By Renaye Collymore
As the residents of Fort Greene are battling gentrification, overdevelopment, tenant harassment, high taxes, the extinction of Mom and Pop stores and privatization of Public Housing, there was a spiritual release that took place in Fort Greene Park this past weekend with Gospel-Grammy Award-Winner Bishop Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Tabernacle Church.
“It was my desire to bring the Gospel into the local neighborhood to compel men and women to come to Christ,” said Walker. There seems to be a heaviness across the city due to certain hardships that local residents are going through, which has caused painful insecurities of how one may see their remaining future here, in a place that they love, which they call home.”
Walker, a former resident of the Fort Greene Houses, is concerned about the original fabric of the place that he once called home and a place where generations of his family once lived.
“It is painful to hear of the many plights that people are dealing with, that have caused fear to hover over this community,” he said, such as the attempt to buy NYCHA Air Rights, the proposal of a new jail being built not too far away, and the redesigning of Ft Greene Park. All are reasons that can cause stress in the hearts, mind and bodies of those who reside in the area.”
Walker hosted a Pop-Up Gospel Celebration for his former neighborhood that seemed to have brought joy to the day. It was a hand-clapping and foot-stomping experience. The choir, adorned in crisp summer white outfits sang happiness into the outside audience of 500 people, who sat on the mounds or in their beach chairs, and others standing along the side. We all enjoyed the uplifting service, watching the live musicians play until our hearts were content.
Social media responded with a barrage of appreciative comments on Facebook. However, one local resident pointed out that, “This wonderful gospel celebration is exactly where the Parks Department wants to rip up the Park, cut down 70 trees, destroy the mounds people perform on and pour a 45′ wide concrete boulevard, with more than $10,000,000 of our tax dollars.”
“It was a blessing for Fort Greene and we are so happy he came back home to the neighborhood,” said Isabella Lee, president of the Walt Whitman Tenant Association. “He prayed for me and I am just looking for him to return before the summer is over!”