Magdalena Gómez was a vanguard member of the Nuyorican Literary Movement. She began as a performance poet at age17, and by age 24 was named “Our American Oracle” by Michael Devlin, editor of the original Poet’s Magazine. Her writing can be found in publications that include the L.A. Times; The Progressive; Berkshire Journal; John Hopkins University’s Callaloo Journal; Latinas anthology, edited by Iris Morales (2018); and the Massachusetts Review, among many others. Gómez performed her poetry for over a decade with the late composer and baritone saxophonist, Fred Ho. Other musical collaborators have included jazz luminaries Taylor Ho Bynum, Ben Barson, Ted Levine, and has shared the stage with jazz poet, Amiri Baraka. At Barson’s invitation Gómez performed with the the Afro Asian Music Ensemble, featuring percussion master, royal hartigan; she has recorded and performed live with internationally renowned Zemog bandleader and multi-instrumentalist, Abraham Gomez Delgado. Her poems have been staged and set to music and performed Off-Broadway in NYC; Los Angeles; Montreal; Paris; Wisconsin’s Union Theater, and most recently in Washington, D.C. at Gala Theater. Her autobiographical poetry collection, Shameless Woman, (Red Sugarcane Press, NYC) is included in academic syllabi across the U.S. In 2010 she was the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Master Artist award by Pregones Theater in NYC, was nominated for a United States Artists Award in 2015 and was a 2018 recipient of the NEPR Arts and Humanities Award.
Gomez’s decades of performing, have found her in venues that span from Lincoln Center to the Brooklyn Academy of Music; the San Francisco State Poetry Center; the Massachusetts State House; Vanderbilt University; prisons; hospitals; academia; public spaces; community events; and social protest gatherings across the U.S. One of her favorite venues is Springfield’s Bing Arts Center, where she recently performed with world music artist and composer, Tony Vacca. She also recently performed with the Afro Yaqui Music Collective at City of Asylum in Pittsburgh and is thrilled to be with them again here in Springfield, the city where she has chosen to live since 1999. Her most recent play, Erased: a poetic imagining of the life of Arturo Alfonso Schomburg, was a finalist in this year’s Latino Theater Commons national plays competition. Upon production, this first play written about Schomburg, will feature an original jazz score. Gomez’s archives are housed at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center at the University of Connecticut at Storrs.
Benjamin Barson is a composer, baritone saxophonist, historian and political activist born in Brooklyn, NY, and now living in Pittsburgh, PA. His work has been presented at the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, Lincoln Center’s Boro-Tech Program. In 2017 Ben was the recipient of The ASCAP Foundation’s Fred Ho Award
In 2018 Ben was the recipient of an ASCAP Foundation Herb Alpert Young Jazz Composer Award and also received the top prize in that competition, The ASCAP Foundation Johnny Mandel Prize. Barson is also a recipient of two Tinker Fellowships for his scholarship in Cuba and Mexico. He and his wife Gizelxanth Rodriguez run the Afro Yaqui Music Collective, an ensemble combining Ho’s Afro-Asian political and music influences with the music of the Yaqui of northern Mexico, which has been hailed by the New York Times as “furthering the musical legacy.” Ben is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Pittsburgh’s Jazz Studies program.
Magdalena Gomez & Ben Barson
“A fierce and compassionate anthem here. We need these songs, these words, these rhythms for this earthly dance.” – Joy Harjo, poet and musician