*This list is from 2017. See 2018's Black History Month calendar here.*
This month, there are dozens of events happening in honor of Black History Month, including poetry readings, film screenings, performances, art shows, lectures, concerts, and more. See them all below—ranging from the Cultural Xpressions festival to the Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series installation at Seattle Art Museum and the related exhibition at Jacob Lawrence Gallery to Resonance: A Celebration of Black American Composers—or on our Black History Month calendar.
FEB 9-APRIL 21
Aftermash: Local Artists on African American Experience
Shoreline City Hall will host a multimedia exhibit (portraiture, conceptual installation art, photography, painting, video, and sculpture) that will explore "a wide range of African American experience" through the work of Yadesa Bojia, Vincent Keele, Christen Mattix, Fiona McCargo, Kemba Opio, Brandon Roach, and Woron Ta Tele. The opening reception on February 9 promises a reading by the stellar Ijeoma Oluo (Editor-At-Large of The Establishment, and Stranger contributor).
Closing Reception: Paradise Under Reconstruction in the Aesthetic of Funk: A Quantum Leap, Starting From The Top
Seattle-based artist Xenobia Bailey's installation is the last one in the Seattle Presents Gallery's Dialogues in Art: Exhibitions on Racial Injustice series, which has been "exploring artists’ and curators’ interpretations of racial injustice, both systemic and institutional, impacting Black-identifying people throughout America." This final exhibit features life-sized figures that honor the "innovative, soulful lifestyle" of African American homemakers and caregivers and connect the African American community and Seattle's history. According to Bailey, the installation was created as “an exploration for a future of designing and engineering a humane material culture and cyber cottage industry that will address community needs relating to wellness and social and economic development.” On the final day of the show, there will be a meet-and-greet with the artist (noon to 1:30 pm) and a closing party starting at 5:30.
Socialites x Spare Change Present: We Are Black History
Seattle authors and poets of color Blu TheBaqi, Patrick Smith, Imani Sims, and Will Rideout will read poetry and deliver spoken word performances to mark Black History Month and facilitate dialogue.
Standing Together: African Americans and the Fight Against HIV
Dr. Cespedes will share the latest on the fight against AIDS in Seattle's Black community. Find out what you need to know about PrEP, safe sex, and more as you share free food.
Black History Month Cultural Xpressions
Presented by the Sundiata African American Cultural Association, this festival highlighting local artists will feature a fashion art show and reception on Friday and performances all Saturday and Sunday. African diaspora musicians, dancers, and groups like Kalimba (an Earth, Wind, and Fire tribute), Evelyn Champagne King, Northwest Tap, and Carmen Saizonou will lend their talents to this celebration. On Sunday, the festival will also screen All Our Sons, a 2004 documentary about the 12 Black firefighters who died on 9/11.
Black Health: What Makes Us Sick and What Can We Do About It?
Dr. Michele Andrasik will clarify the "psychosocial and structural factors" that lead to higher rates of HIV and STIs in underserved communities. Take advantage of free health screenings, information about preventing HIV, free food from That Brown Girl Cooks, and free admission to the Northwest African American Museum. There's even complimentary childcare for those who need it.
The Seattle Art Museum and One Vibe Africa (a local nonprofit that aims to educate the general public about African culture and promote social welfare and economic empowerment) present this free festival, the name of which means "village" in Swahili. There will be traditional music performances, an African market, and a screening of Madaraka The Documentary.
Celebrate the 100th anniversary of painter Jacob Lawrence's birth—and witness an artistic representation of the African American migration out of the rural South in the early 20th century—with this multimedia performance by Step Afrika! (the first professional stepping dance company). The performance, co-commissioned by Meany Center, incorporates projections of Lawrence's iconic Migration Series, spoken word, and stepping.
The Law & Your Community
The National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives will present ideas on changing the relationship between law enforcement and the community for the better.
Northwest Tap Connection
Shakiah Danielson's hiphop choreography and film screenings will animate a discussion about trauma in city life as part of MoPOP's Black History Month programming. Danielson is the artistic director of Northwest Tap Connection and a teacher for youth dancers.
