I, along with Tiffany Lindsey, had an opportunity to talk to Gospel recording artist Cheryl Fortune. With a new single (“Fighter”) that has been making waves on Billboard’s Gospel Airplay chart for three consecutive weeks, Fortune remains humbled by the experience.
Fortune hasn’t always been a solo artist. She is known as a member of Grammy-nominated and Stellar Award-winning recording group James Fortune & FIYA. She’s also had the privilege of singing background with Kirk Franklin, T.D. Jakes, Shirley Caesar and Zacardi Cortez.
During our interview with Fortune, we discussed her new album, domestic violence, proper love and why she’s not a victim of her past.
Here’s what she had to share with Southern Laced…
Q: In the past, you were a member of Grammy-nominated and Stellar Award-winning recording group James Fortune & FIYA. You have also collaborated with Kirk Franklin, T.D. Jakes, Shirley Caesar and Zacardi Cortez. How does it feel to be a solo artist?
CF: It feels good. At times I still get nervous because I have been in the background for a very long time. Even though I’m a solo artist, I still sing behind Kirk Franklin and I love it. I love doing it and I enjoy it.
To be in on this side of music is very new to me. It’s refreshing and rewarding. At the same time, it’s humbling. I’m grateful to be here.
I think every vision that I’ve backed up and everyone that I’ve supported has kind of brought me to this moment.
Q: You signed with Tyscot label. What inspired you to establish the LuDawn Music sublabel?
CF: I formed my own label and I have a distribution deal with Warner Brothers. It’s really great to work with them. My prayer was to work with or have someone on my team who also holds integrity. That’s what really did it for me.
I’m not big on names. I really wanted to work with someone who would understand my vision, would help me with my vision and do it from an integral standpoint. So I was very excited to be part of the team. Everything has been going really well.
The name of my sublabel is LuDawn Music. It’s actually myself and a friend of mine, Lucious Hoskins. We put this together. Lu comes from his name, Lucious, and Dawn comes from my middle name, Dawnyele. So I put the names together and we got LuDawn Music. I’ve been on the business, music and songwriting side. He’s been on the music side. So we just got together and formed this label.
Q: Tell us about your new hit single. Why did you entitle it “Fighters”?
CF: I love sharing the story because it’s so near to my heart. The inspiration behind it is just amazing and I’m thankful for it.
I was in a domestic violence situation. Many know because it was kind of public. Coming out of that and even during the process when I was going through that, I wanted to create something that would touch the hearts of women that have gone through what I’ve gone through, but also touch the heart of anybody because it’s a part of life. We all deal with obstacles, challenges, and so many different things that come our way. So I wanted to create something that would touch any heart, empower any person, uplift any person, and kind of give them the boost that they need.
The inspiration behind it came from my daughter, who is now thirteen years old. She had made a mother’s day card for me and the last part of it said, “Fighter. You never give up. You always fight for what’s right.” So it’s just amazing for my children to recognize that I was fighting for a better us and that I wasn’t going to quit or give up. I was fighting for a healthier us and a healthier environment for them. That’s where the inspiration for that song came from. I’m just so grateful that God blessed me with some wonderful children.
Q: What were your emotions after James’s sentencing, which included five years of probation, five days in jail and community service hours?
CF: The only thing I can really say is that I pray that he’s gotten the necessary healing that’s needed. There were a lot of emotions going on during that time. We were in and out of court. Even when all of this did go public, it was still very hard for me.
I was grateful for the assurance and confirmation that came through a doctor who kind of spoke into me. Even during that period, it was still hard to come out of that situation and overcome it. When you’ve been in a situation for so long, it’s hard to come out of it. Even after that, I was still trying to help. I’m never a person to bash because I felt that both parties needed healing. Also, for the simple fact that we have children to raise.
How do I feel about the sentencing? I really left that up to the court system. That really wasn’t my decision. I didn’t even press charges on him. That was pretty much up to the state. Literally, I really just wanted my kids. I wanted to walk away.
Yes, I did give a testimony. Even still in all of that, I tried to help. God had to tell me, “Take your hands off of it. It’s not yours.” That’s what I had to do. There were some very hard months after that. The manipulation was still a huge factor and that was something I had to fully come out of. I had to say, “Okay, God. This is really your battle.” I realized that I had to walk away from that situation.
All of the sentencing and whatever they gave him, I left that to the courts. That wasn’t my decision nor was it my place to give that decision. I had to leave that in God’s hands. My prayer was that he got the necessary help that was needed for the sake of our children. That was my biggest concern.
What I’m concerned about right now is me and my children and providing a peaceful home for them now. I want to make sure that I’m always creating a safe haven and place of peace for them at home.
