Grammy award-winning artist Stevie Wonder received the 2013 Distinguished Individual Award from the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) at the historic Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. Tuesday night.
Congressman John Conyers presented the award to the legendary musician after Wonder’s longtime friend Dionne Warwick paid a tribute to him in voice and song.
“It is indeed an incredible, sensational pleasure for me to have been asked to do this,” said Dionne Warwick. “That is to say a few words about a young man that I have known since he was 13 years old.
“Steveland is not only special in what he does professionally, but he is special from his heart; the way that he loves, the way that he cares, the way that he gives, and most importantly the way that he shares. What you are doing for him this evening is long overdue.”
During the two-hour celebration, several other artists also paid tribute Stevie Wonder. Hip-hop artist Doug E Fresh, who performed a medley of songs going back to the 1980s, recalled the year 1985 when Stevie Wonder called him to perform his hit song “The Show” for his daughter.
R&B singer Maysa recalled her first audition with Stevie Wonder. “23 years ago, when I was a student at Morgan State University, I auditioned for Stevie Wonder.” She first sang with Wonder on the “Jungle Fever” movie soundtrack.
Acclaimed jazz harmonist Frédéric Yonnet performed a rousing, high-energy jazz version of Wonder’s hit “Boogie on Reggae Woman.
Stevie Wonder accepted his award with grace and humility.
“As much as I am so appreciative of receiving this honor,” Wonder told the audience, “every time that I receive an honor I am challenged to go on my knees and ask God what more does he want me to do because this is only one small bit. Today is no exception to that.”
In speaking to the youth, Stevie Wonder used an analogy about technology to make a point about the preciousness of life. “The thing about the [computer] hard drive is that you know how much time you have left on that hard drive, but in life you don’t know how much time,” he said.
“So it’s very important that we take advantage of every moment that we have and that we come together to make a difference, because we can … and I thank you for allowing me to travel into your lives and to share with you the blessings of songs that I have been given.”
In addition to Stevie Wonder, Time Warner received the Distinguished Corporation Award and former congressional representative Carrie P. Meek of Florida received the CBCF’s 2013 Elder Statesperson Award.
Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC), who has known Carrie Meek for more than 40 years, said he would not have been able to lay the foundation for becoming a part of the leadership of the United States Congress were it not for the advice and counsel Meek often offered.
Shaunise Washington, President and chief executive officer of the CBCF said, “our awardees are being honored because they embody the spirit and mission of Avoice. Each has worked to preserve the legislative accomplishments of African-Americans, and are committed to cultivating minority civic engagement and public discourse on African-American history.