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Stamp of approval: Marvin Gaye honor a dream come true for fan
Carla Johnson advocated for USPS campaign
Published Friday, May 17, 2019
by Sam Palian | The Charlotte Post

Carla Johnson launched a five-year campaign that resulted in a postage stamp honoring singer Marvin Gaye.

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Marvin Gaye’s postage stamp odyssey is complete, thanks to fans like  Carla Johnson.

Gaye, an important figure to the Motown sound of R&B music in the 1960s and ‘70s, was recognized April 2 with the release of a commemorative stamp on what would have been his 80th birthday. Johnson, who lives in Charlotte, launched petition campaigns with the goal of getting Gaye, the “Prince of Motown,” on a postal mark.

The Motown Alumni Association launched the original effort in 2003, which National Vice President Ron Brewington said required “patience” because USPS fields numerous requests for commemorative stamps.

“We stayed the course,” he said.

Johnson, who never met Gaye, launched her Marvin Gaye USPS Stamp Initiative in 2014 and a nonprofit organization, Unity in the Community.

“I reached out to his sister, Zeola Gaye,” Johnson said. …“I felt like it was a challenge and something that I thought was worth my time and effort.”

Getting a stamp idea approved can be a lengthy process. The Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee receives over 30,000 requests a year and even once an idea is considered it can still be quite a long time before it is released. Requests and ideas in the form of petitions and letters are submitted in writing and mail. Once an idea is accepted, the committee confers with families and estates about rights to images and their use.

Another reason requests often take so long to process and complete is that the selection is based on extensive criteria. The committee looks to honor people who have made powerful and lasting contributions to American history, society, culture or the environment.

Johnson said when she and other advocates, like Zeola Gaye and Marvin’s ex-wife, Jan, knew the stamp was finally happening, they were excited.

“I was speechless,” Johnson said. “I was surprised that we were able to do something that everybody thought was not going to be possible. So, when we were able to finally see something that had been denied twice, we felt like we had definitely made history and I was excited to be able to be a part of that.”

A celebration was held to roll out the stamp and the artwork that would appear on the stamp, drawn by Kadir Nelson and based on a photo taken of Gaye around the time he was creating the seminal 1971 album “What’s Going On.” Among those in attendance to celebrate were Zeola, Jan, Gaye’s daughter Nona and son Marvin.

“Marvin’s been deceased for 35 years and his spirit still lives through his music and I’m excited to see that stamp for him,” said Johnson.

Johnson, who earned a degree in psychology from Argosy University, said her interest in Gaye contributed to her interest in that field.

“With him having issues with … substance abuse, and my doing research on Marvin Gaye, it all played a big role in me going into that field,” she said. “I didn’t understand why somebody who was such a genius struggled.”

This story has been updated to correct Jan Gaye’s relationship to Marvin Gaye at the time of the singer’s death as well as Ron Brewington’s position with the Motown Alumni Association and its role in petitioning the U.S. Postal Service for the stamp.


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