African American Wax Museum of Harlem

On Friday, June 22nd, Katrina De Wees, Education Assistant at The Studio Museum in Harlem, sat down with Benjamin Barson, Production Manager at Ginny’s Supper Club Red Rooster Harlem, to discuss his most recent project, in collaboration with Arturo O’Farrill’s Grammy Award Winning Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra and El Museo Del Barrio.

Katrina De Wees: Can you start with an introduction of yourself?

Benjamin Barson: Sure, my name is Benjamin Barson. I’m a baritone saxophonist, producer, activist and intellectual. I am currently employed by The Red Rooster in Harlem, where I’m the production manager of all of the music and live events. I also have a role in shaping the curatorial element: what bands should be booked, and the message we are trying to communicate in our programming, and I share that responsibility with another individual named Andre Torres, who is the Editor-In-Chief of Wax Poetics.

When I’m not at Red Rooster, I’m also participating in a number of events, which I would describe as political. For instance, Salim Washington (who is a saxophonist and the head of Jazz studies at Brooklyn College) and I are playing for Colia Clark, an African-American, Green Party candidate tomorrow evening. We are also playing tonight for a benefit at The Maysles for Sekou Odinga, a political prisoner. Before that, we played with the same configuration for an international campaign around a political prisoner named Russell Maroon Shoats, a former Black Panther Party member who’s been in solitary for thirty years. So I’m trying to find the fragile and fertile ground between activism and art, because especially in music, it has a really rich tradition that has been somewhat obscured within Jazz recently. I currently work with a collective of artists and activists called the Scientific Soul, and we put on events that combine radical politics and avant-garde art.


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Q&A

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What was the cause of the rising of African American artists in Harlem?

The largest contributing factor leading to the Harlem Renaissance were the Great Migration of African Americans to northern cities, which concentrated ambitious people in places where they could encourage each other.


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