Tribute to Black Wall Street
Historian Dr. Quintard Taylor will give a lecture on "Black Wall Street," a large and thriving Black town comprising over 600 businesses and 21 churches that was ruined in the 1921 Tulsa race riot. The conflict killed 300 African Americans and left thousands more homeless. This event commemorates what was lost, but also honors business owners in today's Black community.
Resonance: A Celebration of Black American Composers
The North Corner Chamber Orchestra will present these concerts to highlight the contributions that Black composers—particularly Scott Joplin, George Walker, and Alvin Singleton—have made to American orchestral music. At the shows, Hanna Benn will perform her new orchestral and vocal piece Sankofa ("Go back and get it" in the Twi language of Ghana), joined by Moroccan percussion group Argan. Plus, there will be a film from Stranger Genius Award winner Davida Ingram, inspired by Scott Joplin's opera Treemonisha and centered on modern-day Treemonishas (women of color who are leaders of their communities), and the premiere of a new art song by composer Alex Guy, incorporating Ingram's text about the heroine of the opera.
Black Heritage Society of Washington State, Inc 40th Anniversary Tribute
This multi-faceted event commemorates Black pioneers in the Northwest with a talk by Pamela Phillips (Olympic College) called Upwardly Mobile: The African American Experience and a performance by Carlynn Newhouse, Ana Walker, and Umeme Dinish. Light snacks provided.
Step Afrika! The Migration: Reflections on Jacob Lawrence
After their performance at Meany Hall, Step Afrika! will perform excerpts from the performance that pays tribute to the Jacob Lawrence exhibit that's currently hanging at SAM. Step Afrika! founder Brian Williams will be on hand to discuss the construction of the work and how it relates to the exhibit.
Get in the Way: The Journey of John Lewis
The Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle invites you to a free screening of a documentary about Representative John Lewis, a civil rights activist who marched and faced beatings and arrest alongside Martin Luther King Jr.
Meet the filmmakers behind UNCODE—"the popular web series made of short, documentary-style films featuring artists and storytellers across the African diaspora"—at this special film screening at Northwest Film Forum.
Funky Congregation: ’90s Edition (Cancelled)
Dance for love and understanding to jams spun by Chocolate Chuck, Reverend Dollars, and SassyBlack. Ms. SassyBlack, something of a spacey-scifi idol, will also perform live, as will Gifted Gab.
Breaking Through the Wall of Slavery
The Seattle Public Library writes that, in the process of tracing ancestors, "many African American researchers struggle to break through the brick wall of slavery." To help with that, professional genealogist Janice Lovelace will demonstrate techniques to identify emancipated slaves and their prior slave-owners through the use of land, probate, census and court records.
Luv' Ladder: A Celebration of Black Power & Funk Music From Yesteryear
Move your gams to joyful jams all the way up the Luv' Ladder, with tunes by DJ Kirky and DJ Witchell Smell, gogo vibes from Leola and Randy, and a special feature by Adé, singing songs of black power and timeless funk and soul. Drink, dance, celebrate Black History Month, and enjoy the sacred queer spaces in Seattle.
NW African American Alliance
This group reading is presented by the NW African American Alliance, a local group of writers.
POC Boutique: Black History Month Edition
Buy goods from Black artisans and artists at this edition of the POC Boutique. This month, they write that they want to "celebrate and recognize the rich culture and deep history of Black Americans that were rooted long ago." They also write that, "You do not have to be a Person of Color to attend the event. We are just asking our vendors to be of color." Find something stylish and support the Black artistic/craft community.
Search For Meaning Book Festival
As part of this Seattle University event featuring scholars, fiction writers, and poets, Margot Lee Shetterly (author of Hidden Figures: The Untold Story of the Black Women Who Helped Win the Space Race) will give a keynote speech.
Grindtopia 3: The 1st Annual Black History Month Spectacular!
Grindtopia presents this triple bill of iconic blaxploitation movies from the 1970s, including creepy vampire film Ganja & Hess, Coffy (featuring the incomparable Pam Grier as a black female vigilante named Coffy, plus a score by the immortal Roy Ayers), and That Man Bolt, an action film full of mysterious spies and flashy martial arts. Also look forward to burger specials and themed cocktails!
