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Local Gospel Musician Performs at DNC

Not everybody at the Democratic National Convention in Denver is making speeches. Six-time Grammy award nominee Richard Smallwood, a familiar presence in churches in Washington's Maryland suburbs, performed during the interfaith service Sunday.

Smallwood, a pianist who has recorded albums at Jericho City of Praise in Landover and Ebenezer AME in Fort Washington, will also perform Thursday at the Unity Breakfast, which is bringing together many of the icons of the Civil Rights movement to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington.

"Being a part of this historic convention has to be one of the greatest honors of my life," said Smallwood. "When I think of the significance of Senator Obama's campaign, I think of the people who died, who were lynched, who were shot, who were attacked by dogs, so this day could happen."

Martin Luther King III, his sister Bernice King, actress Alfre Woodard, actor Blair Underwood and Civil Rights activist Rev. Joe Lowery, the Rev. Al Sharpton and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) are scheduled to speak.

While Smallwood has usually steered clear of political drama, this week he decided to jump into the battle.

"The sagging economy brought on by the Bush administration has had an adverse effect on the gospel music industry," Smallwood said. "Families are struggling to pay mortgages, put food on their tables and to keep their heads above water."

Smallwood performed in June at the Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago during the retirement celebration for the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Obama's former pastor.

After that, Smallwood said, "The White House thought it best that I not participate in the Black Music Month Celebration and the invitation was withdrawn."

-- Hamil R. Harris

By Anne Bartlett  |  August 27, 2008; 1:13 PM ET
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