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Benjamin Booker grew up in a Tampa trailer park where his white neighbors once burned a cross on the family’s lawn. Kyla Marshell meets the “kid from Florida” who decided to bear witness through music.

If you saw an image of the musician Benjamin Booker out of context, you might think he was an actor from a civil rights–era period piece. With a vintage image to match his throwback sound—a rock-soul-blues amalgam that’s earthy and analog—he has a style and countenance recalling Harry Belafonte, somewhere between worldly and weary.

Civil rights, and what we do with them, have been heavy on Booker’s mind over the last few years. In 2017, he released his second full-length album, Witness, on ATO Records. The rousing title track, featuring Mavis Staples, evokes all the things that potent word might make you think of: gospel (as in, “Can I get a witness?”); bearing witness through truth-telling; and seeing that which you can’t unsee.

  • Words:
    Kyla Marshell
  • Photography:
    Emman Montalvan
  • Styling:
    Sue Choi

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  • Words:
    Kyla Marshell
  • Photography:
    Emman Montalvan
  • Styling:
    Sue Choi
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