Past Event

Volume 7: Afro Yaqui Music Collective – Migration, Movements, and Music

How can music connect resistance, celebration and communal survival among migrating peoples? Can music project a vision of justice? How has music been mobilized during periods of mass migration? The Afro Yaqui Music Collective, a multilingual jazz band based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, explores these questions through its multidisciplinary, activist-engaged art. The group will perform songs from the jazz opera “Mirror Butterfly: The Migrant Liberation Movement Suite” and the play “Erased: a poetic imaging on the Life of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg,” written by Magdalena Gomez, which celebrates this brilliant Afro-Puerto Rican activist-historian and Harlem Renaissance figure.

Following the music, host Larry Blumenfeld will moderate a discussion with composer and baritone saxophonist Ben Barson, singer Gizelxanath Rodriguez and playwright Madgaleana Gomez about how the arts can change narratives and help us understand the interconnections between music, community, migration and a sense of belonging.


About the Artists:

The Afro Yaqui Music Collective’s genre-defying jazz compositions has been described as “liberation music—which is to say, music without borders or boundaries; future music from the well of the past,” (Robin D.G. Kelly).” Influenced by front-woman Gizelxanath Rodriguez’s experience growing up in two cultures (Mexican and American) and her ancestry as a Yaqui woman, the band came together to fight for migrant justice and indigenous rights. They have performed at the Kennedy Center, the ASCAP Jazz Awards, the Mesopotamina Water Forum in Iraq, and the US-Mexican Border in solidarity with ICE detained-migrants. Co-founder Ben Barson (baritone saxophone) and Samuel Okoh-Boateng (piano) are both ASCAP-award recipients in composition. Bronx born Boricua, Magdalena Gómez, was a recipient of the New England Public Radio Arts and Humanities Award in 2018. Her poems, short stories, news features and plays have been published and performed in the U.S. and abroad since 1976.


Jazz and Social Justice: A Salon with Music

This ongoing series was started in 2017, to connect the music we love with the social issues that matter to us all. Each salon blends live performance with conversation between artists, activists, and experts. Curated and hosted by journalist Larry Blumenfeld, whose previous NJMIH programs discussed Afro-Cuban influences and New Orleans traditions.