Black History Month is an annual celebration of the achievements and contributions of African Americans throughout US history. The celebration originated from “Negro History Week,” proposed by noted historian Dr. Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African-Americans, which was later expanded to a month-long event in 1970. During this month, various educational institutions, cultural centers, and community organizations hold events and activities to commemorate and educate people about African American history and culture.
There are many events happening in celebration of African and African American culture and heritage in the city. Here is a brief rundown of some highlights but not a comprehensive list! Please keep an eye out for more events and make sure to let people know!
At Elegba Folklore Society on February 3, the society will be hosting an Open House at their cultural center as part of the First Fridays Art Walk from 5pm to 9pm. Visitors can explore art and artifacts from around the African world, including the current exhibition Source Material: Celebrating Art from the African Diaspora.
On February 18, Elegba Folklore Society will be screening James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket as part of their 3rd Saturday Documentaries. The film explores the life and activism of James Baldwin, and will be followed by a discussion. Admission is free.
Elegba Folklore Society is also hosting the 2023 Black Book Expo ⦿ A Conscious Literary Festival throughout February. The festival will feature author chats with celebrity writers on selected Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 7pm ET, streaming on the society’s Facebook page. The public is also invited to attend in person on February 25 and 26 from 3pm to 7pm ET, where they can browse and buy books, meet independent authors, and experience live entertainment.
The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is also hosting several events and exhibitions in celebration of Black History Month.
On February 16 to March 17, the museum will feature RVA Community Makers, an annual community-activated public art project presented by the museum and led by artist Hamilton Glass.
Through February 28, the museum is currently showing Ebony Patterson: … three kings weep … a large-scale video installation created by Jamaican-born artist Ebony Patterson.
Another museum exhibition is Isaac Julien: Lessons of the Hour — Frederick Douglass a large-scale film installation that immerses visitors in the life and words of Frederick Douglass, through July 9.
In addition to exhibitions, the museum is also offering a series of public programs in honor of Black History Month, including workshops, panel discussions, and guided tours. One such program is Making Connections: A Virtual Tour of African American Art, a virtual tour led by a museum educator that focuses on the museum’s rich collection of works by African American artists. The tour takes place on February 22, at 7:00pm ET and is free and open to the public.
Another event to look out for is the African American Women in the Arts panel discussion, taking place on February 26, at 2:00pm ET. The panel will bring together a diverse group of artists, curators, and art historians to explore the impact and significance of African American women in the visual arts.
Virginia Commonwealth University hosts on Feb. 23, 7-9 p.m., musician, scholar, and museum official Dwandalyn R. Reece will give a lecture for the 22nd annual VCU Libraries Black History Month event. Her lecture will focus on African-American music and culture, drawing from her upcoming book, Musical Crossroads. The event is free and open to the public, with registration available for in-person and virtual attendance.
Virginia Museum of History & Culture on Thursday, February 2nd at 6:00 PM, a virtual lecture titled The Hero from Hopewell will be livestreamed on Facebook and YouTube, featuring the story of Curtis Harris and his fight against racism in Virginia.
On Monday, February 6th, the museum will be showcasing the documentary The Black Angels: A Nurse’s Story which pays homage to Marjorie Tucker Reed, one of 300 African American nurses who risked their lives to care for patients with tuberculosis.
On Saturday, February 11th, the Hear2Hear nonprofit organization is presenting Black History: Learning from the Past and Inspiring the Future, which will focus on the historical perspectives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing African Americans and moments in history. This free event will feature three exhibits, guest presenters, and educational information.
On Saturday, February 18th at 1:00 PM, From Enslavement to Empowerment: Reflections from St. Emma Military Academy & St. Francis de Sales High School will explore the history and stories of these two schools of higher learning for Native and African American students. The program will include vintage visuals, a panel discussion, and audience participation.
On February 22nd at 4:30 PM, the museum is presenting Pride in Black Voices, experience the power of Frederick Douglass being brought to life through a living history performance by Performance Poet, Historian, and Suffolk native Nathan M. Richardson and a song performance by Virginia Opera artists.
At the Firehouse Theatre on February 5th The Mingus Awareness Project (MAP) is happening at 7:30pm. The great jazz titan, bassist and composer Charles Mingus, passed away from ALS on January 5, 1979. Despite 40 years passing, a cure for ALS still hasn’t been found. The Mingus Awareness Project (MAP) is a concert series aimed at supporting individuals affected by ALS and their families through benefiting organizations. So far, MAP concerts have been held in Chicago, Illinois, and Richmond, Virginia. These concerts not only serve to help those with ALS, but also offer audiences and performers a chance to celebrate the music of Charles Mingus and others who worked with him, as well as new compositions by MAP performers.
At Richmond Triangle Players from February 1st to 25th, 2023, How Black Mothers Say I Love You is powerful play, directed by Desiree Dabney, features Zakiyyah Jackson, Dorothy “Dee D” Miller, Bailey Robinson and Shalandis Wheeler Smith. Follow the story of Daphne, who left her two young daughters in Jamaica for 6 years to build a better life for them in America. Thirty years later, she relies on her church and dutiful daughter to cope with a health crisis, until the arrival of her feisty activist daughter Claudette. The reunion uncovers the past, family ghosts, and the burning desire for unconditional love.
Main image credit: Collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, © Sedat Pakay 1965