This Article was written by Rajon Lynch AKA RJ THE Magician. RJ is a 23-year-old, black magician from Wisconsin (home of Harry Houdini). RJ is a writer, TED Speaker and performing magician who currently works as the director of the Houdini Museum of NYC and Fantasma Magic.
This was originally going to be called “The 8 Most Influential Black Magicians of the Decade”...but there is a problem with that. These magicians are not simply influential because they are black; but they are important, influential and prominent, AND black. The difference in wording seems small, but yet their impact on the magic community as a whole is huge. All 8 of these magicians are influential in different ways, whether as a performer, creator, producer or just a trailblazer in general. These are 8 magicians who have become pillars of the magic community, magicians who have smashed barriers and created paths for generations of younger magicians (like myself) to have a shot at being the next great magician, regardless of color. Now I don’t know ALL of these people, but I am fans of all of them, and I hope to meet them one day in the future.
Ben Barnes: The Chaplain of Chicago
As a midwestern magician myself Chicago and Chicago style magic hold a special spot in my heart. Chicago is one of the pillars of American magic. Known for a quick snappy style and the rich history of magic bars in the last century. The most recent and perhaps well known of those magic spaces is known as the Chicago magic lounge. A former weekly event has transformed into a multi-million dollar multi-stage theater, equipped with booze and incredible entertainment. You can experience magic close up, on a palor stage and even at the bar. Manning the helm of this is operation is Magician Benjamin Barnes. Barnes is known as an encyclopedia of magic and he is also one of the most well connected magicians in the industry. He is responsible for booking the talent at one of the most sought after performance venues in the United States (for magicians at least). A former co-producer of Magic Chicago, Barnes sources the best talent in the country to perform at the lounge. In an interview he gave to the Windy City Times he stated, “You'll see yourself" reflected on the stage," he assures. "Every night at Chicago Magic Lounge there will be at least one woman, one Person of Color; all are bad-ass magicians."
Kendrick Ice Mcdonald: The 1st famous Kendrick
The “coolest” magician on this list (I’m sorry, I had to), Kendrick is the #1 magician that is sure to turn heads as he walks into a room. A classic magician that has been featured on, Masters of Illusion and any live big name magic show you can think of. He was also featured in “Art and Soul” of magic documentary, a film highlighting the lives of various black magicians. Ice was even honored by the Minister of India with the “Performer’s Trophy of Honor”, where he was the only United States representative in their Festival of Global Magic, held in Kerala, India. Ice is one of the most talented performers in recent history and an All Star magician, you'd be lucky to catch a glimpse of. In 2014 he was named the President of the Society of American Magicians, being the first black president ever.
Randy Shine: The Presidential Magician
Known as one of the “nicest guys in magic”, Ran’D is a traveling performer who has been on the college market longer than most new magicians have been alive. His reputation as a great human is part of the reason he is also one of the most well connected people in magic today. Randy has been featured at NYC's Monday Night Magic, the Magic Castle, the Chicago Magic Lounge, Penn & Teller's “Fool Us” and TWO presidential Inaugurations (including Obama). Ran’D is a founding member of the International Association of Black Magical Artists, an organization dedicated to the preservation of Black magic history, where he was the president. Ran’D has been on a mission producing his “Heart and Soul of Magic” show, which is an ensemble show featuring a cast of all black performers; the first show of its kind. A staple of the college market and an advocate for inclusion in magic, Ran'D Shine is "the new face of the millennium magician".
Jack Goldfinger: The Godfather
The Godfather of black magicians who once referred to himself as “The original overnight success that spent 10 the last 10 years getting there”. Since 2009 one man has had the position of Director of Entertainment at the world Famous Magic Castle previously held by the great Max Maven. Goldfinger is a bona fide legend in magic and one of the first black magicians to be seen on television. Jack not only curates every person that performs at the castle but more importantly he chooses who comes back. Performing at the magic castle is a rite of passage for every magician who hopes to make it one day. Jack’s legacy as a performer as well as his position as a gatekeeper of west coast magic make him more than worth of the list.
Frank Brents: King of New York
In NYC a pitstop for a well known magician is performing at Monday Night Magic; New York’s longest running magic show. What you may not know is that it was cofounded by the New York Legend: Frank Brents. The late Frank Brents travelled around the world performing magic in over 40 countries. He performed for King Juan Carlos of Spain, Princess Grace of Monaco, the Rockafellers and even the Kennedys. Brents had numerous TV appearances including on the Captain Kangaroo show, at a time where African Americans weren’t seen on television. He was known largely for his work with birds, namely his vanishing of a live duck, which was a staple in his act for 30 years. Brents passed away in 2010, but his legacy in New York lives on as one of the greats.
Chis Capehart is another one of those east coast grandfathers of magic. He paved the way for so many magicians, including anyone performing the linking rings today. Capehart is the real lord of the rings, and was one of the first magic DVD's I watched when learning the classics. He is one of the top family entertainers on the east coast, also being one of the magicians to popularize the ubiquitous Miser’s Dream [trick]. He’s one of the few American magicians that have been asked to perform at the Magic Circle in England and of the even fewer to get a standing ovation after his performance. After over 40 years Capehart has become the inspiration for numerous magicians to come after him, and he has earned the respect and admiration of any big name magician you can think of, from Lance Burton to Jeff McBride.
Michael Vincent: The Champion
A British magician and former student of the great Slydini, Michael Vincent is a magician still in his prime and killing it. As good of a creator as he is a performer, Vincent has written numerous works as well as created various props/ routines that magicians still use to this day. Vincent not only uses magic to perform, but also as a tool in public speaking, workshops and lectures. His video lectures sell out, not only because of the quality of his magic, but due to the fact that he is a 3 times winner of the Magic Circle’s “Close Up Magician of the Year”. A vital creator, an award winning magician and an “exquisite performer” (According to Harry Lorayne). Magic wouldn’t be the same without Michael Vincent’s contributions.
Eric Jones: Man of Steel
I wasn't originally going to put Eric on this list because I'm planning another blog about "black magicians you should know", and Eric is very young by comparison to a lot of these magicians. However, his age does not affect his impact and Eric has more than put in the work and deserves a spot on this list. He is one of the most well known and well respected creators and performers in the game. His early DVDs on coin magic (like the metal series) are a huge reason why we see so many young coin guys popping up in the magic scene. Eric Jones also made it normal to see a black magician on TV, being a semi-finalist on America's got talent, a regular on Masters of Illusion, and one of the few magicians to successfully fool Penn and Teller on "Fool Us". If that isn't enough, the rarely sighted coin master David Roth even listed Jones as one of his personal favorites and sat up close at a recent show of his at the Houdini Museum.
There are so many magicians that could be on this list. This list however is comprised of 8 people who are responsible for the careers of magicians like me. They are trailblazers that just by being present were an influence on my life but the lives of thousands of magicians globally; not just black magicians. There are even more names I could put on this list, which is amazing considering 50 years ago this list might not have been possible. Thank you for reading this article and helping shine more light on the lives of these incredible entertainers, and keep your eyes peeled for more Black History Month Blogs, coming soon! You can catch a special "Night Magic at the Houdini Museum" magic show February 28th 2020 featuring living legend Ran'D Shine, and Hosted by RJ THE Magician. Tickets are on sale HERE !