2014 Black History Month Events
by nycgo.com staff, 01/14/2014
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New York City is rich with African-American history. NYC has been home to Louis Armstrong, Lena Horne, W.E.B. Du Bois and Langston Hughes, the Reverend Al Sharpton, Beyoncé and Jay Z. It was here that Billie Holiday first sang the civil-rights anthem "Strange Fruit," in a Greenwich Village nightclub in 1939, and here that America's first African-American secretary of state, Colin Powell, was born. Of course, the City's visitors will also find African-American cultural sites like Blue Note, the Apollo Theater and the Studio Museum. This February (and, as it happens, late January) is an especially apt time to experience African-American culture in New York City, as the City hosts a number of Black History Month events. Read on for more information.
January 23–February 27
Arsenal Gallery Exhibition: The March at the Arsenal Gallery, Central Park
This exhibition—featuring work from over a dozen artists, including Bill Howard, Nathaniel Ladson and Olga Matos-Castillo—features art related to the past, present and future of the civil rights movement.
January 24–June 29
Carrie Mae Weems exhibitions at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and The Studio Museum in Harlem
Photographer and multimedia artist Carrie Mae Weems is the subject of a two-museum retrospective: the Guggenheim's Three Decades of Photography and Video (January 24–May 14) covers Weems' 30-year career, including her early documentary work and her groundbreaking "Kitchen Table Series" of photographs; while the Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition, The Museum Series (January 30–June 29), presents a set of complex self-portraits taken with some of the world's most prominent art museums as a backdrop—and with the artist's back to the camera.
Arts, Culture & Fun: African-American Art at the Museum of Modern Art at Red Hook Recreation Center
Museum of Modern Art educator Kristin Broussard leads an illustrated talk on the museum's collection of work by African-American artists, including Romare Bearden, Jacob Lawrence and Kara Walker. To reserve a spot, email email@example.com.
Black History Month Gala Concert at the Apollo Theater
This Super Bowl–week event benefits various nonprofit organizations and includes gospel performances by Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Pastor Marvin Sapp and the Mass Gospel Choir of the First Corinthian Baptist Church. Also playing: jazz luminaries Cecil Bridgewater and Arturo O'Farrill, plus Regina Belle, Valerie Simpson and Lalah Hathaway. For tickets, visit ticketmaster.com.
January 31–February 2
Harlem Fine Arts Show at Riverside Church
This three-day exposition showcases and celebrates contemporary paintings, sculptures and photographs by African-American artists. For tickets, visit hfas.org.
February 1–February 28
Black Artstory Month at various locations
In an effort to recognize Myrtle Avenue as the "main street" of Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, and to celebrate Black History Month, the Myrtle Avenue Partnership has created an art walk along the thoroughfare. Black Artstory Month is a monthlong program that celebrates African-American culture through storytelling, lectures, exhibitions, music performances and spoken word acts. Events include a community mural project, an evening of live music and a discussion about the African diaspora’s influence on fashion. For a full list of events, visit myrtleavenue.org.
February 1–July 26
Motown: The Truth is a Hit at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
Motown founder Berry Gordy reputedly said, "The truth is a hit." This show traces the concept of truth in black music, starting with its African roots and moving through slavery, the Great Migration, the civil rights movement and other periods right up to the present day. For more information, visit nypl.org.
HeartBeat at Faison Firehouse Theatre
Commemorate Black History Month with this special two-hour launch event for the upcoming PBS television series Civil War: The Untold Story. The evening includes music and dance pieces from and inspired by Civil War-era America, along with readings of excerpts by abolitionists Frederick Douglas, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Sojourner Truth, as well as a sneak peak of the PBS series' final hour, "With Malice Toward None." Tony Award-winning choreographer George Faison hosts and Cheryl Wills of NY1 emcees. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Voices of Freedom at Brookfield Place
This free lunchtime jazz series at the World Financial Center's Winter Garden celebrates Black History Month all February. Each week, attendees can catch performances by top contemporary jazz musicians performing as duos—including Willerm Delisfort and Jason Marshall, and George Cables and Steve Turre.
February 5–June 14
Funky Turns 40: Black Character Revolution at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture
For the first half of the 20th century, Hollywood's animators followed the stereotypes of the time when drawing black characters. This changed in the late 1960s and early 1970s with Saturday morning cartoons portraying black animated characters in a more positive manner. This exhibition explores this change and the impact it had on young viewers. For more information, visit nypl.org.
Apollo Open House at the Apollo Theater
Harlem's famous theater is hosting a weekend open house on February 8 and 9. The highlight is an opportunity to see performances by winners of the Apollo's famed Amateur Night. Also notable: on-display memorabilia, kid-friendly workshops and a series of presentations and screenings focused on Harlem history—all completely free. For even more things to do in the neighborhood, check out our Harlem guide, featuring museums, theaters, restaurants and other venues. For more information, visit apollotheater.org.
February 8 and 16
Taste Harlem Winter Tour
Harlem is one of the most culturally rich neighborhoods in NYC. With historic music venues, lounges and eateries, plus an influx of new restaurants, there's a lot to take in here. While the organization Taste Harlem Food and Cultural Tours offers ongoing dining tours that allow visitors to sample distinct dishes, its new tours honoring Black History Month take tour goers to the area’s architectural spots. Spectators can choose between two jaunts, both of which stop at some of the oldest Gothic churches in the City. The February 8 tour brings visitors to local milliner Harriet Rosebud, while the February 16 tour gives an account of the life of Lena Horne, one of Harlem’s most famous performers and activists. To book a tour, visit tasteharlem.com.
