Former radio show host and entrepreneur Tom Joyner used fun at his unique Sky Shows and the Fantastic Voyage cruises to make money for students at the nation’s HBCUs. (Photos courtesy of Black America Web)

By Rev. Dorothy Boulware
AFRO Managing Editor

The excitement was high in whatever city that was bracing itself for the arrival of Tom Joyner, Sybil Wilkes, J. Anthony Brown and the rest of his team, for the monthly Friday morning spectacular – the Sky Show.

Who knows where the name originated but the fun was palpable, the crowds were overflowing and the school of the month received funds for students who needed the extra help to stay in school. Many of them were older with families of their own. But for that day, they became the center of the HBCU universe because Tom Joyner was on campus, and Tom Joyner called them out by name.

The famous radio host, dubbed the hardest working man in town, became aware of the struggle and formed the Tom Joyner Foundation in 1998, and donated every dollar raised to one of the nation’s HBCUs and continues to do so to this day. Money came from corporate sponsors like Allstate and Denny’s, like 

Joyner said it all started in 1996. “We started out doing voter registration, and we wanted to party with a purpose. We thought, ‘OK, we’ll take this show on the road,’ and we chose some cities where there were some tight elections going on, where we thought that if we had a good voter registration drive, we could make a difference in that local election,” Joyner told the N.C. News & Record in a 1999 interview.  

“The mission was to register people to vote and now it’s grown to what you see today. We’re still registering people to vote. But instead of sitting at a desk with a bunch of microphones, we’ve gone to a full-blown production with an old school band and dance contests and giving away money and raising money for historically black colleges and universities. It’s evolved into this.”

And then the annual cruise was added, the Fantastic Voyage for 20 plus years now. It has easily become the largest donor to the foundation. Entertainers and headliners donate their time so nothing is taken away from enhancing Black scholarship.

Although he retired from the morning show in December 2019, he continues to raise funds for African-American students at HBCUs. It’s his mission.

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