THROUGH FEB 28
Black History Month Pop-Up Gallery
For their sixth annual exhibit honoring Black History Month, Alki Arts presents this pop-up gallery at Pacific Place, featuring works by Jeremy Bell, Cheryl Zahniser, Lisa Meyers Bulmash, Warren Pope, Al Doggett, and Hiawatha Davis. On February 14, there will be a Step Afrika Welcome Reception, and, on February 17, there will be a Legal Professionals After Hours Mixer.
Lost Lake Cares: Antioch's Civil Rights Tour of the South
Expanding on its monthly fundraising tradition, and in honor of Black History Month, Lost Lake will donate ten percent of every Tuesday's profits to a campaign to send Antioch University students on a civil rights tour of the south. Students will get: a trip around Alabama's civil rights movement monuments and museums, guided by Dr. Bernard LaFayette, an activist colleague of Martin Luther King, Jr. You will get: a good meal and the moral satisfaction of helping raise the necessary $10,000.
THROUGH MARCH 4
Jacob Lawrence: The Legend of John Brown + Other Works
To celebrate the 100-year anniversary of renowned artist (and UW professor) Jacob Lawrence's birth, venues all over the city are hosting special exhibits of his work, including The Migration Series, currently on view at SAM, and Eight Studies for the Book of Genesis, which will open in April at The Henry. So it's only appropriate that the gallery named after Jacob Lawrence should highlight his artwork as well. This exhibit will feature Lawrence's serigraphs, lithographs, and etchings, including Artist in Studio, Man on Scaffold, selections from The Builder's Suite, and the 22-part series The Legend of John Brown (about the abolitionist who supported a violent uprising against slavery). On February 15, there will be a gallery talk with Royal Alley-Barnes.
THROUGH MARCH 19
Dance Theatre of Harlem: Forty Years of Firsts
This touring exhibit celebrates the accomplishments of African Americans and other minority groups in dance, choreography, and performance. See memorabilia including original programs, letters, articles, and posters, as well as historical footage and a large, one-of-a-kind quilt.
THROUGH APRIL 23
Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series
Last year around this time, I was so excited about the Museum of Modern Art's exhibition of all 60 of Jacob Lawrence's paintings of the Great Migration that I wrote about it, even though I couldn't get there to see the art in person. But now all 60 panels—all 60 panels!—are coming to Seattle Art Museum. This is the first time they've been seen all together on the West Coast in two decades. Lawrence lived the last years of his life in Seattle, teaching at the University of Washington, so the venue makes good sense. At MoMA, it was the first time in two decades they'd been seen together on the East Coast. It nearly takes an act of heaven itself for it to happen, since half of the series is held at the Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, and the other half at MoMA. MoMA's iteration included works of poetry, music, and photography, to place the 23-year-old Lawrence, whose own parents fled north, in the creative context of his peers. The exhibition was appealing and in-depth, unlike the all-too-often "uniformly flat-footed and sentimentalist uses of Jacob Lawrence,” described by Darby English. JEN GRAVES
THROUGH MAY 28
Inye Wokoma: An Elegant Utility
Inye Wokoma is a filmmaker and visual artist known for his explorations of place and identity, including last year's exhibition This is Who We Are, about his experience as a Black man in Seattle. An Elegant Utility will examine Seattle's Central District, through the lens of Wokoma's own family as well as the larger experience of African Americans in Seattle, and will feature artifacts including photographs, mementos, and legal ledgers.
I Am Not Your Negro
Sixteen years after Lumumba, Raoul Peck, who is Haitian, has directed I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary about one of the greatest writers of 20th-century America, James Baldwin. Now, it's easy to make a great film about Baldwin, because, like Muhammad Ali, there's tons of cool footage of his public and private moments, and, also like Ali, he had a fascinating face: the odd shape of his head, the triangle of hair that defined his forehead, and his froggy eyes. Just show him doing his thing and your film will do just fine. But Peck blended footage of Baldwin with dusky and dreamy images of contemporary America. These images say: Ain't a damn thing changed from the days of Baldwin and the Civil Rights Movement. But they say this with a very deep insight about the nature of time. CHARLES MUDEDE
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