Black magicians: The overlooked entertainers

When the word magician is mentioned, images of David Copperfield, Criss Angel and David Blaine are instantly conjured up.

But in actuality, there are a crop of African-Americans who are holding it down in the world of illusion and sleight of hand.


Some of those magicians include master illusionists John Hamilton and Kenrick “ICE” McDonald.

Hamilton was the first and only Black American in 1979 to represent the United States in the World Congress of Magic in Brussels. In 1986, Hamilton, who is originally from Cleveland, created “Magic With A Message,” a school assembly program enjoyed by over two million children of all ages.

Kendrik “ICE” McDonald was inspired to get into magic after seeing a performance by Goldfinger and Dove on television. ICE—which stands for Illusion, Captivation and Enchantment—taught himself how to perform many magic tricks.

When asked why Blacks are “not thought of” when someone considers magicians, these two men tell a candid story of how they have carved out their own unique niche in a business that can be somewhat daunting.

“I’ve been a magician since I was seven years old,” said Hamilton, who lives in Las Vegas. “I’ve been doing it all my life. I used magic as an international language when I was in Vietnam. Over there we couldn’t speak the language, but everyone understood magic tricks.

“The kids thought I was some kind of miracle worker but I was just a guy who knew a little bit about magic,” he continued.

After returning to the United States, Hamilton worked as a photographer for CBS.

Currently, he takes his magic act into elementary schools nationwide to inspire kids to follow their dreams.

“My magic is positive and it inspires you. It’s all about people encouraging people and helping them to make their dreams come true. Everyone needs encouragement and I tell kids that if they stay focused and keep on the right course they can get things done. I love doing this because I can help people,“ Hamilton said.

McDonald is one of the leading Black magicians in the world. He has been in the business for 30 years. Throughout that time he has had his share of feast and famine.

“In the beginning it was hard to find work as it is with any entertainer,” said ICE, who lives in Los Angeles. “I’m at the point right now where I can tell an organization that I want to come there and they will work it out. When I first got into the business, we (Black magicians) were held to a higher standard than our counterparts. We had to be better and we were and the audience recognized that.”

ICE said that the elegance and class that came with doing magic has been lost over the years.

“In the early days everyone wore a suit and we had to work really hard to prove ourselves in order to be taken seriously,” said ICE, who has toured throughout the world with his magic act. He also appeared on the series “Masters of Illusion” last May.

“I was the only African-American on the program and people thought that I was the only African- American doing this,” ICE said.

In addition, ICE lectures up-and-coming magicians on the craft.

“I tell them to develop their niche and to go out and do the work needed to be a successful magician: study the history of magic and try to find a mentor that will give you the proper information.”

(For more information check out each magician’s website: www. ham­ilton­ or www.gig­

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