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Tom Joyner Cruise: Where New School and Old School Coexist and Thrive

COZUMEL, Mexico — The Tom Joyner Fantastic Voyage can best be summarized musically in the force of nature that blew through the ship on the eastern tip of Mexico.

Fantasia nearly caused the ship to collapse in on itself when she channeled her inner Prince while performing “Kiss,” all while doing a back-and-forth, head-jerking dance move that Michael Jackson and his brothers made famous during the venerated “Motown 25” special a generation ago. And then she sang “Purple Rain.” People were not just cheering and screaming for Fantasia; many were positively frantic. Former Olympic track star Marion Jones was in tears. Another woman who stood near Fantasia was wracked with emotions and tears dampened her face. The noise inside Studio B was deafening.

The day before, Nicole Washington said she stood transfixed as old-school legend Doug E. Fresh commandeered the same stage during the “Men of Hip-Hop” night. “I will go to see him when he comes to Detroit if I have to see him by myself,” she said, amazement stenciled across her face.

This is the Tom Joyner cruise at its finest, where old school and new school meet at the intersection of cultural cohesiveness.

Sure, you might get a taste of new school-old school here and there, like  when Alicia Keys invited TLC and others onstage at the BET Awards a few years back. But nowhere else in American society does old school and new school music come together so powerfully, regularly and seamlessly as they do on this vast vacation vessel. Here in the Gulf of Mexico, old school and new school pass the mic to each other in a generational hand off of mutual respect and admiration. But this ain’t the first time this has happened, folks. Tom Joyner has been going hard in the paint from a music standpoint for a dozen years running.

My first year on the TJFV three years ago, a couple of thousand blacks rolled off the ship and spilled into the Coliseum in San Juan, Puerto Rico, to watch new-school artist John Legend perform ahead of old-school comic Cedric the Entertainer. Then we all piled back onto the ship to watch Frankie Beverly and Maze serenade the ladies.

And it’s happening again. On the deck of the ship, new-school star LisaRaye gyrates to the beats of turntable wizard Biz Markie. Media personalities Jeff Johnson and Jacque Reid are mixing it up on panel discussions. And, always in the audience, 20- and 30-somethings are sitting next to 50- and 60-year-olds like they are members of the same family.

Actually, in a way, they are. –terry shropshire