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Maurice White Honored

Funk pioneer receives award from Valley College's Black Student Union.

Published: Sunday, May 22, 2005

Updated: Sunday, June 7, 2009 09:06

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Dan Villasenor / Valley Star HONORING WHITE - Valley College President Tyree Wieder presents music legend Maurice White with the First Annual Cultural Achievement Award of Excellence.

"Shining Star" Maurice White, founder of 1970s funk giants Earth, Wind and Fire, came into view at Monarch Hall on Monday where he was celebrated as the first recipient of the Cultural Achievement Award of Excellence. "I want to thank you for your support throughout these years," said the lead vocalist. "The group and I have been around for 30 years and I can't believe that we're still ticking."

Apart from encouraging the audience to "stay in tune with your heart," White described the inspirations for some of his most famous songs. "Fantasy," for instance, took three months to write and was finally finished after he saw the film, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind." Of the party anthem, "September," White cryptically noted that he wrote it while in a Washington, D.C. hotel room high above a riot.

The event, organized by the Black Student Union, drew a crowd of about 100 jubilant audience members who clapped and sang as the band's music played in the background. BSU Advisor Dan Mitchell said it was important to honor such a significant African American figure.

"White is Earth Wind and Fire," said Mitchell. "We are honoring him because his music has transcended so many cultures and reached so many people. He has such a positive impact on everyone."

White's achievements in the music industry include six Grammys, four American Music Awards and 50 gold and platinum albums. His band's hits include "Fantasy," "Can't Hide Love," "September" and "That's the Way of the World," among many others.

Valley College President Tyree Wieder was enthusiastic when speaking of the music legend, proclaiming May 16 "Maurice White Day."

"I spent many hours listening and dancing to Earth, Wind and Fire," said Wieder. "His mission is definitely well accomplished."

There were several speakers at the event, all of who highlighted the impact White's music had on their lives. Tommy Burns of Valley's football team shared a touching story of how he heard "That's the Way of the World" on the day his mother died. After that, every time he heard the song radio, it made him sad - but as he grew up, it became warmly nostalgic for him, reminding him of his mother and how he was when he was younger.

"I went from gang-banging to become a better person," said Burns. "I wish my mom was here to see my accomplishments."

White gave the audience "Reasons" to be excited with his presence.

"I am here to witness the award and to be a part of it," said custodian Leon Hardin. "I am a big fan of Earth, Wind and Fire and I wanted to be here to see the man in person and shake his hand."

Since this first event was so successful, the BSU plans on honoring Stevie Wonder with a Cultural Achievement Award of Excellence next spring.

"I thought this event was a tremendous success," said Mitchell. "This was a wonderful way to begin the Cultural Achievement Awards. Maurice White was most deserving."

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