This February, there are plenty of ways to celebrate Black History Month around Seattle, whether it's by watching August Wilson's play Two Trains Running, learning more about Seattle's history at events like The Black and Tan: Reimagining Seattle’s Legendary Jazz Club, or checking out Marvel's Black Panther in theaters. See them all below, or on our Black History Month calendar.
Two Trains Running
Everyone should be well aware of Fences, August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece about black family life in the 1950s. But everyone—especially Seattleites concerned with issues of gentrification, activism, rising racial tensions, and economic inequality—would also do well to spend as much time thinking about Two Trains Running, the next in Wilson's 10-play cycle. Set in a Pittsburgh diner, Wilson reckons with the revolutionary decade of the 1960s, when expectations for the future of the civil rights movement were as high as they were uncertain. Everyone should also know that Wilson's a hometown hero, having spent the latter years of his life writing in the Victrola on 15th or the (old) Canterbury on 19th. Seeing his plays at the Rep, where his cycle of plays was produced in full, carries a special resonance. Juliette Carrillo will direct. RICH SMITH
Annual Exhibit Honoring Black History Month
Jeremy Bell, Hiawatha D., Roosevelt Lewis, Cheryl Zahniser, and Warren Pope have all contributed art to this annual exhibition honoring Black History Month.
Black Being Gentle Yoga Series
This three-part yoga series, taking place during Black History Month, aims to "intuitively connect you with your body and breath while exercising holistic black excellence." The first class will focus on "black healing" through stress-relieving yoga postures; the second will focus on "black trust" by pairing participants up with a person they don't know; and the third will focus on "black joy" through "intentional breathing."
David Casteal and Bryan Harnetiaux focus on a man neglected in the history books and only given some recognition long after his death—York, the only black man on the Lewis and Clark expedition, brought along as William Clark's slave. Casteal stars in this one-man show.
Jacob Lawrence Legacy Residency with C. Davida Ingram
Tucked inside the University of Washington School of Art is the Jacob Lawrence Gallery, a hidden gem that features one of the city's most innovative and dynamic exhibition schedules. In 2015, the gallery established the Jacob Lawrence Legacy Residency in order to dedicate every February—Black History Month—to artists and ideas of the African diaspora. This year's residency honors the 100th anniversary of Jacob Lawrence's birth. The featured artist is 2014 Stranger Genius C. Davida Ingram, whose exhibition A Book with No Pages promises to engage community organizers, artists, and healers in radical acts of imagination and solidarity. EMILY POTHAST
Sanctuary in the City
For the first installment of this new free concert series, countertenor Reginald L. Mobley will join pianist Henry Lebedinsky for a program of music by black composers of the past and present.
Black Fashionista! The History of Black Women Fashion Designers
Discover the story of black women fashion designers and icons in a white-dominated industry in the United States.
Dear White People
Samuel L. JackYouSon's variety show is meant to "bring levity to political language and invite new perspectives" through a mixture of live music, burlesque, poetry, dance, and spoken word. Featured talent includes Taqueet$, Boom Boom L’Roux, Anastacia Renee, and the Black Tones.
Recall the amazing days of the Cotton Club, swing, and Thomas "Fats" Waller in this musical by Luther Henderson, celebrating black musicians of the Harlem Renaissance.
Living Voices: The Right to Dream
This event combines live theatrical performances with archival film to portray the Civil Rights era through the eyes of an African American student in Mississippi during the '50s and '60s.
A Night of Black Women Magic & Multi-Genre Writing
Four notable black women writers and poets will read at this night of many genres and big talents: Seattle Civic Poet Anastacia-Reneé, Dr. Bettina A. Judd of UW, Cave Canem fellow Natalie Graham, and author and Seattle Globalist contributor Reagan Jackson. Pick up copies of their books.
Through the Eyes of Art
Join athletes and performers as they discuss the intersection of athletics and activism. Panelists include former Huskies basketball player Donals Watts, former Huskies wide receiver Mario Bailey, and former Green Bay Packer Joey Thomas. The evening will also include an activist-inspired installation from Byrd Barr Place Art Exhibit, as well as a poetry slam and live performances by Northwest Tap.
