Greeleyville teenager Joshua Rogers (center), along with a C.E. Murray gymnasium full of friends and family react to his being named the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Sunday Best Season 5 winner. Rogers sang his way into stardom after beating out other competitors in the gospel singing competition series. Photo by Michaele Duke.
Joshua Rogers, a recent graduate of C.E. Murray High School, sat on the edge of his seat in the school's gymnasium - chin buried in clinched hands - staring up at the massive screen before him. His mother Sharon and grandmother Rosa, along with a near capacity crowd, also stared at the screen. Everyone was waiting to hear the name of the winner of the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Sunday Best, a gospel singing competition series. When the moment came, silence swept the gymnasium. Then, Sunday Best host Kirk Franklin announced the Season 5 winner. Only Josh's first name was heard.
The noise that erupted from the overjoyed crowd was so loud it was deafening. In fact, the outburst drowned out the remainder of the Season 5 finale being broadcast live on the monstrous screen - And no one could have cared less.
With the announcement, the teen sprung to his feet, raising his hands to the heavens and bounced around as if he was on a Pogo stick. He wasn't alone. Everyone in the building danced for joy and encircled their newborn celebrity. "We praise God for his talent," said Greeleyville resident Melissa Rogan. "And more importantly, we praise God for his heart to serve the Lord!"
Joshua's presence during the live streaming event was an act of technology. He and fellow contestant Alexis Spight were previously taped accepting the title; however, the final call was not revealed to the 3.5 million viewers until Sunday night, after a week's worth of nationwide voting was tallied.
Joshua made history that night. He is the first male and the youngest contestant to beat out 19 singers from across the country for a national recording contract with Music World Gospel, a big chunk of cash and a 2013 Ford Escape. He is also the youngest male to achieve at this level in the gospel music industry.
Season 5 premiered on July 8, after thousands of potential contestants were whittled down to 20 of the nation's top undiscovered singers. Rogers' stage delivery of songs as "Peace Be Still," "God Has Not Forgot" and most notably his final performance of "Up Where We Belong" melted the judges’ and voters' hearts. "You have an anointing on you that enables you to do everything excellently," said three-time Grammy winner and judge Donnie McClurkin during the competition. "Every song that you sing is going to have that same power."
Josh's age (he recently turned 18) was a favorite target for host Franklin who gave him the nickname "Young Buck." The designation stuck with him for the remainder of the competition. "Man, I get so excited when I see "Young Buck" - I'm sorry, I mean Joshua," laughed gospel superstar and judge Yolanda Adams during an episode. "Joshua, you just bring this happiness and this joy to gospel music. We have said all along this journey that we need you in gospel music right now. We try to make gospel cool but you officially make gospel cool."
After things calmed down a bit, Rogers' manager surprised him with a phone call from a friend. While everyone listened by way of speakerphone, Sunday Best Season 3 winner Le’Andria Johnson congratulated him on his success. Later, Rogers lifted the spirit through his singing that included harmonizing with cousins and friends before heading off to celebrate with family.
Rogers' gift of song is a gift from God to which he testifies with fervor. "When He promises you something it will come to pass," said Rogers. "And if you have a dream and you follow after the Word of God and you seek God for it then there's no possible way you can fail." Rogers said looking back over his journey he knows God is the reason for everything that has happened. "Truth be told, if you look at some things, I don't deserve to be here, but...because God said so," said Rogers. "God has blessed me and I thank God for it and I promise it’s not going to be in vain." Greeleyville's shining star took a deep breath then tossed a leather-clad arm over his mother's shoulders. The two looked at each other and smiled. "Amen," she said. "Amen."
Joshua's journey can be viewed by visiting www.bet.com/shows/sunday-best.html.