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(left-right) Dr. Karen Smith Daughtry, Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry, Bruce Ratner, Rev. Al Sharpton, Hezekiah Walker (Photo Credit: Adam Pantozzi/Barclays Center)

*The Barclays Center is slated to open in September in Brooklyn, the most populous of the five boroughs of New York City. The 19,000-seat arena will be much more than where their basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets, will play.

Bruce Ratner, majority owner and developer of the arena, announced during a press conference at Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry’s House of the Lord Church in Brooklyn, that gospel music stars will be among the artists performing at the new arena. Ratner was joined by Daughtry, Rev. Al Sharpton, and gospel great Hezekiah Walker who performed with his Love Fellowship Choir.

Brooklyn, Ratner believes, is the perfect setting for gospel.

“Brooklyn has often been called the home of churches, but it is also the home of gospel. We have great gospel singers that have come out of Brooklyn. Every single Sunday throughout this borough it rings of gospel. So, how appropriate that the home of gospel should be right here in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center.”

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One of the gospel singers born and raised in Brooklyn is the Grammy award winning Walker, whom Ratner knows very well.

“I met Hezekiah Walker 15 or 20 years ago, when he was somewhat started, but just sort of getting started. We struck up a friendship and have followed each other’s careers over that period of time. I said to him, I think he said 10 or 15 years ago; I said to him even before the Barclays Center, I said Hezekiah we need to have a place in Brooklyn that you can really do your thing with gospel. Lo and behold we have the Barclays Center where gospel groups from all over this country can perform. I’m so glad to be part of it.”

Walker will be just one of the many gospel sensations scheduled to grace the Center.  It’s like a dream come true for him, he said.

“There used to be a bakery right behind the grounds. We would come down just to smell the bread and as we were, you know, there smelling the bread we was all sitting around saying what we was gonna become. I remember saying, you know I want to become a gospel singer. They looked and me and laughed because they didn’t even know that I sung. I kinda felt a little bad because everybody was saying that they wanted to be basketball players and football players. Never thought in a million years that would happen that I would become a gospel singer and I would be singing on the same grounds that I actually said I wanted to sing on.”

hezekiah walker

Hezekiah Walker and Love Fellowship Choir (Photo Credit: Adam Pantozzi/Barclays Center)

But not everybody is singing the praises of the Barclays Center being in Brooklyn. A group called “Develop Don’t Destroy” fought to keep the arena from going up and is still battling against it. Their website outlines a number of reasons why they oppose the center.

“The four big promises of job creation, affordable housing, so-called “blight removal,” and the creation of open space have all amounted to big failures two years after the arena groundbreaking.” That is a few of the attacks on the Develop Don’t Destroy website.

ALSO READ: Brooklyn Clergy Turn Against Barclays Center Developer

Neither Sharpton nor Daughtry have a complaint about the arena. The Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, Daughtry said, after negotiations became the lead organization as it relates to the arena.

“In our negotiations we negotiated ten events our organization, Downtown Brooklyn Neighborhood Alliance, can do a year,” Daughtry explained. “All proceeds go to our organization. We have 50 seats that we can do with as we please. We have one of the luxury sky boxes that is ours for anything that ever happens in the arena. Plus they gonna put some money in a community foundation.”

He maintained he’s “pleased and proud” not only about the arena, but also regarding something that he believes is not getting much attention.

“We have a state of the health health facility that’s going to be built in the footprint. Don’t get much attention. People were highlighting jobs. But, we were concerned about the state of health in our community. We’ve already been meeting with leading doctors and hospitals in the area so as to effectuate this clinic, health clinic, when the second phase comes to pass. That never got any play. The other thing that never got any play is an intergenerational complex. They agreed to build, in the third phase, an intergenerational complex that will house senior citizens, youth, and babies.”

Barclays Center will host four of the most successful performers in gospel music history, Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Donnie McClurkin and Israel Houghton, for ‘The King’s Men’ tour on Sunday, October 14. Walker will headline on December 10 “A Night of Hope” benefit concert featuring guest performances from CeCe Winans, Fred Hammond, Kelly Price, and others.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit The Children of Haiti Relief Fund.

For more information about the arena visit Barclayscenter.com.

For this story, Bruce Ratner, Rev. Herbert Daughtry, and Hezekiah Walker spoke exclusively to Tene’ Croom who is President of Pittsburgh based Tene’ Croom Communications. Reach her at [email protected] or www.tenecroom.com.