In Conversation: Sanford Biggers with Marcus Samuelsson and Mos Def

Mos Def, Sanford Biggers, and Marcus Samuelsson

As part of the Brooklyn Museum’s Thursdays at 7 programming, this week hosted their In Conversation series. The guests of this week were celebrated musician and actor Mos Def  (Yasiin Bey), contemporary artist Sanford Biggers, and chef Marcus Samuelsson. The event was held in the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium and hosted a sold-out crowd. I was lucky enough to score tickets early; one of the perks of being a museum member, and am glad that I did. I love to attend talks highlighting creative individuals that I admire.

Mos Def

Moderated by Sanford Biggers, the evening began with introductions from all three men; their lives growing up and what led and guided them to pursue their current careers. They discussed several societal issues, mainly that of being a Black man in America, and the constant struggles they face despite success level. One example used from the crowd was the fact that although they were all on stage at the Brooklyn Museum giving a thought provoking conversation, once they leave the institution, they can still be racially profiled by police, or denied a cab.

Sanford Biggers

They shared stories that served as reality checks, including:

  • Mos Def performing to a crowd of four for one of the first plays he was cast in.
  • Sanford Biggers winning second place in an art contest in college, and not being allowed a proper photo with his work, given its racially charged content.
  • Marcus Samuelsson being revoked admission into a prestigious cooking school in France when they found out he was Black. [He is originally from Ethiopia, but uses the given name from his adoptive parents in Sweden.]
Marcus Samuelsson

It was not a self-deprecating conversation by any means, but more so an eye-opening one meant to inspire. One quote that struck a chord with me was:

Take pride in what you are doing, because you are doing it. – Mos Def

As simple as this sounds, it rung true as I believe as a people, we constantly second guess ourselves. This is for many reasons; trying to win the approval of others and indecision within oneself to be the most prominent, in my opinion. It reminded me that successes do not necessarily see fruition overnight, and that there are many hurdles that we must get past on this path. These men are living examples of what we may see as “success”, but I appreciate that they are still self-aware and remember where they came from.

For more info and photos on the event, you can visit Marcus Samuelsson’s website, where he explains the experience from his point of view.

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