LHS teacher performing as part of pre-inaugural event

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By Jesef Williams

Charisse Witherspoon has the chance to witness Barack Obama’s historic swearing in Tuesday, but has chosen to come back to Lancaster in time for the start of classes that day.

Witherspoon, an English and drama teacher at Lancaster High School, is part of a six-member gospel group Promises that is performing during a movie screening today in Washington, D.C.

The screening is for the film “Gospel Hill” and is taking place during an inaugural event sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus, Witherspoon said. Promises appears in the movie and will sing as entertainment at the screening.

“It’s hard to even put into words how awesome this opportunity is and how all these things have come together,” said Witherspoon, a Lancaster native who‘s been singing with the York County-based group for five years. “We know nothing but God did it.”

Some of the group members are staying in Washington for Obama’s swearing in as president, but Witherspoon will be heading for Lancaster on Monday so she can be back for the beginning of the new semester, which is Tuesday.

Witherspoon said it was a tough decision, but she believes she’s doing what’s right.

“It is very important to set the right tone the first day,” she said. “I would be crazy not to want to be there (in Washington). It was a struggle to make the responsible choice.”

Lancaster High Assistant Principal Rosalyn Mood lauds Witherspoon for her dedication to her students.  

“You always appreciate folks who go above and beyond,” Mood said. “That’s who we are. All of us are here for the kids.”

The path to D.C.

Promises’ journey to this point started from a small ad in The Herald newspaper in Rock Hill in 2007.

One of the group members saw that the film “Gospel Hill” was being filmed in Chester and York counties and producers were looking for gospel groups to perform in certain scenes.

Promises auditioned and was cast to sing in a scene that features Danny Glover, one of the stars of the film.

Giancarlo Esposito, the director, apparently liked Promises’ performance so much that he asked the group to sing as entertainment during his movie screening at the Democratic National Convention in Denver.

Esposito is showing the movie at as many major events as possible prior to its release later this year, Witherspoon said.

But she said she didn’t expect to get a call for an inauguration event.

In light of the exposure, Witherspoon said the group has kept the same goal – to minister to people and sing to the glory of God.

“We didn’t go into this to blow up or get contracts,” she said. “Our expectations haven’t changed. We’re so grateful for the opportunity and humbled by it.”

As for the inauguration, Witherspoon said she hopes to be able to sneak a peak at the coverage Tuesday.

“I will be disappointed (about not being in Washington), but my spirit will still be there,” she said. “This is such a phenomenal time. I’m so excited.”  

Contact reporter Jesef Williams at jwilliams@thelancasternews.com or at (803) 283-1152