*(Hollywood, CA) — If you could have dinner with anyone from our illustrious Black History past, who would it be? And what would you want to talk to them about?
That is the question more than 200 African-American entertainers, professional athletes and notables have answered including Gladys Knight, Ne-Yo, Tyrese, Bishop TD Jakes, Yolanda Adams, Sheryl Underwood, Taraji P. Henson, Israel Houghton, Colin Kaepernick, Lolo Jones, John Wall, Donnie McClurkin, Charlie Wilson, India Arie, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Cedric The Entertainer.
The survey question is the brainchild of Dr. Eric J. Chambers, a 4-time Emmy Award winning Hollywood red carpet reporter. He is turning the question and answers into a new coffee table Black History literacy picture book called “Dining With The Ancestors: When Heroes Come To Dinner.” A fundraising campaign is underway at www.DiningWithTheAncestors.com and heʼs calling on as many people as possible to contribute, including sponsors. Visit the site to see the video trailer with sample answers, and be inspired.
Chambers first asked the question in 2004 while interviewing his late friend, Yolanda King, the eldest child of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, his wife. Yolanda sang the praises of her own mother during the interview that aired on Chambersʼ Jazzspel TV show which ran nationally on The Word Network.
When the religious network unexpectedly canceled his wildly popular show in March 2012, Chambers struck a deal to go to another TV station, TCT (Total Christian Television).
“They called me the day after my birthday, December 11, 2012 and said theyʼd pick up my show. It was great news,” said the New Orleans native from his Southern California office. Once green lit, he began preparing a Black History episode for his February 2013 debut.
In 2000, Mrs. Mamie Till Mobley, the mother of civil rights icon Emmett Louis Till visited Chambers in San Diego and became a “surrogate grandmother” to him. In December 2012 while looking at pictures of himself at dinner with her and friends, the idea of the “dining with heroes” episode was born. He began asking the question again. This time on the red carpets of Hollywood. “What a great question! What a great concept for a book!” exclaimed pop star Brandy. Said rap star Kendrick Lamar, “Thatʼs a good one.”
During the interviewing process, Chambers learned one superstar entertainer is a cousin of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while another celebrityʼs dream dinner guest would be OJ Simpson. Find out the answers in the book.
About three weeks after the TCT agreement, they e-mailed him–reneging on the deal. But because the celebrities were so intrigued by the question, he continued asking it while reporting for his own newly formed CUT Network (Chambers Urban TV Network). It was then the idea of a book was born.
“This is such a unique way to teach Black History,” said Professor Alazar Tesfamariam, the Black Studies Department Chair at Chambersʼ alma mater, San Diego City College in San Diego, CA. “Iʼve never seen anything like it. This is going to be a one-of-a-kind, fun way to learn about Black History heroes, past and present,” said the man who Chambers credits as his first Black History mentor.
The book, an imprint of his Who Dat? Publishing House, LLC venture, is slated for release in December 2014 at a celebrity gala in Hollywood. He is offering fans a unique opportunity to win dinner with him and a celebrity or two. He plans a book tour visiting elementary and high schools, community colleges, HBCUs, state universities and Ivy League schools, bringing along a surprise celebrity hero to some events.
A portion of the proceeds will go to The Harvest Of My Dreams Foundationʼs H.A.M. Program (History, Art & Music Literacy) which will teach and inspire African- American youth and young adults, as well as offer scholarships for higher learning and artistic project completions.