Every Time I Feel The Spirit
Pacific MusicWorks will spend an afternoon exploring the many astounding contributions of black musicians to each epoch of American music, from colonial times through to the influences of the present. Critically acclaimed countertenor Reginald L. Mobley will be joined by an ensemble of period-specific banjo, guitar, strings, and piano players for this program.
Mary Henry and Jacqueline E.A. Lawson: Uncovering the History of Seattle’s Black Community
Historians Mary Henry and Jacqueline E.A. Lawson will share their work documenting the history of Seattle’s black community. Learn about Seattle’s Central District as it was in the mid-20th century, as well as the significant African American leaders who have shaped our region.
FEBRUARY 14 & 21
The Soliloquies of Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway
This series of evening performances will serve to celebrate the legendary musical collaboration of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (1945-1979), who recorded a duet album entitled Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway in 1972. Their expressive work will be revisited by local musicians alongside a cadre of local singers.
Black Panther Opening
The warrior-king of Wakanda will defend his people and struggle to avert world war in this hugely anticipated, frankly kickass-looking comic book adaptation starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, and Lupita Nyong'o. The 4 Us Collective will also throw the Wakanda Weekend bash for black people in Seattle to celebrate the opening.
Figuring History: Robert Colescott, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas Opening
Figuring History shows how three generations of African American artists have revived and transformed the large-scale historical tableau to make us rethink pivotal moments in our white-dominated country's history. Robert Colescott (1925–2009) made wonderfully gaudy paintings that appropriated, transformed, and mocked European and American tradition. See pieces like the cartoonish George Washington Carver Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook and his exquisite response to Picasso, Les Demoiselles d'Alabama: Vestidas. Kerry James Marshall (born 1955) creates works with a calm, dense feel, depicting ordinary settings like diners, barbershops, parking lots and yards. Without posturing, the figures in these tableau seem charged with elegiac gravity. The youngest generation is represented by Mickalene Thomas (born 1971), who approaches the nude from a feminist perspective and incorporates rhinestones, photographs, and collage in her investigation of gender and race dynamics. (Side note: She was also Michelle Obama's portraitist.) These artists have questioned the chokehold of white culture on the imagination of the past, and their collected works promise to compose one of the most exciting exhibitions this year. JOULE ZELMAN
Sampada Aranke: Blackouts and Other Visual Escapes
In parallel with a future exhibit at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston that will critique systemic racism in the American justice system, academic Sampada Aranke will give a talk on surveillance and criminalization of black life.
The Jazz Epistles with Abdullah Ibrahim, Ekaya, and Terence Blanchard
Back in the 1980s, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) only operated between five in the afternoon and midnight, and in the hour or so before programming started, their station would accompany the transmission test pattern with music. Often this music was by Abdullah Ibrahim (who in the deep past of Cape Town, South Africa, was known as Dollar Brand), and often the tunes that flowed from the TV’s speakers were either Ibrahim’s exquisitely affirmative “Zimbabwe” or his masterpiece of jazz-jive “Mannenberg.” The African sun would be in the Harare sky, insects buzzing in the bright air, the dog basking on the veranda, copper light falling in the living room, my body reposed on a sofa, and all around me the sorrowful, lyrical, loop-like jazz of the great South African pianist. What Ibrahim accomplished as an artist was to end the split between lyrical sensitivity and aggressive percussiveness. He is one of the giants of Africa. CHARLES MUDEDE
State of Africatown 2018
The fifth annual State of Africatown will cover the accomplishments of the year, as well as the challenges facing the African American and African Diaspora community in 2018 and beyond.
We Are History Keepers: A Workshop on Preserving the Cultural and Historical Record of Our Community
Learn how to preserve historical records (including photographs, papers, and oral histories) in this day of workshops.
SDSA Film Screening: The Murder of Fred Hampton
The Seattle Democratic Socialists of America will host a screening of the Murder of Fred Hampton, a documentary about the 1969 assassination of Hampton, the leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, at the hands of the Chicago Police Department and the FBI. Stick around for a discussion after the film.
How Minority Men and Tradeswomen Won Justice on the Jobsite
Join Conor Casey, head of the UW Labor Archives, as he uses historical collections to demonstrate how Seattle workers fought for justice on the job. Assistant Labor Archivist Crystal Rodgers will then introduce and contextualize her pop-up exhibit on Women in the Trades.
