Florida Courier founder Charles W. Cherry, Sr., and wife Julia are the subjects of an extended play CD by Atlanta-based rapper Jawz Of Life.
BY THE FLORIDA COURIER STAFF
ATLANTA – The incentive to finish came in a dream.
“I was laying in bed the day before Dr. (Martin Luther) King’s birthday this year. I saw Uncle Charles’s face. I took that as, ‘You gotta finish this project.’
“I went to my prayer room, started listening to instrumentals, and started writing. It took me about a month to complete…it came so naturally. I already knew where I wanted to go.”
The Atlanta based hip-hop artist known professionally as Jawz of Life was talking about completing an entire musical album about the life of Florida Courier founder Charles W. Cherry, Sr., and his wife Julia.
The two are Jawz’s aunt and uncle.
Atlanta music scene
Born and raised in Decatur (a suburb of Atlanta), Jawz of Life attended Alcorn State University on a baseball scholarship. After returning home, he got a job and played local semipro baseball a couple of years.
“I was in a friend’s basement on a Friday night. We’d shoot pool and play music. I started freestyling off an instrumental that came on. One of my friends looked at me and said, ‘Man, you need to take this serious.’ I was like, ‘Word? Really?’
“So I went home and made a cassette demo tape and gave it to a friend of mine who was starting his own independent label. I stayed with him about a year before he realized there was only so much he could do for my career, so he moved me over to Blue Maze Entertainment.”
His first album was called ‘First Breath,’ released in 2001. It was a hit, with music critic Alex Remington calling it “a modern classic.”
“It’s hard to miss just how unusual (Jawz of Life) is, and how few rappers there are like him in the mainstream,” Remington wrote in 2009. “Jawz’s faith is apparent in the absence of the macho bull and gangsta pretension of other mainstream rap.…It’s a hint of what rap could be. It’s something that rap could use a lot more of.”
Jawz is a second-generation member of Atlanta’s Dungeon Family music organization, which includes Cee Lo Green, Outkast, Goodie Mob and others. He has collaborated with hip-hop pioneers like No Malice (Clipse), Sadat X (Brand Nubian), DMC (Run-DMC), T-Mo and Khujo Goodie (Goodie Mob), Witchdoctor (The Dungeon Family), Diamond D (DITC), DJ Hurricane (Beastie Boys) and many others.
His newest album is “Hungry Kids Can’t Eat Moon Rocks.” The nostalgic, documentary-style project is based on his experience during childhood and young adulthood visiting the Cherry’s home in Daytona Beach.
Activist and entrepreneur
Cherry, Sr. was a decorated Korean Conflict veteran, a Bethune-Cookman College educator, a real estate broker, and a newspaper and radio station owner who served four full terms as a Daytona Beach city commissioner.
As one of the state’s few African-American bail bondsman, he worked to get civil rights protestors – including fellow Morehouse College graduate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. – released from Florida jails in the 1960s.
He also served several terms as president of the Volusia County-Daytona Beach Branch of the NAACP, as president of the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches, and as a member of the NAACP’s national board.
He launched Daytona Beach’s Westside Rapper newspaper in 1969, which was succeeded by the Daytona Times in 1978. In 1989, he established the Florida Courier in Fort Pierce. That same year, the Cherry family purchased WPUL-AM 1590, a Daytona Beach-area radio station.
By 2001, the family’s media business expanded to become Tama Broadcasting, Inc., then Florida’s largest privately-owned African-American media group, which owned or operated 11 radio stations across three states.
Cherry, Sr. died in 2004. In 2006, the family, led by Julia, his wife of 52 years, relaunched the Florida Courier as a statewide newspaper.
‘King and queen’
“I’ve always considered Uncle Charles and Aunt Julia to be the king and queen of our family,” Jawz told the Florida Courier. “There is so much that can be said about the examples that they have set for their children and the rest of the family.
“When he died, I remember seeing that picture with the sign, ‘Hungry Kids Can’t Eat Moon Rocks.’ It stuck with me, even though I didn’t know what it meant. I just knew I wanted to honor him in a special way.”
The result? An album with eight songs, all related to the Cherry elders.
‘Back and forth’
The album’s lead single, “Westside Rapper,” is named after Cherry, Sr.’s first newspaper. The video was directed by award-winning filmmaker William Feagins, Jr.
“I travel back and forth from Atlanta to Los Angeles,” said Jawz. “People were wondering whether I was a ‘westside rapper’ from LA or from the South.”
The title track, “Hungry Kids Can’t Eat Moon Rocks,” features Jawz’s 13-year-old son Christopher Lion.
“It explains what Uncle Charles was talking about in a more contemporary way,” Jawz explained. “The government is spending billions of dollars pulled away from social programs. What are today’s ‘moon rocks’? And it’s ironic that the album dropped on Aug.10, the same day Donald Trump spoke about setting up a military Space Force.”
‘“Daytona Times’ gives a quick bio and an explanation of the newspaper. “Me Too, Yeah” is a fun track to show some diversity and relate to the youth. It shows that what’s going on today in hip-hop, I can do it, too.”
One track entitled “623 Orange Avenue” is about the home that Cherry, Sr., built as a bomb shelter to protect the family from racist violence. It was built three years after NAACP state president Harry and Harriet Moore were killed by a bomb blast in Mims, just 40 miles south of Daytona Beach.
“Walking through the house was like walking through a museum of the things he had done. As a kid, I knew he had a lot of trophies and I figured they all meant something.
“It was a big house on the corner. It was the only house like that. You can’t show me another like it, and it happened to be where my family lived. I had to do one for the house.”
Jawz says the track named “Aunt Julia” is self-explanatory.
“She’s the queen, the matriarch…Uncle Charles’ wife and one of the biggest and sweetest spirits I’ll ever know. Still beautiful and active at 90 years old. When I heard the beat – it’s an old-time, Baptist church beat – that’s Aunt Julia right there.
“‘Someday’ is Uncle Charles’s song. Someday we’ll be together and we’ll discuss who he was. It’s a hope song.
“I close it out with ‘Dreams To Reality.’ Uncle Charles had to have a vision before the newspapers and the radio stations. He had to see those things, and he brought them to reality. That’s what I’m trying to do.”