By Wayne Anderson, executive director of Manderson PR
As an African-American traveler during the Jim Crow era, you likely found a place for refuge from the road in a small booklet that was an unfortunate but required reference guide called the Green Book. If you were traveling to Miami, you probably stayed at a motel in the Brownsville neighborhood that has rich chapters in Miami's Black History called the Hampton House Motel.
The Hampton House served as an oasis for Black activists, professional athletes, and leaders, hosting iconic figures like Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Muhammad Ali, and Major League Baseball's first African-American player Jackie Robinson.
While Miami Beach was in the spotlight for its musicians and nightclub acts, Brownsville and the Hampton House were where the Black performers returned to when the show was over. Described as the “Cotton Club of the South" with a guestbook you could only dream of, the Hampton House hosted entertainers like Nina Simone, Sammy Davis, Jr., Sam Cooke, Nat King Cole, Aretha Franklin, and many others.
Now that rich history with yesterday's legends will intersect and collide with today's musical stars at The Historic Hampton House Museum & Cultural Center, which is hosting the new outdoor concert series "From BeBop 2 HipHop."
On March 24, four-time Grammy-nominated Neo-Soul/R&B artist and actor Eric Benét kicked-off the first of a six-series supper club that entertained lucky attendees in an intimate cabaret garden. Next on this incredible lineup is Chaka Khan, who will charm the audience with her exceptional Jazz artistry.
I sat down with Benét, in an intimate setting, to discuss his concert at The Historic Hampton House, the impact of the venue's past performers, and the excitement surrounding the launch of "From BeBop 2 HipHop."
COVID has forced us all into isolation for over a year, and for the first time, we can all finally see a vision of hope with the vaccine being readily available. What has isolation been like for you, and how did you spend most of your time dealing with the pandemic?
Eric Benét: I spent most of my time with my family. We've taken a few trips in my RV, enjoying the downtime, to be honest.
This was your first live concert appearance due to the COVID pandemic. Like most of us, we've all had personal time to reflect. Has the downtime allowed you to write any new music?
Eric Benét: Most of my creativity is allocated to working on a few film projects. My business partner, director Devin Hampton, and I just finished two unique projects, and we are excited to share them with everyone.
In the Hampton House's heyday, it featured the likes of Aretha Franklin, Nat King Cole, Sammy Davis Jr., Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, to name just a few talented music greats! What emotions arose when you were invited to kick-off the "From BeBop 2 HipHop" inaugural event series?
Eric Benét: I'm truly honored to be invited and lend my talent to such a milestone in African-American culture. Many great artists and leaders in the community have been here, and now I get to join the list of such a prestigious group. I'm blessed.
Learn more about The Historic Hampton House Museum & Cultural Center's "From BeBop 2 HipHop" concert supper club, including how to purchase tickets, here.