Experience "the spirit of an African village" through live traditional musical performances, storytelling, poetry, and readings from One Vibe Photo Book, We Will Lead Africa, and Unbounded by Boniface Mwangi.
Kimberly Foster: Don’t Wait to Create Change
Kimberly Foster didn't wait to start changing the world—she created a highly successful internet forum for black women's voices and journalistic work while still an undergrad at Harvard. At this event co-sponsored by the Black Student Union of Seattle Central College and Town Hall, she'll tell you more about her efforts.
Langston Hughes Family Traveling Museum
Join Langston Marjol Rush-Collet (Langston Hughes' cousin) for a tour of the Langston Hughes Family Museum, of which he is the director and curator.
African American Writer's Alliance Annual Group Reading
This group reading is presented by the NW African American Alliance, a local group of writers.
Resilience in the Black Community: What gives us strength?
This free gathering features University of Washington professor Quintard Taylor, Seattle's Chief of Police Carmen Best, and others. There will be a free lunch, HIV and Hep C testing, and other complimentary health screenings.
The Black and Tan: Reimagining Seattle’s Legendary Jazz Club
The Black & Tan Club was at the heart of Seattle’s legendary Jackson Street jazz scene during times of segregation. Join jazz historian Paul de Barros, author of Jackson Street After Hours, as he explores its history, and hear live jazz music from the era.
Brittney Cooper: Eloquent Rage
Rutgers University professor and Crunk Feminist Collective blog co-founder Brittney Cooper has been making the talk show rounds and contributed her feminist insights to Al Jazeera’s Third Rail, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Root, and others. She'll talk about her new book Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower.
Exhibits from the Seattle Art Museum and the Northwest African American Museum will inspire community members' conservations on "race, power, politics, and representation."
Jessica Rycheal and Zorn B. Taylor: Everyday Black
Jessica Rycheal is a portrait photographer whose work documents subjects drawn from Seattle's multigenerational activist community with a sensuous, effervescent joie de vivre. Also a portrait photographer, Zorn B.Taylor often spotlights the idea of intentionally chosen family, capturing his subjects with simultaneous attention toward the monumental and the quotidian. In this two-person exhibition, curated by C. Davida Ingram and Leilani Lewis, Rycheal and Taylor present a series of intimate, honest, and lovingly created photographs celebrating many prominent members of Seattle's Black creative community. EMILY POTHAST
Lisa Myers Bulmash: You're Not From Around Here, Are You?
Lisa Myers Bulmash's paintings, collages, and mixed-media works reflect on the experience of African Americans in the Pacific Northwest, including "the hyper-visibility of Black bodies, and the notion of racial authenticity in overwhelmingly white spaces." On February 4, there will be a family-focused collage workshop with Bulmash, and there will be an artist lecture with Intisar Abioto on February 25.
Seattle on the Spot: The Photographs of Al Smith
According to Al Smith's 2008 obituary in the Seattle Times, Smith never considered himself a professional photographer. But his photographs of the Central District, jazz clubs, and African American community in Seattle number in the tens of thousands, and their quality, depth, and breadth are unparalleled. In particular, his documentation of the Jackson Street jazz scene has helped preserve memories of a relatively fleeting but culturally formative time in our city's history. Smith's archive is gigantic, so selecting images for this exhibit will be tough, but there will almost certainly be shots of a few famous musicians touring through Seattle—he photographed legends including Louis Armstrong, Cab Calloway, Fats Waller, Jimmie Lunceford, Kathryn Dunham, Lionel Hampton, Erskine Hawkins, Duke Ellington, and Count Basie. On February 24, check out the Back to the Block: A Theater and Jazz Experience, featuring performances and monologues based on the exhibition.
Sondra Perry: Eclogue for [In]habitability
New media artist Sondra Perry, winner of the 2017 Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Prize for early-career black artists, uses video installations to interrogate how African Americans are treated by the media and by law enforcement. Some previous pieces, like netherrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr 1.0.3, use explicit metaphors linking technology and society. For example, the "blue screen of death" transforms into the "blue wall of silence," the term for police officers' cover-ups of their colleagues' mistakes. She devises special setups for watching these pieces, like exercise bikes with screens rigged over the bars. Here, Perry will create an immersive video and sculpture show that, if her past work is any guide, exploits technological "glitches" to reveal systemic failure.