Speaking of her TV and film work with the Associated Press’ Bob Thomas in 1997, she said, “I had good training for it. I was always a stylist, a lyricist. I became acquainted with the words in order to convince you I must believe in what I’m singing. That’s what acting is: believing. It was just like one thing flowing into another.”

After a number of guest appearances, Reese broke into TV full-time with a starring role in the hit 1975-78 Jack Albertson-Freddie Prinze comedy series “Chico and the Man.” Roles on “It Takes Two,” “Crazy Like a Fox,” “Charlie & Co.” and (opposite her good friend Redd Foxx) “The Royal Family.”

She also took starring roles in the features “Harlem Nights” and “A Thin Line Between Love and Hate” and appeared in 20 made-for-TV pictures.

Her greatest popularity came as co-star of the inspirational CBS show “Touched by an Angel.” Though the show was axed during its debut 1994-95 season, a letter-writing campaign convinced execs to bring the series back, and Reese prevailed as the heavenly samaritan Tess for a total of nine seasons, winning seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as best lead actress in a drama and collecting two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.

Though she continued to make TV guest appearances and took the occasional film role in the new millennium, she returned to her religious roots as the founding pastor of her own Los Angeles-based church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (or “Up”). In later years, she was frequently billed as Reverend Doctor Della Reese Lett.

She was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She began singing in church as a six-year-old; the glamorous black vocalist-actress Lena Horne was one of the film stars she admired as a girl. By her teens, she was working as a singer in gospel luminary Mahalia Jackson’s unit.

After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School (later attended by Diana Ross), she briefly attended Wayne State University, but soon moved into music professionally, taking Della Reese as her pro handle.

Her greatest popularity came as co-star of the inspirational CBS show “Touched by an Angel.” Though the show was axed during its debut 1994-95 season, a letter-writing campaign convinced execs to bring the series back, and Reese prevailed as the heavenly samaritan Tess for a total of nine seasons, winning seven consecutive NAACP Image Awards as best lead actress in a drama and collecting two Emmy nominations and a 1998 Golden Globe nod.

Though she continued to make TV guest appearances and took the occasional film role in the new millennium, she returned to her religious roots as the founding pastor of her own Los Angeles-based church, Understanding Principles for Better Living (or “Up”). In later years, she was frequently billed as Reverend Doctor Della Reese Lett.

She was born Delloreese Patricia Early on July 6, 1931, in Detroit. She began singing in church as a six-year-old; the glamorous black vocalist-actress Lena Horne was one of the film stars she admired as a girl. By her teens, she was working as a singer in gospel luminary Mahalia Jackson’s unit.

After graduating from Detroit’s Cass Technical High School (later attended by Diana Ross), she briefly attended Wayne State University, but soon moved into music professionally, taking Della Reese as her pro handle.

Like homegrown R&B superstar Jackie Wilson, Reese received prominent exposure during an engagement at Detroit’s Flame Show Bar; her style reflected the influence of such jazz precursors as Sarah Vaughan and Ella Fitzgerald.

Signed to Jubilee Records, the indie New York label that launched the doo-wop acts the Orioles and the Cadillacs, Reese scored her first chart success with the 1957 ballad “And That Reminds Me,” which reached No. 12 on the U.S. pop chart.

That song secured her a contract with RCA. She secured the biggest hit of her career out of the box with “Don’t You Know,” and followed it up in 1960 with the similarly styled “Not One Minute More” (No. 16 pop, No. 13 R&B). Her top-charting LP was “Della,” which climbed to No. 35 in ’60.

Though other major chart hits eluded her, Reese recorded prolifically – frequently in a jazz style, and frequently in a live club setting – for RCA and ABC through the ‘60s. She was a popular attraction on the Las Vegas Strip during this era.

Reese got her first acting break from casting director Reuben Cannon, who offered her a guest shot on the youth-oriented cop show “The Mod Squad” in 1968. Roles on such skeins as “Police Woman,” “The Rookies” and “McCloud” followed.

