gospel-complex_photo_fc.jpgA significant part of African culture that transcended the Middle Passage of slavery was the foot-stomping frenzy of traditional songs and dances.

Over time, Christian music was transformed into “Negro spirituals,” as enslaved Africans sang about their liberation and everything else.

As a new musical genre called Gospel was born, African-Americans celebrated their spirituality.

It continues to be fully engrained as a part of their culture.

This Memorial Day weekend, South Florida is poised to celebrate the very spiritual music when it hosts the Dr. Bobby Jones 22nd Bi-Annual International Gospel Industry Retreat.
Much of the retreat’s focus will be on the long-awaited construction of the Gospel Complex for Education and Preservation in Lauderhill.

A groundbreaking ceremony for the complex will take place at 3 p.m. on Sunday, May 25 at the proposed site, on the northwest corner of Sunrise Boulevard and State Road 7 (U.S. 441).

“We can now start the celebration, as our key leaders and organizations will continue to work together to make this project a reality for Greater Fort Lauderdale,” said Nicki Grossman, president and CEO of the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “We anticipate that this project will follow in the footsteps of the Country Music Hall of Fame, which has spearheaded the $6.5 billion dollar industry in Nashville, Tennessee. In fact, we have already booked conferences and conventions in anticipation of the Gospel Complex coming to our destination.”

In addition to the groundbreaking ceremony, the Gospel Retreat will also feature the “Where the World Meets” benefit concert to support the complex. Grammy, Stellar and Dove award
winner CeCe Winans and two-time Grammy-nominated guitarist and songwriter Jonathan Butler are slated to perform at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.

In 2004, gospel legend Bobby Jones brought his International Gospel Retreat and a host of gospel singers, musicians, producers and promoters to Fort Lauderdale. It was then that
Albert Tucker, vice president of Multicultural Business Development for the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, realized the need for a gospel museum, one that would serve as a Hall of Fame for its trailblazers and house collections that document its rich heritage.

“As I learned that there was no home for gospel music, that was put on the table as another opportunity to have something of substance that could really mirror what the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center does,” Tucker said.

Local pastors such as Mike Jefferies, associate pastor of First Baptist Church of Fort Lauderdale, said his church supports the project as it “will bring national attention to our community as a place where gospel music is genuinely appreciated and will bring people in from all over the world.”

When initial plans fell through for the complex to be built in conjunction with the African-American Research Library and Cultural Center on the Sistrunk corridor, the City of Lauderhill came to the rescue with 10.2 acres, Tucker said.

The complex, slated for completion in 2010, is designed as a 90,000-square-foot building complete with a 2,000-seat, state-of-the art performing arts center with TV and radio production capabilities.

Already, recording companies are excited about the opening of the complex.

“We at Sony Music cannot wait for this to happen because it offers us a place to house our artists and be able to record CDs and DVDs. It’s very exciting and we can’t wait for it to be up and running,” said Senior Vice President/General Manager of Zomba Records, Jazzy Jordan.

Zomba is a division of Sony.

The museum is expected to promote Gospel music as well as showcase its history by taking visitors through its origins and pioneers, to its present-day trailblazers.

Artifacts such as sheet music, instruments, pictures and recordings will be on display.

The complex will partner with other organizations to continue the widespread influence of gospel music. It will direct most of its efforts toward providing programs to those who wish to pursue higher education in the entertainment industry.

The Gospel Complex’s business plan estimates that the facility will cost about $50 million to build, with ten percent expected to come from private donations.

Fifty thousand attendees are also expected to visit the complex annually, thus funding the $5 million projected operating costs, according to plans.

“The whole thought process was if we can move the needle as it relates to tourism, we can impact our communities as a whole in terms of the revenue that comes to our community,’’ Tucker said. “I felt that if we increase the number of people that’s coming to Broward County and spending dollars, we could increase the pool of resources that will affect our businesses.’’


Photo: A groundbreaking ceremony at the site of the Gospel Complex for Education and Preservation in Lauderhill will take place on Sunday, May 25. Above is a rendering of the proposed complex.


WHAT: The International Gospel Industry Retreat (IGIR)

WHEN: Saturday, May 24 through Tuesday May 27

WHERE: Most events will be at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood.

COST: Tickets are available for each event, or $150 for any four events. For tickets or more information call 954-494-7596 or visit www.gospelindustryretreat.com.


WHAT: The Legends Ball honoring Dr. Albertina Walker, the Smiling Jubilaires and others. Featuring Melvin Williams and Vanessa Bell Armstrong.

WHEN: Saturday, May 24 at 6 p.m.

COST: $100.

WHERE: The Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood


WHAT: Ground Breaking Ceremony for the Gospel Complex, hosted by County Commissioner Josephus Eggelletion, the Broward Black Elected Officials, Inc., Broward County and the city of Lauderhill.

WHEN: Sunday, May 25 at 3 p.m.

WHERE: Northwest corner of Sunrise Boulevard and State Road 7 (U.S. 441). Free shuttle provided from Lauderhill Mall, 1267 N. State Road 7, Lauderhill.

COST: Free.


WHAT: “Where the World Meets” benefit concert hosted by Paula White, featuring CeCe Winans, Jonathan Butler and The Woods.

WHEN: Sunday, May 25 at 7:30 p.m.

WHERE: Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 S.W. Fifth Avenue, Fort Lauderdale.

COST: $20 to $50. To purchase tickets online visit www.browardcenter.org or call 954-462-0222.


WHAT: Praise on the Beach Memorial Day Family Picnic and Concert hosted by Tye Tribbet. Special appearances by Canton Jones and others.

WHEN: 11:30 a.m. Monday, May 26.

WHERE: Along the ocean at the Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood.

COST: $40


WHAT: IGIR Industry Service Award and Zomba Music Showcase featuring Dr. Bobby Jones, Marvin Sapp, honoring Edwin and Walter Hawkins, Dr. Mack King Carter, Bishop Victor Curry and others.

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Monday, May 26.

WHERE: Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood.

COST: $30


WHAT: IGIR concludes with a special tribute to Vickie Winans, featuring Mary Mary and others.

9 p.m. Tuesday, May 27.

WHERE: Westin Diplomat Resort & Spa, 3555 S. Ocean Drive, Hollywood.

COST: $30