A Summer Benefit at SAAM in Southampton

On July 27, the Southampton African American Museum held a benefit, not at their museum, which is in a converted barbershop, but at the Main Prospect in Southampton. It was to honor the philanthropist Jean Shafiroff. She has been a significant force in raising money for the museum. It is known by its acronym SAAM.

The Benefit was co-chaired by Jean Shafiroff, her husband, Martin Shafiroff, and Aisha Christian and Michael Steifman.

Jean Shafiroff, Aisha Christian (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

The event may well have been one of the most interesting groups ever assembled in the Hamptons. It contained a mix of local business owners, lawyers and politicians, people from the worlds of entertainment, fashion and Black history.

One of the co-chairs was the lawyer Michael Steifman, of Steifman LLP in Southampton.  Thomas Shiah, a corporate attorney at Paul Hastings was there with his wife, Patricia. The notable Black attorney from Sag Harbor, Judith Mitchell, was a vision with her white hair and red sweater.

Senator Leroy Comrie, Brenda Simmons, Roy Paul (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

The Assembly Member Rebecca Seawright was there. So were Southampton Town Supervisor Jay Schneiderman and State Senator (from Queens) Leroy Comrie.

There were philanthropists besides the Shafiroffs, including a gay-marriage pioneer, Judith Kasen-Windsor, who brought her dog. (So did the Shafiroffs.)

She was also recognized for her support of SAAM.

Judith Kasen-Windsor (Michael Ostuni/PMC)

The fashion world was well represented. Jeffrey Banks, who has won a Coty award and a CFDA award. Jade Trau, who designs jewelry. Fern Mallis, who is the former executive director of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, a powerhouse in the fashion world.

Jeffrey Banks, Fern Mallis (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

The stunning model and actress Lydia Carlston, who studied at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London, rounded out the group. As did Brigette Segura, who is of a new generation: a fashion curator.

Lydia Carlston (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

Which leads to the entertainer Antwayn Hopper. Hopper began working on a musical called “A Strange Loop” in 2016 as The Sixth Thought.  The six “Thoughts” in the musical are dialogues the main character (Usher) has with himself.

Jean Shafiroff, Antwayn Hopper, Aisha Christian (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

Hopper stayed with “A Strange Loop” from 2016 through the Off-Broadway run that won the Pulitzer Prize. Hopper went on to star as the Sixth Thought on Broadway. There “A Strange Loop” won the Tony as Best Musical.

Antwayn Hopper also sang for the guests.

Michael Henry Adams (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

Another guest who stood out from the crowd in his yellow jacket and straw boater hat was Michael Henry Adams. Adams is a preservationist based in Harlem. He is an authority on the challenges involved in saving sites important to African American history and culture. It was only fitting that he write about a museum that preserved a former black barbershop in Southampton. It opened on June 19, 2021, and is the first African American designated landmark in the Village of Southampton, NY.

Marsin Mogielski, Brigitte Segura (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

Among the other guests was another actor, Marsin Mogielski, who has appeared in “Succession” and is the creative director of Social Life magazine. That’s quite a double bill.

The executive director of the Museum, Brenda Simmons, greeted guests like Dr. Daniel van Arsdale, Greg D’Elia, Anita Farrington, Adam Weiss, Angela Boyer-Stumpf, Marc Chiffert, the artist Nancy Stevens-Smith and Brigitte Segura.

Jean Shafiroff, Aisha Christian, Leroy Comrie, Martin Shafiroff, Rebecca Seawright (Photo Sean Zanni/PMC)

Money raised from the benefit, the organization’s second, will help support SAAM’s many efforts, which include increasing its collection of African-American memorabilia from early settlements in the Hamptons, workshops, celebrations of Juneteenth and educational programs.

— Linda Lee

Linda Lee is a former  editor and writer at The New York Times