The first series to show off her tart style to full advantage was “Chico and the Man,” in which she portrayed star Albertson’s landlady. The hit NBC show reached an abrupt end with co-star Prinze’s suicide in January 1977.

She subsequently was a familiar player on such successful series as “Welcome Back, Kotter,” “The Love Boat,” “The A-Team” (on which she guested as star Mr. T’s mother), “Night Court,” “MacGyver,” “Designing Women” and “L.A. Law.”

However, it was “Touched by an Angel” that cemented her TV stardom. With co-star Roma Downey, Reese, portraying the acerbic, Cadillac-driving supervising angel Tess, ministered to the spiritual needs of her earthbound “search and rescue cases.” Reese also performed the show’s theme song, “Walk With You.”

After receiving its first-season cancellation reprieve, the unique family-oriented show maintained a devoted audience of fans for nearly a decade, and spawned the spinoff “Promised Land.” Following its final 2002-03 season, it enjoyed syndicated runs on Ion, Hallmark Channel, Up and Me-TV.

By the time “Touched by an Angel” moved into reruns, Reese, an ordained minister since the early ‘80s, was increasingly focused on her religious work, with TV and film appearances largely restricted to guest shots. She announced her retirement from performing in 2014.

Throughout her long career, Reese proved indomitable in the face of serious health crises. In 1979, she suffered a brain aneurysm during a taping of “The Tonight Show,” and weathered two brain surgeries. She collapsed on the set of “Touched by an Angel” in 2002, and later announced she suffered from type 2 diabetes.

Reese’s four marriages included a brief, annulled union with Mercer Ellington, son of jazz great Duke Ellington.

She leaves behind children James, Franklin, and Dominique, as well as husband Franklin Lett. She was predeceased by daughter Deloreese.

“On behalf of her husband, Franklin Lett, and all her friends and family, I share with you the news that our beloved Della Reese has passed away peacefully at her California home last evening surrounded by love. She was an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend, and pastor, as well as an award-winning actress and singer. Through her life and work she touched and inspired the lives of millions of people,” her costar Roma Downey confirmed to PEOPLE in an exclusive statement.

“She was a mother to me and I had the privilege of working with her side by side for so many years on Touched by an Angel. I know heaven has a brand new angel this day. Della Reese will be forever in our hearts. Rest in Peace, sweet angel. We love you.”

 

Source: CBS News and ABC News

By LeNora Millen            11-20-17

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Stay Spiritually Awake

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Being spiritually awake means we have taken time to forgive everyone, including ourselves. It means we’ve cleared out the clutter in our system, and now we’ve made room for God to comfortably reside. When chaos enters our system, we are making God uncomfortable and we need to clear it out as soon as possible. Sometimes chaos enters and it takes over our thoughts, and the next thing we know we are spiritually asleep again. Quick signs of this include weight gain, being moody, watching more TV and reading less, and engaging in gossip and negative behavior.

Staying spiritually awake takes work! Because we now take responsibility for our thoughts, we must work at deleting all negative thoughts in our head. It means eating and drinking the way God would have us eat and drink. Many foods block our spiritual third eye and make us sluggish. Eat healthy foods to stay rejuvenated and awake.

If we want to stay spiritually awake, we need to seek things that will keep us awake. One of the daily rituals that I do to stay awake is to go to the mountains for a run and pray each morning. Before I answer emails or have calls, I make sure to do this because I get the energy I need to be successful that day. Many of us may wake up on the “wrong side of the bed” one morning, but after a run and prayer, we are guaranteed to feel amazing! I only want to engage with others in a full and joyous state.

Another of my rituals is going to the ocean every Sunday with my mom to pray. I feel a tremendous connection with God there. I realize how we are all just a part of a much bigger picture.

Questions To Ask Yourself:

1)What do you do to stay spiritually awake?

