Berklee's Africana Studies at the MFA

Elisabeth Nicula
January 12, 2009
Lenny Stallworth, William Banfield, Kenwood Dennard, and George Russell Jr. of BGKLS.
Photo by Nick Balkin

Professor William Banfield, of Berklee's Africana Studies/Music and Society initiative, will give a free lecture/performance about music from the African diaspora at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, on Monday, January 19, at 3:30 p.m. in the Remis Auditorium. Banfield—along with BGKLS, a Berklee ensemble rounded out by faculty members George Russell Jr., Kenwood Dennard, Lenny Stallworth, and Stan Strickland—will paint a musical portrait of the roots of black music culture, emphasizing its impact on society.

The performance is part of the museum's Martin Luther King Jr. Day Open House, which runs from 10 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. and will also feature free admission to the museum and exhibitions, poetry performances, short films, family activities, and guided gallery tours.

The exhibitions Karsh 100: A Biography in Images, featuring iconic portraits of the 20th century by celebrated photographer Yousuf Karsh, and Photographic Figures, highlighting the work of renowned photographers working with the human form, will serve as inspiration for the day's theme, "Defining Images." The MFA will screen films about former Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm and singer/actor Paul Robeson (whose portrait hangs in Karsh 100). 

Other events include a poetry slam by artist Ayisha Knight-Shaw and Boston University's spoken-word poetry group Speak for Yourself, and a presentation about health disparities in Boston hosted by the MFA's Teen Arts Council—a group of teenagers engaged in a yearlong apprenticeship at the museum—featuring the teen group Community Voices and well-known Boston photographer Lou Jones.

Africana Studies provides innovative, substantive, and sustained connective programs in black music culture at Berklee. Its focus is on the study of black music practice, history, and meaning. This includes the study of traditional West African music; spirituals; ragtime; blues; jazz; gospel; r&b; reggae; soul; music in South America, Cuba, and the Caribbean; and contemporary urban music traditions. Africana Studies aids in curriculum and student development by increasing the understanding and appreciation of the music and culture, and the roles artists have had in transforming modern culture and society.

For more information on the open house, visit