An assessment specialist at the Center for Social Policy and Community Development by day, a student working toward her English degree by night, and a traveling debut artist on the weekend — Michelle Bonilla has her hands full. In her role at Temple, she works with 16 local faith-based organizations and community/grassroots organizations that are funded under President George W. Bush’s Compassion Capital Fund.
“I love what I do because it allows these wonderful organizations to stay in the running and continue doing the good and much-needed work for their communities,” Bonilla said.
While trying to balance the demands of her job and school, Bonilla also recently launched her debut album, Phenomenal. She travels incessantly, accepting any invitation to perform, visiting churches and community organizations across the country, and speaking to young girls about self-esteem issues.
A Brooklyn native of Dominican and Puerto Rican descent, Bonilla was introduced to the Christian music ministry at her church, where at age 17, she was asked to open for a hip-hop concert that it was hosting. Her now-husband, Lee Jerkins, president and CEO of RockSoul Entertainment, happened to be in the audience and immediately recognized her ability.
Before she knew it, Bonilla was taken under the wing of independent record label RockSoul Entertainment working on high-visibility projects. In 2001, Bonilla was invited to perform for a concert in tribute of the victims of 9/11 at Carnegie Hall and Yankee Stadium along with many acclaimed artists.
“I’ll never forget the energy, incredible faith, and spirit of those performances,” Bonilla said. “It was a privilege to be chosen among such amazing artists to lift up the nation at that time.”
Then in 2005, Christian hip-hop group Cross Movement received Grammy and Dove nominations for “Lord You Are,” a song in which she had been featured.
Possibly the biggest opportunity that’s knocked on Bonilla’s door was an invitation to perform on the BET’s Bobby Jones’ Gospel show on Dec. 17, when Bonilla will be sharing the stage with Gospel legends Albertina Walker and Fred Haymond. And next year, she’s slated to make a Steve Baldwin VH1 reality TV appearance.
“It’s a privilege to be able to share my style of music and outlook with the community at large,” Bonilla said. “I’m looking forward to the opportunities at hand and sharing my music with the world.”
For more information on Michelle Bonilla and her music, check out her Web site at www.michellebonilla.com.
— Erin Cusack
For the Temple Times