Commander, Submarine Group Two


Well-Known Gospel Singer to Participate in the 2nd Annual Gospel Choir Concert in Groton

GROTON, Conn. (NNS) -- Organizers of the second annual Black History Month Gospel Choir concert announced Feb. 1 that a well-known Hebrew gospel singer will attend and sing at their event at Naval Submarine Base New London's Shepherd of the Sea Chapel in Groton Feb. 11.

Joshua Nelson, only 33 years old, has accomplished many things others would spend a lifetime doing such as singing for presidents of the United States, singing with Aretha Franklin at the Lincoln Center, and being declared the "Next Big Thing" by Oprah Winfrey.

Nelson's career in gospel music started at the young age of 8 when his grandmother introduced him to the legendary music of Mahalia Jackson, the queen of gospel music.

"While being raised by my grandmother, I learned to value her tastes in music. So when other kids were listening to Michael Jackson, I was listening to Mahalia Jackson," said Nelson.

Yeoman 1st Class (SS) Joseph Brickhouse, of Newark, N.J., who coordinated this year's gospel choir concert, added that he looks forward to this year's event because of the number of churches involved as well as Nelson's participation.

"As coordinator for the second annual gospel concert, I take pride in collaborating with the diversity of faiths coming together to celebrate," said Brickhouse.

Mount Olive Baptist Church, one of the oldest and most prominent churches in Connecticut will participate this year, along with seven other churches including New Life Church, Ledyard, Conn.; Shiloh Baptist Church, Hartford, Conn.; People's Baptist Church, Newark; Gethsemane Missionary Baptist Church, Bloomfield, Conn; Walls Temple AME Zion Church, New London, Conn.; Emanuel Church of God in Christ, Norwich, Conn., and St. John's Christen Church, Groton.

During the concert, Nelson is expected to sing a variety of Jackson's proclaimed gospel music. Nelson reflected on Mahalia's contributions to gospel music, but also her efforts to effect changes in civil rights.

"Musically, I sound just like her," said Nelson. "She is a very important person in African American history and essentially spearheaded the Civil Rights Movement."

Nelson reflected on conversations he had with Jackson when she first met Dr. Martin Luther King. At that time, according to Nelson, Jackson was a well-known accomplished singer.

"She was already an established figure when she met Martin Luther King and there was something about him that she loved and wanted to support him," said Nelson.

Nelson said that at the time King was preparing for his "I Have a Dream" speech, it was Jackson's encouragement that assisted him.

"When King was drafting his speech he wrote the title of the speech as 'Normalcy in America' but through Jackson's encouragement, she told the civil rights leader 'Martin tell them about the Dream,'" said Nelson.

Nelson said it's through these types of discussions that people of all colors best understand the rich history and heritage of our country and the contributions of African Americans.

"I'm happy to participate in the Black History Month program because it's about bringing history together from the past to the present," said Nelson. "In order to allow us to go toward the future we must first understand our past."

Each year, the Navy joins the nation in the observance of African American/Black History Month. Established as Negro History Week in 1926 by Dr. Carter G. Woodson, it was later expanded by President Gerald R. Ford in 1976, when he proclaimed February as Black History Month.