By Felicia Naoum
The Urban League of Greater Cleveland (ULGC) has a lot to celebrate as it approaches 100 years in business as a non-profit organization serving Cleveland. The Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park is hosting a benefit concert for the Urban League’s milestone anniversary with legendary funk, rhythm and R&B singer, Jeffrey Osborne. This celebration is all about giving back, a concept that Osborne, Urban League of Greater Cleveland and the Rocksino are all familiar with. This year’s theme for the Urban League is “Looking Back While Moving Ahead.” As we look back on the Urban League’s efforts, we see that the organization’s dedication and commitment to minorities in the Cleveland area is unstoppable and loyal – 100 years loyal that is. Since 1917, the league has worked continuously to allow for equal opportunities for African Americans and other minorities in the areas of housing, employment, and education needs.
President and CEO of GAP Communications, Alexandria Boone wants people to know “that the Urban League of Greater Cleveland is a valuable resource in our community and that we have a duty and responsibility to support their work for years to come.”
Boone signifies the free serves of the league as one of their greatest accomplishments. “They have provided critical free career, employment, and small business development programs and services to Cleveland residents for over 100 years,” she adds.
Osborne also highlights the impact the ULGC makes for our future – the children. “The most important thing we have to invest in is our youth. That’s why I like the Urban League. Because they reach out to the youth and I’m all for that.”
While Boone did point out that one of the reasons Osborne was selected to perform at the November 16 benefit is because “he’s an R&B Legend.” I have an inkling that him being chosen goes even deeper than his musical talents. Osborne, like the ULGC, not only cares about people but takes steps to show he cares. Osborne cultivated two charity organizations in his name for those in need, the Jeffrey Osborne Foundation and Jeffrey Osborne Celebrity Classic (jeffreyosbornecelebrityclassic.org).
“I also have a charity in my hometown that’s based around youth. I give money to six charities there. We’re working to put music back in the school systems and St. Mary’s Home for abused children. I’m all in favor for programs that help assist and nurture children. And people should be aware that there is help there and seek help in many ways,” he reassures.
Giving back financially can sometimes be stressful for people when money is tight and hard to come by. Osborne points out that giving back isn’t limited to monetary value. People can help in many ways. “It’s just about opening up your hearts. You may not have any money to help but you may know somebody, or you can enlighten us about programs we should support. If there is any way, shape, or form in your heart that you feel you can assist.” Osborne wants to remind readers, fans and benefit concert attendees that they can visit his website jeffreyosborne.com to leave feedback and even referrals.
To Osborne and ULGC, giving back is “Worth It All” – this is the title of Osborne’s upcoming new single, and also an accurate testament to the work he does. Osborne explains the title to me as a reflection of his musical career, and how “looking back” on his career was “worth it all.”
At the November 16 benefit concert, Osborne wants you to have an enjoyable time while still learning about ways to help your community. “I think the most important thing is for people to feel good. You want people to see and be aware of the programs that you are helping in the community, and overall, you want people to feel good, and music has that character of uplifting people. I’m there to put the final stamp on the entertainment and make sure people feel good.”
And for Jeffrey Osborne fans, his music also makes them “feel good.” Perhaps, because it has a lot to do with that one magical word, you know, love. During our interview, I reminded Osborne that he has always made many love songs. “For me, as a singer, I deliver a ballad more than I do an up-tempo song. Love is what we built this world on. Love will always lead the way and the world, and I always feel that way. People just seem to wrap themselves around great love songs,” he adds.
Osborne accounts for the changes in music throughout the decades but goes on to remind me of the one element that never strays – that good old love. “Music has changed so much since I started – a new rap and hip-hop element will never replace the love song. More people have memories with love songs than they do with an up-tempo because of how it brings people together…it fills the space in peoples’ hearts.
Organizations like the ULGC certainly know about filling spaces in peoples’ hearts, too, through helping Clevelanders for a solid 100 years. You may find more about their works at http://ulcleveland.org/.
Between the efforts of the ULGC, Osborne’s love for helping others, and sharing music that gives us lasting love and memories, it’s safe to say that this celebration will be one special night filled with nothing but sweet music and a reminder to know your community and help in even the smallest way.
And for Osborne’s fans, a few fun facts about the legendary musician…
Osborne, who comes from a large family in Providence, Rhode Island (he has 11 siblings!) says he got to where he is today by “patterning himself after the greats.” He loves all music, especially the instrument – I will explain. “I personally like to listen to the smoother side of music – something that just mellows me out.” Osborne adds that he prefers classics like Billie Holiday as opposed to modern singers.
Interestingly, Osborne refers to those classic singers as the fourth instrument. As we spoke about classic musicians, Osborne says, “they were the fourth instrument…base, drum, piano, and singer…they (the classic singers) became the fourth instrument.”
Osborne believes that singers “back in the day” were more authentic than they are today, more real. “Today, you don’t have to be a singer to be a star today.”
Osborne worked a hard grind to become the musician that he is. He grew up in the era of live nightclubs on street corners at a time when you had to sing live to get noticed, which is rather different than today. However, he thinks musicians on the rise should utilize the technological-savvy world that exists today. “I think today, young people should take advantage of the internet. There are so many stars born off of YouTube videos; there’s no reason why you can’t be seen or heard today.”
But there are many reasons why Jeffrey Osborne should be seen and heard again and again, and for one very good one, visit Hard Rock Rocksino Northfield Park, November 16 for the benefit concert celebrating 100 years of giving back for the Urban League of Greater Cleveland and all things “worth it.”