Harlem Globetrotters at Barclays Center
We don't want to make any accusations here, but it sure does look from this video like the Washington Generals aren't even trying. Regardless, having read the words "Harlem Globetrotters," chances are you’re already whistling their signature song, "Sweet Georgia Brown." Such is the indelible impact of the Globetrotters. The team—known for its irrepressible tomfoolery (most basketball teams don't dump colorful confetti on the opposition) and outlandish winning percentage—seldom fails to elicit oohs, aahs and smiles from an adoring public.
W.E.B. Du Bois and the Fight for Black Equality at the New-York Historical Society
Khalil Gibran Muhammad, director of the New York Public Library's Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis discuss the enduring legacy of W.E.B. Du Bois. The famed author, activist and cofounder of the NAACP is the subject of an acclaimed two-volume biography by Lewis.
Celebrate Black History Month: George Washington Carver Workshop at Queens Botanical Garden
Botanist George Washington Carver was known as "the Wizard of Tuskegee" for his groundbreaking research into the cultivation and alternative uses of crops like sweet potatoes, peanuts and soybeans. Children attending this workshop will learn about Carver's achievements, get a chance to paint with plant dyes, and plant a peanut that they can take home for further observation.
Apollo Club Harlem at the Apollo Theater
For four evenings in February, Apollo Club Harlem transforms the theater to look like one of the many Harlem nightclubs of the 1930s and '40s and highlights the Apollo's diverse musical legacy. The evening will be directed by Maurice Hines, performers will be announced soon. For information and tickets, visit apollotheater.org.
Through March 9
Radical Presence Part II at The Studio Musuem in Harlem
Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art, co-presented by the Studio Museum in Harlem and NYU's Grey Art Gallery, is the first comprehensive survey of more than five decades of performance art by black visual artists. Part II includes an array of video and photography together with set pieces that document the artists' creative process and how performance art showcased changing social thought. Highlighted artists include Derrick Adams, Terry Adkins, Theaster Gates, Girl (Chitra Ganesh + Simone Leigh) and Carrie Mae Weems.
The show is accompanied by a series of live performances and public programs, some of which are connected with Performa 13, the noted performance-art biennial. For more information and the schedule of public programming, visit studiomuseum.org.
Through March 9
The Shadows Took Shape at The Studio Museum in Harlem
This exhibit makes uses of Afrofuturist aesthetics to explore contemporary art. Since its coinage by Mark Dery in 1994, Afrofuturism has been used by artists, writers and theorists as a way to see and explore the past, present and future. Owing its title to a Sun Ra poem, this exhibition features more than 60 works, highlighted by 10 new commissions from artists working in photography, video, painting, drawing and sculpture. For more information and the schedule of public programming, visit studiomuseum.org.
Black History Month: Telling Our Stories at Brooklyn Children's Museum
On weekends throughout the month, the "Telling Our Stories" program will help kick off the day at the Children's Museum. It's meant to be an interactive event: museum staff present objects from the collection that tell of community and racial identity, such as a baseball signed by Jackie Robinson , and visitors are encouraged to bring in their own items and tales for discussion.
Talks and screenings at Brooklyn Historical Society
In addition to Brooklyn Abolitionists/In Pursuit of Freedom, an exhibition highlighting Brooklynites who took part in the abolitionist movement (and those that resisted it), and the copy of the Emancipation Proclamation on display, the borough's repository of history is observing the month with a screening series called Created Equal: America's Civil Rights Struggle; a conversation with some movers and shakers in hip-hop; and a talk, centered on a recent book, about the role in the key role Plymouth Church and minister Henry Ward Beecher played in the antislavery movement in the mid-1800s.
Book discussions, film screenings and concerts at Brooklyn Public Library, Central Library
The Brooklyn Public Library's main branch, whose facade curves gracefully along the junction of Eastern Parkway and Flatbush Avenue, hosts a series of events throughout Black History Month. These include a discussion of a book about black-owned barbershops; screenings of American Promise, a documentary that touches on race and education, Spike Lee's Four Little Girls and The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975, drawn from footage shot by visiting Swedish journalists; and dance and music performances by a diverse group of artists.
Birthplace of Hip Hop Tours at Hush Tours
On Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays, join up with Hush Tours for a four-hour trawl around Bronx and Harlem sights crucial to the formative days of hip-hop and its culture, including the old home of two-turntables-and-a-microphone originator DJ Kool Herc. Bonus: tours are guided or joined by old-school MCs from the "Boogie Down" (as the Bronx is sometimes known), such as Grandmaster Caz and Kurtis Blow.
Harlem Heritage Tours
Harlem Heritage Tours offers itineraries that capture the history and milestones of jazz, hip-hop, gospel and the art of Harlem, providing an entertaining and informative journey through the neighborhood. All tours are conducted by guides who were born and raised in the community, giving participants a uniquely enthusiastic point of view and an insider's guide to the rich legacy and culture of the area. Participants enjoy music, dine on delicious soul food and shop Harlem's stores.
Harlem Spirituals Tour
This company's regular offerings include a "Soul Food and Jazz Tour" and a "Gospel Tour," plus a Black History Month itinerary (available on February 1 only) that includes stops at such historic sites as the African Burial Ground National Monument, Sylvia's Restaurant and the Apollo Theater. Harlem Spirituals also offers French-, German-, Italian- and Spanish-language tours; inquire for more details.