GRAMBLING, La. - A 1993 Beloit Memorial High School graduate is using the skills gleaned in his formative years in Beloit to create a weekly syndicated gospel radio show, "The Weekend Praise Party."
The show, broadcast on seven stations around the country, is hosted by Santoria Black with help from his wife and director of operations, Shatanjela (Dean) Black, and features contemporary and traditional gospel music.
Santoria and Shatanjela graduated in 1993. Santoria is the son of Pamela Grady of Beloit and Frank Black of Rockton. Shatanjela's mom is Nadine Hobson of Rockford and her grandparents are Corine and the late Wash Hobson Sr. of Beloit.
"We give a good platform to independent artists and go back to some traditional music that hasn't been played in a long time. During segments of our show we delve into the culture of black Gospel," Santoria said.
The show also features interviews with Gospel celebrities and the "Sunday School Review" where pastors offer a piece of encouragement and Gospel news.
The show features Gospel billboard hits such as "Settle Here" by William Murphy, "You Know My Name" by Tasha Cobbs Leonard and "Make Room" by Jonathon McReynolds.
People can listen to the show by going to Weekend Praise Party Facebook and Instagram pages @weekendpraiseparty.
Santoria grew up in the Emmanuel Baptist Church as well as Fountain of Life.
He got his start in radio during the pre-collegiate program in middle school. It was run at Beloit College by Brenda Atlas and included opportunities for theater and TV performance practice.
By high school Santoria was giving the announcements on a segment he called WMEO, with MEO standing for Minority Excellence Organization.
Santoria then began announcing for former athletic director Steve Ferger as a sophomore at Purple Knights basketball games. He also studied under the late Hugo Henry, a boys basketball announcer, and Mark Anderson, former teacher, girls basketball announcer and football coach. He also fondly remembered his basketball coach Gene Van Galder and Candace Link, English teacher and MEO Club adviser.
Santoria announced for his first high school varsity game in 1991. Going into his junior year, he was given his first job at WBEL by Rick West, sports director for the radio station at the time.
He went on to attend Grambling State University earning a mass communications degree with a concentration in broadcasting, followed by a masters degree in sports administration. He's had a 25-year career as a sports announcer at the University and worked as an instructor of audio production classes, sports writing and introduction to sports journalism classes.
Although he had a couple stints in Gospel radio over the years, he was too busy with his sports radio career.
Finally, he said he felt God was calling him to launch a new show in Gospel.
"For three days I couldn't sleep because God wanted me to do that. That third night, I finally said 'God, if you let me sleep, I'll call the sponsors tomorrow,'" Santoria said.
May 2018 was his first show which was one hour. It went to two hours by the first weekend in July and has continued to grow.
Gospel continues to take Santoria to new places. He's covered the Stellar Awards, recognizing achievements in the Gospel music industry, for his radio show.
He's had the opportunity to host a major independent artist showcase and in the first weekend in June he will host a red carpet event for the Independent Recording Artist Awards.
Santoria and his wife, who started dating in their senior year in high school in 1992, live in Ruston. Louisiana with two daughters and their son. Santoria remains heavily involved in Grambling football and basketball where he does a weekly coaches show.