Giving You the Gospel: ‘The Awakening’

If you grew up in 1990s Chicago, chances are you were part of an “elite” group of people that were privy to access the TV show The Awakening on Saturday nights. Twenty five years ago, this Black Christian drama was created by Minister Clifford E. Turner, Ph.D. from Liberty Temple Full Gospel Church.

The Awakening is a national treasure that was crucial to my Saturday night routine and in hindsight, it was the first “reality TV” show I ever recall seeing. What allowed this show to make such a powerful impact on viewers of all ages was its ability to address and provide solutions for real life challenges that teenagers faced daily. Abortions, rape, gang violence, bad parenting, homelessness; you name it, The Awakening covered it. It did not shame people for their life choices, but instead used real-life scenarios to drive home the importance of having faith during tough times.

While it was clear that this program did not have a Blockbuster budget for production, it wasn’t needed. The fact that the show created a platform for conversation regarding a plethora of topics that are often swept under the rug was enough to make a lasting impression. So much of an impact, that 25 years later, I still find myself thinking about the show, and still have a few questions:

1. Was there a script that was written for this show or was this all improv?
2. Has anyone ever heard the entire sermon from the TV show’s intro in which the lady screams “Take the CIITTTYYYYY?!”
3. Does anyone still remember the heartbreak of waiting up Saturday night for hours, only to discover that the show would not be airing that particular week?
4. Did Tiffany Curtis ever shade you when you saw her in the street and yelled “Hey Marquita Girl!”…. Or was it just me and the people I knew?
5. Which one of you lucky people actually had the privilege to go to the Rainbow Skating Rink and hang out with the cast?
6. Has anyone seen any other HolyWood Studios productions?
7. Does anyone know how I can go about getting the theme song on Apple Music?
8. Were these episodes loosely based on real life stories, or did Dr. Turner just have an incredible imagination?
9. Who remembers what actually happened on the last episode?
10. Which episode or character made the most impact?

Check out Season 1, Episode 1 of The Awakening below:

Dr. Turner and The Awakening received three Angel Awards for “Best Religious Series” and “Best Producer,” as well as a Midwest Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement for an Entertainment Program Series. According to its website, an estimated 100 million people have seen The Awakening in the U.S. and abroad. Viewing audiences spanned from New York to Los Angles and even Japan, and Israel.