2)Do you take time to pray and meditate each day?

3)Do you surround yourself with other people who are awake?

4)What are some things you can do to build your Spirituality muscle?

For more information on Elvira Guzman visit her websites www.elviraguzman.com and www.elviegpr.com. Add her on instagram @elviraguzmanla

To purchase her book “Purpose Awaken and Succeed” go to Amazon or BarnesandNoble.com

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Business

HBCU.vc trains students become venture capitalists

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There are very few black and Latinx investors, with only 2 percent of investment team members at VC firms identifying as black and just 1 percent identifying as Latinx, according to the National Venture Capital Association. This is where HBCU.vc comes in.

HBCU.vc, a pivot from HBCU to Startup, aims to diversify the white, male-dominated world of venture capital. HBCU.vc’s program works with students attending historically black colleges and universities to teach them the fundamentals of venture capital and entrepreneurship.

The goal of the remote-based program is educate underserved communities about VC and to build the next generation of venture capitalists and entrepreneur.

“We haven’t seen racial diversity in venture capital and realize how it has a huge impact on the overall tech ecosystem,” HBCU.vc founder Hadiyah Mujhid told TechCrunch. “What currently happens is investors invest within their network — people they know. Those people then turn around and hire people they know within their network. There are these systematic structures in place that, by design, have locked out people of color.”

Through the program, students are paired with a VC mentor, work as interns at a venture capital firm and act as investors in their local college communities. The year-long program teaches students how to identify investment opportunities, conduct market research and make real funding decisions. HBCU.vc mentors include Lo Toney of Google Ventures, Carolina Huaranca of Kapor Capital, Monique Woodard of 500 Startups, Richard Kerby of Venrock and others.

HBCU.vc’s first batch includes 11 students from three universities: Fisk, Florida A&M and Prairie View A&M. Students were not required to have any type of past experience in the startup and venture capital ecosystems. Instead, Mujhid said she “wanted to see a natural curiosity and passion around learning the industry.”

For this academic school year, the students have internships at firms like Cross Culture Ventures, Indie.VC, Kapor Capital and 500 Startups. Their internships entail doing a lot of the work an associate VC would do, Mujhid said. That means researching startups and trends, providing analysis and bringing more startups into the firm’s portfolio.

“We seem them as an extension of the funds they’re working with in their local communities,” Mujhid said. “We want to empower them as mini VCs to support entrepreneurs.”

Down the road, the plan is to get to 100 associates. Next year, HBCU.vc is aiming to be at 12 universities with 40 students and then the following year get to 20 universities with 100 students.

“The model is going to change and we’re currently investigating what it looks like for us to have our own independent venture fund and work directly through our venture fund as associates,” Mujhid said.

The program, which is totally free to students, is currently supported via a $100,000 grant from an organization that Mujhid was not able to disclose to me. HBCU.vc, a non-profit organization, also accepts donations through its website.

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Editor Picks

For Rent: in Milwaukee Cozy 2 Bedroom East Side Home

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Newly listed, a nice 2br, 1bath first floor apartment in the Riverwest Neighborhood of Milwaukee, across from Kilbourn Park to enjoy Milwaukee’s fine park system, and about 1/2 mile from HWY 94 for commuting, close to shops.

This nice apartment features two bedrooms, full eat in kitchen with separate pantry for storage with gas stove plus fridge supplied by the owner. The living and dining rooms feature hardwood floors with carpeted bedrooms. Also included is a washer/dryer hookup plus basement storage, on street parking, hot air heat & newer vinyl window.

Tenants pay We Energies gas bill for heat, hot water plus cooking and electric.
The owner pays for water, sewer and trash pickup. Tenant’s are responsible for snow removal of common walks.

The owner is pets friendly for small dogs under 35lbs.

BEDROOMS
2 Bed

BATHROOMS
1 Bath

FOR MORE DETAILS PLEASE VISIT  CLICK HERE

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