Q: Did you feel victimized again after the verdict?
CF: I was a person that was harmed. Because of my faith, I’m not walking in a victim’s mind frame or state of mind. I’m walking in a victory place.
The Lord provided a place of escape for me. Not every woman that has gone through this has been provided a way of escape. We see on the news all the time that women die behind these situations. I’m grateful that I was able to walk away alive.
One of the first things that I did do was forgive. I did have to release some things because I knew I was in bondage for so long.
The Lord provided a way of escape for me. I didn’t want to live like that anymore. I did go to counseling and kept people around me who were holding me accountable along with wise counseling to help me move forward and progress.
I was a victim because it happened to me. Am I living in a victim state of mind? Absolutely not.
Q: So many women never have the courage to walk away. Where did you find the strength to leave? And why did you choose to walk away with nothing in your divorce?
CF: Sometimes God has to make it plain for us. When I got to the hospital, the doctor I had seen about a year in a half or two years before that last incident happened was the same doctor. I didn’t know the doctor remembered me or knew who I was.
She whispered in my ear, “Have you had enough?” Basically, that was it. It was like the Lord was confirming it even in that moment. Although it was very hard for me to come to grips with it, it was still like an angel. It was still a confirmation. I would say that was one assurance. The other one came from my daughter. She made a statement while I was at the hospital. So there was even confirmation in that.
I would say my faith is how I was able to walk away. I just really wanted to walk away with peace. I didn’t want anything. I had the assurance that God was going to provide everything I needed. He was going to make sure that my kids and I were taken care of. That is why I made the decision to walk away.
I’m not bitter. I’m not trying to take every penny. I really just had to walk away and let God do what He needed to do. That’s where I am in my life and faith.
Q: James recently spoke with Essence. How did you feel about him admitting that he abused you?
CF: Honestly, I didn’t read the article. I kind of heard that he did come out and speak about it. How did it make me feel? It didn’t make me feel any type of way.
Good for him. I hope that he’s reaching who he needs to reach. My prayer is that it came from a transparent and honest place. That’s between him and God.
Q: What advice would you give women who are currently in an abusive relationship?
CF: One thing I think we tend to do is ignore the signs and patterns. My ministry and contribution to it now is to help women who are maybe in these relationships that are starting to see these warning signs. If you see patterns, find somebody that can help you. Don’t be afraid to talk about it. I think that’s one thing that’s really huge for people who are in an abusive situation. For me, I was terrified. There were people that I did kind of mention it to, but they were people that already knew that it was going on. So it wasn’t that I was talking to somebody that could help me at the time.
Find somebody you can talk to that can help you; not enable the situation. Find somebody that can help both of you, if it’s something you want.
Start paying attention to these signs and patterns. Also, understand that this is not how you’re supposed to live and it’s definitely not the proper love to accept in your life. There’s something deeper going on and people need to get to the bottom of it. Especially, if there are children involved. You never want your children to grow up thinking that this behavior is okay, that they can bring this into their relationships, and that they can operate like this.
My prayer and hope is that if you see these patterns, you will stand up for yourself and get help. My prayer is that a light bulb comes on to where you’ll say, “No. This is not acceptable,” and you decide to make a change for the better.
I’ve always wanted to show out of my testimony what it looks like on the other side. You will be okay. We get afraid to walk away. We think about our finances. We think about our children. We think about what it’s going to do to our livelihood. There are so many factors involved, but I promise you that it is going to be okay. You’ve got to get the necessary help that’s needed.
Q: What’s next for you?
CF: My very first solo album came out on Friday, October 13th. I’m so excited about that. It’s available wherever music is sold. It’s on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, and music stores. I’ve been really promoting and pushing that because I want people to grab the message of hope, love, faith, and togetherness. This record is like a journey. I start off taking you on my favorite era of music, which is 80’s and 90’s music. So I’ve got a little Bobby Brown, Michael Jackson, Roger and Zapp feel to that part of the record. On the second half, you really get to hear my heart. I’m taking you on a journey of where I was in my life, but how I didn’t stay there. And really understanding the truth of it, God loves us. That’s the kind of love and grace we need to accept. I wanted it to represent where I am in my life; and that’s enjoying God’s love, peace, and joy.
This album takes you on a musical journey with some good vibes. I always say it’s a vibe and a message to it.
Hopefully, touring will come at the top of next year. I’m working on that now.
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October is recognized as Domestic Violence Awareness Month. If you or someone you know needs more information about domestic violence, visit The National Domestic Violence HOTLINE or call 1-800-799-7233.