Spotlight on Talent: Prospect Lefferts Gardens Showcases Local Artistry in Vibrant ‘7 7’ Event

Miles McAfee wearing a 7 7 hoodie along with his wife, Vanessa Raptopoulos, and two 7 7 regulars, Melo (L) and Steve Slavin (R).Photo: Shenal Tissera.

By: Shenal Tissera

On a recent spring weeknight, Brooklynites gathered in a backyard, not knowing what to expect. In the end, there was singing, dancing, comedy, poetry, community discourse and even fire throwing at a gathering dubbed the 7 7. It’s easy enough to remember: seven people perform for seven minutes at 7pm on the 7th, 17th and 27th of every month at a local venue in Prospect Lefferts Gardens.

With no theme or agenda, every 7 7 show brings a distinct experience guided by the seven performers that show up on any given night. For those seven minutes, the floor is open for anyone to share whatever it is they desire. Recite a haiku, talk politics, play the didgeridoo or just sip on a beer and take in the local voices.

“It’s not church, but we meet regularly. It’s not an immediate family but we all love each other and know each other. There’s a certain uniqueness to it,” said Miles E. McAfee, the creator and host of the 7 7. “It’s not an event, it’s a gathering and an experience.”

Miss Saturn performing her hula hoop dance routine at the 7 7 in the backyard of the Awesome Home. Photo: Shenal Tissera.

The namesake comes from McAfee’s childhood friend group back home in Berkeley, California, aptly dubbed the “7 7 Posse” because of their affinity for drinking Seagram’s whiskey and 7-Up. Before this, McAfee, in tandem with St. Paul’s Community Baptist Church, hosted a film and culture series at Medgar Evers College, where he works as a communications specialist. Every three to six weeks, filmmakers would showcase their work to the audience and before each screening, local talent and artists would come and perform.

Once the pandemic brought the film series to an end, McAfee said he was itching to do something similar a few years later.

After meeting oodles of interesting people in and around his neighborhood of Flatbush through his campaigning efforts for Maya Wiley’s mayoral bid, McAfee was spurred to create something that would bring all of those community members together.

“When it started, it was either people who I knew or someone who was walking down the street with a violin or something and I’d be like, ‘Hey, do you play the violin? Would you like to share for seven minutes?’” said McAfee.

One of those strangers McAfee approached on the street was Jake Schick, a comedian and filmmaker, who wasn’t holding a violin but was wearing a silly T-shirt they had made. (Schick uses the pronoun they.)

“Miles was like, ‘You look creative, wanna do my show?’ And I was like, ‘Oh hi stranger, nice to meet you too!’” said Schick in an interview with BK Reader. “It’s the perfect encapsulation of Miles. He’s so open and expressive. He’ll happily go up to a stranger with a shirt he likes, unprompted, saying, ‘Do my show.’”

Schick has now performed at 7 7 six times, which took place earlier this month in the backyard of  Awesome Home, a home goods store in Prospect Lefferts Gardens that is owned by McAfee’s wife, Vanessa Raptopoulos. (Some regulars referred to the place as the “rebel base.”)

Miles McAfee and Jake Schick at 7-7 in the backyard of Awesome Home. Photo: Shenal Tissera.

“Don’t expect anything. Just have an open mind that you’re gonna see a lot of different things. Just embrace that,” said Schick. “I feel like that’s what it’s all about. A community showcase of people and just giving people time. Just wanting to hear voices from all kinds of people.”

The crowd at a recent April show included a mix of first-timers and regulars, including Steve Slavin, whom McAfee met while campaigning for Wiley in 2021 and bonded over the fact that he was a college roommate of Senator Bernie Sanders.

“Most of the shows, I’m here. I’m a regular at 7 7,” said Slavin, adding that the group has grown into a beautiful community.

“We’ve created the dynamic where people are looking to each other and wanting to help support, laugh and love together. It’s infectious,” said McAfee.


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