It was a rather cold January Los Angeles day in 1996 when I met the one and only Iris Stevenson. The late Jocelyne Jocya (JJ) had persuaded me to hop into her diesel MB in Hollywood and head over the other side of the tracks, so to speak. We were heading for Crenshaw and Crenshaw High School. I was a bit uneasy as I had read many an article about that part of town. Gangs and hoods and drug dealers, drive-by, walk by shootings and all that had me pretty much shaking in my boots. As we neared the school lot, I saw gangs of troublesome kids around the street corners. Garbage and graffiti wherever the eyes wandered. I was breathing heavy and really uncomfortable. JJ knew this and said that we were in for a big surprise. This calmed me a bit.
We arrived at the school and JJ led me into a side gate and down an outdoor alley path. We got to a door that, once opened, changed my life forever. As I stood waiting for someone inside to answer her knocking with her fists, I took a deep breathe. All at once the door opened and there stood this lovely lady. She had eyes that said "welcome home." JJ introduced me to this sweet vision and she grabbed me and gave me a bear-hug squeeze. The lady was Dr. Iris Stevenson. I was ushered into a large room with 50 high school students. The good doctor sat me in a front row seat as she called them each to the make-shift stage. "Silence," she said. At this moment, she raised her arms and the heavens opened up with the most beautiful music I had ever heard. I was sitting their with goose pimples and tears running down my face. The sound of angels filled ever square inch of space. JJ looked over at me and just smiled. She stood and joined them singing Joyful Joyful. My heart was touched and remained held for a lifetime.
It seems that good old Dr. Iris Stevenson had built that choir against all odds, troubles, roadblocks, resistances that one could imagine and then double that again. That choir, The Crenshaw Elite Choir, under the direction of God himself and Dr. Iris went on to perform all over the world in front of queens and kings, presidents and leaders on every continent on earth. They would also go on to perform for me and The Friends of the Wall of Sheba Memorial Center and Ms. Leah Rabin a few weeks later.
The inspiration for Sister Act 2 starring Whoopi Goldberg was the one and only Iris Stevenson. Amazing indeed! Friends, Dr. Iris Stevenson changed me and changed those children and has changed the world just by being who she was meant to be. I salute her!
Follow Rob Cipriano on Twitter: www.twitter.com/allhumanitygrp