After months of competition, Marcus “Elder Mac” McFarlin has won the national Most Powerful Voices singing competition that’s helping raise awareness about stroke.

McFarlin is a contemporary gospel artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, whose first album, “Addicted to Praise,” was released in 2011. As the Grand Prize Winner, he’ll have a chance to perform at a 2015 Stellar Awards Weekend Showcase and receive vocal performance equipment and a personal coaching session with RCA Inspiration Artist Deon Kipping.

McFarlin was selected by RCA Inspiration Artist Latice Crawford-Spain, A&R executives and a Roland Corporation music expert.

“Marcus stood out to me because he had a very striking voice,” Crawford-Spain said. “His sound is very technical and you can see he puts a lot of work into his craft.”

In its fifth year, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s online competition was open to independent artists, groups and choirs who sing gospel, praise, worship and holy hip-hop.

Past winners include P Lo Jetson, Brandon Camphor and One Wayand Vetrea Slack Ruffin & The Ruffin Family.

Debbie Gann won the Fan Favorite award, having received the most online votes from May 1 – May 15.  She’s a southern/country gospel singer from Mounds, Oklahoma, who recovered from triple heart bypass surgery last year.

The Most Powerful Voices contest is an important way to raise stroke awareness — particularly in the African-American community. More than 100,000 African-Americans will suffer a new or reoccurring stroke this year, and all competitors and voters will receive potentially lifesaving stroke information.

“This competition is unique because it allows everyone to be a winner in some way,” Crawford-Spain said. “Not only were the contestants eligible for prizes but the voters were as well, which made a great incentive for people to register, and the greatest prize of all is that every person that registered received monthly information about stoke awareness and prevention. I also loved the fact that it catered to a broader range of musical talents and not just singers. Holy hip-hop artists, praise and worship groups and choirs were encouraged to enter as well.”

African-Americans are at higher risk for stroke due to the prevalence of risk factors like high blood pressure, diabetes and previous heart attacks and/or strokes, said Rani Whitfield, M.D. a family practitioner in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and an American Stroke Association spokesperson. Stroke is the No. 4 cause of death in America and a leading cause of long-term disability.

The contest is important because it helps people reduce their risks and learn what do to in a stroke emergency, Whitfield said.

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Photos provided by Uplifting Entertainment