February 10, 2013 was a night to remember at the Barclays Center in downtown Brooklyn, New York, home of the Brooklyn Nets, for a group of descendants, their families, and their friends, as well as for the fans who were in attendance, for the Black Fives Foundation, and for Claude Johnson, its founder and executive director.

First, here is the touching video recap produced by Barclays Center TV (BCTV), with special thanks to show host Alyonka Larionov:

The occasion was that the arena and the Nets organization unveiled a special compilation of vintage Brooklyn-related mural-sized African American basketball photographic images provided to them by the Black Fives Foundation, during a game between the Nets and the visiting San Antonio Spurs.

The compilation, made up of six images and called “Black Fives at the Barclays Center,” is permanently installed in the arena concourse.

Barclays Center Concourse

Barclays Center Concourse

Barclays Center Concourse

To celebrate the unveiling, the Barclays Center invited and honored over 40 descendants of the basketball pioneers who appeared in each of those images — as well as their spouses, friends, and several other special guests — to the game. The descendants were identified through Johnson’s research and contacted through his outreach via this website, which maintains a special page through which those with Black Fives Era pioneers as ancestors can contact the organization and join a special mailing just for them. “I believe this is a first in the sports industry,” he says.

The entire group was also invited to a pre-game reception on the Nets Practice Court, hosted by the Barclays Center and the Brooklyn Nets.

Brooklyn Nets practice court

A view of the pre-game reception for the descendants of Brooklyn-based Black Fives Era pioneers.

Black Fives Foundation executive director Claude Johnson

Black Fives Foundation founder and executive director Claude Johnson at the reception with his three sons. (Nancy Borowick)

Black Fives Day Mayor's Proclamation

On behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, NYCHA President John Rhea presents the Mayor’s Proclamation declaring February 10, 2013 as “Black Fives Day” in New York City to Claude Johnson. Looking on is Barclays Center Executive VP David Berliner and one of Johnson’s sons. (Nancy Borowick)

The group’s host for the evening was Barclays Center Executive Vice President David Berliner, whose vision and leadership helped make the facility’s art program — conceived as a way of connecting with the community, and which includes the installation of this new image compilation — into reality.

“David, his team, and the entire organization have been so tremendous, not only in terms of recognizing the role this historic compilation could play, but also in their genuine understanding and thoughtfulness about its execution,” says Johnson. “Let’s also realize that an installation of this kind is unprecedented among sports arenas.”

At halftime, the descendants were escorted from the owners’ suite, where they were hosted, to center court, for a touching recognition ceremony. Many in the group wore tee shirts with the word “Descendant” emblazoned on the front, generously provided by the Barclays Center.

Descendants of Brooklyn's Black Fives Era pioneers being introduced at Barclays Center

Descendants of Brooklyn’s Black Fives Era pioneers being introduced at Barclays Center, with David Berliner, Billy King, Claude Johnson, John Rhea, and Brooklynettes. (Getty Images)

“We’re all descendants, everyone in the arena,” Johnson says. The tees were designed and produced by Black Fives Foundation licensee Soular Creative.

Here is the video which played on the big scoreboard screen prior to their introduction.


Participating in the recognition moment was John Rhea, President of the New York City Housing Authority, who during the pre-game reception had formally proclaimed February 10, 2013, as “Black Fives Day” in the City of New York on behalf of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was unable to attend.

In addition, Nets General Manager Billy King presented Johnson with a special plaque — the “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things Award” — to recognize his dedicated efforts in pulling together the historical research, the compilation of vintage images, and the many descendants on hand.

Nets General Manager Billy King presents Claude Johnson with award

Nets General Manager Billy King presents Claude Johnson with the “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things Award.” (Getty Images)

“Our family was truly moved and appreciative of all you have done,” said Muriel “Dee Dee” Roberts, a descendant of Hudson Oliver. “There are no words to appropriately express my gratitude.”

“It truly was an experience we will never forget,” said Leslie Payne, a grand nephew of Oliver. “The warm welcome from the staff and all the workers on staff were amazing. It was an honor meeting you and hoping in the near future of being back at the Barclay center and cheering for the Nets.”

The descendants who attended ranged in age from 2-year-old twins to a 90-year-old, and represented Black Fives Era pioneers Ferdinand Accooe, Conrad Norman; George, Edith, and Lester Trice; James Hoffman Woods, Edwin “Teddy” Horne, William “Dolly” King.

Nets Recognition Plaque

A view of the “Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things Award” recognition plaque presented to Black Fives Foundation executive director Claude Johnson by Brooklyn Nets General Manager Billy King.

“Through this installation, the Barclays Center has effectively created a monument to Brooklyn’s role in Black Fives Era history, which helps elevate this previously little known genre of sports to a new level of relevancy and cultural cause,” Johnson says. “Everyone is thrilled.”

King Family in Barclays Center Concourse

Descendants of William “Dolly” King stand by his image in the Barclays Center Concourse. Left to right: Dolly’s grandson Bryant King, nephew John King, grandson Christopher King, son Michael King, and grandson Kiel King. John King and his cousin Michael King had not seen each other since middle school, until this night.