By Raanan Geberer
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
“When you want classical music, the place to go is Lincoln Center. When you want R&B and soul, the place to go is the Apollo. And when you want to hear gospel in New York City, the place for to go will be across the river to Barclays Center in Brooklyn!”
The Rev. Hezekiah Walker, a Grammy-winning gospel singer and lifelong Brookynite, spoke these words at the Rev. Herbert Daughtry’s House of the Lord Church on Atlantic Avenue in Boerum Hill yesterday. The occasion was a press conference to announce that Walker will be performing at Barclays on Monday, Dec. 10.
Walker and his Love Fellowship Crusade Choir performed several energetic, spirit-filled numbers, but there were other stars of the show there as well — Daughtry, Bruce Ratner and the Rev. Al Sharpton.
For much of his speech, Sharpton praised Ratner and his Atlantic Yards project. “When I was a teenager and was the Brooklyn youth director of Operation Breadbasket [a 1960s civil rights organization],” recalled Sharpton, “we’d negotiate with people and hope that they’d keep even three-quarters of their promises.
“Bruce Ratner has delivered not only all his promises, he’s suggested more,” said Sharpton.
The once-controversial preacher and political leader told the crowd that he agreed to support Atlantic Yards only after Forest City Ratner signed a “Community Benefits Agreement” with several local advocacy and self-help organizations in 2005.
Sharpton began by recalling how, as a “boy preacher,” he was exposed to gospel music constantly at the Washington Temple in Bedford-Stuyvesant.
“We had people like Rosetta Tharpe, James Cleveland and Mahalia Jackson singing there constantly, and I didn’t even now how famous they were until after I was a teenager. We even had a TV show broadcast from there for awhile, 'The TV Gospel Show,' Sharpton continued.
Several other gospel concerts are planned for Barclays. Verizon’s How Sweet the Sound Gospel Celebration will take place on Sunday, Nov. 4; and “The King’s Men” tour, starting Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Donnie McClurkin and Israel Houghton, will perform on Sunday, Oct. 14.
As for Ratner himself, he said gospel music was “older than the nation itself” and credited Walker, a graduate of Long Island University Brooklyn, for turning him on to it and making him a fan.
Ratner recalled how when he was a boy, his mother showed him an article about the then-new Brown v. Board of Education decision in Life Magazine. The event made him identify with the African-American community.
Although Sharpton left soon after the choir performed, this reporter asked Daughtry what promises he thought Ratner had delivered on.
Daughtry replied that his Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Association and Ratner had come to a deal by which the association will be able to present 10 events per year at the arena. In addition, he said, the association will receive 50 free tickets for every event, to be distributed to community members.
The second (residential) phase of the Atlantic Yards project, Daughtry continued, will contain a health clinic to be administered by the group.
Daughtry said that he had proposed an entertainment complex for the area as early as 1979, when the neighborhood was in a state of decline.
“When I heard about the Atlantic Yards project, I knew I needed to be on the train — I didn’t want it to be pulling out without me having any input.”