The White House is scheduled to honor legendary soul singer Ray Charles tonight, but not everyone is happy.
The tribute, which will be streamed online on the White House website and later shown on PBS and TV One, features stars such as Usher, Yolanda Adams and Brittany Howard. Charles’ ex-wife Della “B” Howard Robinson, his eldest son, Ray Charles Robinson Jr., and eldest daughter, Evelyn, have all been invited.
But noticeably absent are Charles’ nine other living children, who are the products of relationships with various women. (One was invited and couldn’t make the date, but the other eight never received an invite.) According to The Washington Post, Charles’ other children are miffed they weren’t invited to the White House concert. But the children are used to being omitted from Ray Charles events.
“We’re usually the last to hear about it,” said Raenee Robinson, who serves as de facto head of the group of Charles’ other children. “Everyone might not talk to each other, but everyone talks to me,” she said.
Not getting invited to the White House has exposed a long-standing feud between Charles’ other children and children from his first marriage. The other children said they tried to contact Ray Jr. about tickets, but he told them to contact the White House.
“You can’t call the White House and say, ‘Hey, I’d like to get an invite to this,’ ” said Robyn Moffett, Charles’ youngest daughter.
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The siblings are currently involved in a legal battle with the Ray Charles Foundation, the sole beneficiary of his estate, over copyright royalties.
David Ritz, co-author of Charles’ autobiography, Brother Ray: Ray Charles’ Own Story, said these issues have been around since Charles died in 2004.
“What’s underneath it all are children’s need for attention, and that doesn’t go away,” said Ritz. “Now when their dad’s alive it certainly hurts, but when he dies and that issue is unresolved, then it really compounds.”
Moffett told The Washington Post they need to be recognized, even if some were fathered out of wedlock.
“We are what’s left of him and it’s as if we don’t exist,” Moffett said. “It hurts to know that we are his family and we’re treated like outcasts.”