Source: USA TODAY
DETROIT — People probably would think Tasha Page-Lockhart’s thankfulness centers on winning the national gospel music competition “Sunday’s Best” earlier this year. And for that she is grateful.
The win launched the Detroit-born singer into national fame. She recently signed onto Kirk Franklin’s label and is on a tour of concerts, stage plays and even a film that will air on BET in March.
But when Page-Lockhart talks about what she’s most thankful for, she talks about life. About family. A three-bedroom house. And shoes — lots and lots and lots of shoes.
Page-Lockhart says she doesn’t take any of it for granted.
She still remembers being homeless. She remembers snorting cocaine and doing just about anything to get the next hit.
She remembers when she thought her life was not worth living, and how she contemplated ending it.
“I was on a downward spiral,” she says. “I was depressed. I was acting the total opposite of how I had been raised. I knew I had to stop. I didn’t want to be the way I was. And I knew if I didn’t stop I was going to die.”
Page-Lockhart believes God rescued her. So she sings not to entertain, but to thank God for saving her life and to encourage others, especially women, with her story.
It’s a story she tells often in giving personal testimony about the power of prayer and faith.
Page-Lockhart’s longtime boyfriend had given up on her. Or so she thought. He was tired of watching her self-destruct. So Clifton Lockhart left Detroit for Atlanta in the early summer of 2006, effectively ending a romance that began when at age 11 he vowed to marry her one day. She was 8.
“Cliff was my rock,” says Page-Lockhart, 30. “I knew I could call him any time. If I was hungry. If I was stranded somewhere. Whatever it was, I could call him and he’d be there for me.” They even remained friends after she had a son with someone else.
But Clifton Lockhart left for Atlanta that summer.
Shortly afterward, her mother, Lisa Page Brooks, a noted gospel singer, was performing in Atlanta. Lockhart went to see her. He asked how Tasha was doing. Her mother called Tasha on her cell and gave the phone to Lockhart.
“He asked me to come to Atlanta to visit him for his birthday,” Tasha recalls. “I didn’t want to go because I didn’t want him to see me looking the way I was looking. But friends begged me to go, to go to Atlanta and start my life over again. I was supposed to go for two weeks. I ended up staying for two years.”
In Atlanta, she stopped using drugs, became active in the church where he was the organist and reconnected with her faith.
The couple married in July 2006.
“I think everybody needs one person who’s there for them, no matter the adversity,” says Lockhart, 33. “God made it so I was that man. I knew at 11 I was going to marry her.”
He also always knew, he says, that there was greatness in her.
They grew up together — traveling the circuit of church services and gospel music programs — where her mom sang and his dad played piano and organ. In time, each would take their turn at the microphone and instrument, often joining together to support each other’s craft.
Their childhood affection for each other grew into the real thing.
“She’s loving; she’s caring. She’s fun and she’s funny,” he says. “She’s all those things that make a woman great.”
Page-Lockhart didn’t go through any rehabilitation program. She believes prayer, reconnecting with Clifton, and a fresh start in a new place washed her clean of her desire for drugs that she had begun using in high school.
All sorts of reasons led her there. Rebeling against what she then viewed as a constrictive church upbringing. Attempting to suppress childhood sexual molestation. Falling in with a crowd that made her think what she was doing was cool. In her heart, she knew it wasn’t, but she felt powerless to stop until she packed her bags and moved away.
“I know it was the power of God,” she says of ending her drug addiction. “He literally changed my mind so I didn’t want it anymore. I wanted so badly to be different. And I knew if I continued doing what I was doing I would die.”
The couple moved back to Detroit in 2008 after she became pregnant with her second child. They wanted to raise him around family, and she knew she was strong enough to resist the temptation of old friends and old habits.
Both re-established their musical careers here. She’s musical director at the Rose of Sharon Church in Highland Park. He’s her musical director, and chief musician at Judah Tabernacle in Melvindale.
People who heard her sing would tell her she should audition for the popular gospel music competition, “Sunday’s Best,” which airs on Black Entertainment Television.
“I never felt I was good enough,” she says. “I knew I could sing. I had been singing since I was a child. But I didn’t think I could sing well enough to be in a national competition.”
But a friend knew differently. Kenneth Daniels, a Detroit-based clothing designer of KWD Styles, attended a concert her husband had organized in celebration of her birthday. Daniels called her the next morning.
“I said, ‘Tasha, I’m going to send you to “Sunday’s Best” (auditions).’ I just felt it was time for the world to see and hear this girl.”
She couldn’t attend the closest audition, in Chicago, because she had a singing engagement. So Daniels bought her a ticket to Houston.
Before gospel superstar judges Donnie McClurkin, CeCe Winans and Yolanda Adams, she sang her way to stardom, winning cash, a Ford Fusion, and a recording contract on the For Yo Soul, label of Kirk Franklin, the host of “Sunday’s Best” and the top-selling gospel artist in the country.
Since winning the contest, Page-Lockhart has been overwhelmed with bookings all over the country. Her husband recently quit a factory job he’d taken to become her full-time musical director.
He recalls the September night when it was announced she won.
He’d taken the family out to eat afterward and had $10 left to put gas in the car.
“I remember thinking, ‘This is probably the last time I going to have to choose between buying food or gas,’” Lockhart says.
Page-Lockhart says winning has its ups and downs. “I’m out of town every single weekend and sometimes through the week,” she says.
“It’s challenging because I miss being with my sons,” she says of Ronald Hughes, 12, and Clifton Lockhart II, 4.
But the upside? “I can buy more shoes,” she says with a laugh. “I love shoes.”