Rev. Dierdre’ Parker- Rowson
Entertainment and The Arts Editor, The Star of Zion
Winston Salem, NC - On May 4, 2023, the inaugural season of Zion’s Finest singing competition came to an end with a fabulous finale that was taped live. It was mentioned in the previous article that Goler Memorial’s facility has all the bells and whistles that made it perfect for the taping of the long-anticipated crowning of Zion’s Finest. The three finalists, Rev. Brandon McLaughlin, Nicole McLaughlin, and Rev. Tonya Jackson took the stage with a rousing rendition of The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow as the opening number. The competition featured vocal performances that rivaled any contestants on American Idol, The Voice, The Masked Singer, or even Star Search (I had to blow the dust off that one). The show included a stellar performance by judge and recording artist Ashia Bello. The entire finale was a beautiful tribute to gospel music and specifically the finest voices in Zion. We were privy to behind-the-scenes discussions with the judges as well as a look back over the journey for each of the finalists.
As each of the finalists took the stage separately, the comments on the Facebook livestream began to paint a picture of how this would go. The viewers were invited to vote for their favorite singer. As the votes came in, with an overwhelming 82% of the vote, Rev. Tonya Elaine Jackson was crowned the winner of the inaugural season of Zions Finest. While some may have been unfamiliar with Rev. Jackson, many alumnae of Hood Theological Seminary were very familiar with her voice. She was asked often to lend her mellifluous anointing to the service to heighten the worship experience. And make no mistake, Tonya is a worshipper.
She was asked when she knew that her singing was more than just a talent. She said she began singing at the age of three with her grandmother but she can’t point to a specific time when she knew it was more than a talent. To Tonya, singing was a way to not only express what she was feeling but to identify what she was feeling. “I’ve always taken that very seriously”, she says. “It wasn’t always easy. And there were times when people were doing things (musically) that I could not do and it made me feel, self-conscious or that I wasn’t good enough. I don’t think it was until my twenties or even my thirties that I said to myself, ‘You know Tonya, you are who you are. You do what you can do. If other people do different things, that’s okay.’ Music has always been a part of me, ever since I can remember.”
Rev. Jackson ministers so authentically with her voice that it is no surprise that she was so well received. She was just scrolling through Facebook and learned of Zion’s Finest. “I’ll just put my name in. I don’t know if anything will come of this, but we’ll see. I had no idea that I would come this far. For me, it was a way of sharing or just ministering. When it comes to competition, I don’t really care for those, because the gifts that we have aren’t to see
‘Are you better than me?’, but to minister. I just prayed, Lord, if it’s only one person I hope this one person will be blessed.”
For her initial audition, she sang Alabaster Box. “We had to do it without music and that made me a little nervous. But this is a song that I’ve always loved to sing, because here’s this woman who people would’ve thought what are you doing here? You don’t belong here. It really made me think about myself, and the story of my life. People have said so many things like that. It's really not about the crowd. That’s what I love about this song. It ministers to me.”
Rev. Tonya Jackson ministers to us through her voice with the songs that minister to her. The truth of that is what we feel when she sings and that is why she is Zion’s Finest.
If you missed the finale or any of the episodes of the first season of Zion’s Finest, you can find them on all the Star of Zion’s streaming platforms.