Saturday’s Juneteenth and Family Fun Day at Brazos Park East, hosted by Sophia Strother’s Empowerment Driven Knowledge Coalition with seven corporate sponsors, offers some seven hours of live music, with the duo K-Ci and JoJo topping off the evening.
That’s the big musical draw, although the lineup originally had Hi-Five, the born-in-Waco rhythm-and-blues vocal group that with Tony Thompson as lead singer scored a No. 1 hit with 1991’s “I Like The Way (The Kissing Game).”
The current Hi-Five, with original members Marcus Sanders, Treston Irby and early replacement Shannon Gill, was set to perform at Juneteenth as a lead-up to a song release and pay tribute to Thompson, who died in Waco in 2007.
Waco urban radio station 104.9, The Beat, (http://centraltexasbeat.com/) promoted the band’s appearance and the Thompson celebration, only to have a scheduling conflict force Hi-Five to cancel its Waco gig.
Edward Graham, general manager for The Beat, landed H-town, a Houston R&B group also popular in the ‘90s, as a replacement. The loss of Hi-Five also meant cancellation of the Thompson tribute, as group members were going to sing the songs Thompson had been known for, Graham said.
That has angered Thompson’s sister Tanya Kennedy-McDonald and other members of Thompson’s family in Waco, who see the cancellation as a second slap in the face. The first came, she told me, when the radio station and/or Hi-Five members did not contact Thompsons’ family about the proposed tribute and ask permission, even though Thompson’s name was used to promote the event.
Told that Hi-Five had cancelled, Kennedy-McDonald assumed the celebration of Thompson’s life would go on, Family members and friends made plans to come from New Mexico, Missouri, Oklahoma and across the state while Waco family members had special T-shirts made for the occasion, she said.
She was shocked and furious when she found out there would be no celebration of Thompson’s life. She asked that the Tribune-Herald spread the word to Thompson fans unaware of the programming change (done) and accused the station of selling tickets off her brother’s name.
Graham told me that Hi-Five was supposed to sing while a video montage on Thompson played and that it wouldn’t work as well without the group singing. “We didn’t want to discredit the work (Thompson) did with Hi-Five,” he said. The station informed listeners of the programming change, but “didn’t make a big deal” of it because the Hi-Five/Thompson tribute wasn’t the main thrust of the Juneteenth celebration, he added.
“At the end of the day, it’s a family fun day and a celebration of freedom,” he said.