Since 1976, every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by African Americans and a time for recognizing their important role in U.S. history. The event was originally the brainchild of noted historian Carter G. Woodson and other prominent African Americans. Following is a list of Los Angeles events and cultural institutions participating in Black History Month.
On Saturday, February 2nd, the Our Authors Study Club presents a Black History Bus Tour of Los Angeles, offered from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. The tour is scheduled to visit key historic sites throughout Los Angeles, including:
- First AME Church - Established in 1872, the First African Methodist Episcopal Church is LA’s oldest church founded by African Americans, with a congregation of over 19,000 members.
- Los Angeles Sentinel - Founded in 1933, the Los Angeles Sentinel has a readership of over 125,000 and is the oldest and largest African American newspaper in the Western U.S.
- Lena Horne's Home on "Sugar Hill" (1940) - The West Adams area was once known as “Sugar Hill,” an affluent neighborhood where famous and wealthy African Americans like singer-actress Lena Horne lived. Other homes on the tour include Johnny Otis (the “Godfather of Rhythm and Blues”), vocalist Ethel Waters and actress Louise Beavers.
- African American Firefighter Museum - Located across the street from the historic Coca-Cola Building on South Central Avenue, the African American Firefighter Museum is dedicated to collecting, preserving and promoting the heritage of African American firefighters.
- Leimert Park Village - The historic Leimert Park neighborhood is considered the center of LA’s African American arts scene.
The bus leaves from Consolidated Realty, located in Baldwin Hills at 3725 Don Felipe Drive. For more information and to RSVP, please call 323.936.5870 or 213.705.4373.
Located in Exposition Park, the California African American Museum (CAAM) exists to research, collect, preserve and interpret the history, art and culture of African Americans. The museum conserves more than 3,500 objects of art, historical artifacts and memorabilia. CAAM maintains a research library with more than 20,000 books and other reference materials available for limited public use. Target Sundays at CAAM is a monthly celebration of the diverse influences and achievements of art and culture from the African American Diaspora, as seen and heard through the eyes and voices of traditional and contemporary artists, community leaders, cultural historians, activists and educators. On February 3rd, Target Sundays at CAAM kicks off Black History Month with a wide range of performances by special guests. The event is co-hosted by Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter and Kim Whitley, and takes place from 1 p.m. - 5 p.m.
Earlier in the day, CAAM is hosting Los Angeles Pioneers - Golden State Mutual's Historical Murals, Part I. This presentation and lecture is scheduled to begin at noon and explores the history, people and events depicted in the Charles Alston mural entitled The Negro in California History - Exploration and Colonization, 1527-1850. The lecture will be facilitated by Dr. Toni C. Humber, professor of Ethnic Women's Studies at Cal Poly Pomona. RSVP is preferred: 213.744.2024.
The annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is America's largest and most prestigious Black film festival. PAFF holds the distinction of being the largest Black History Month event in the country. Veteran actress Salli Richardson-Whitfield is this year’s celebrity host, and award-winning actress Lynn Whitfield is being honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award for her work in television and film. PAFF is taking place at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. The festival kicks off with a star-studded Opening Night Gala on Thursday, February 7th at the headquarters of the Directors Guild of America (DGA) in West Hollywood.
Now in its 21st year, PAFF screens more than 150 films made by and/or about people of African descent from the United States, Africa, the Caribbean, South America, the South Pacific, Latin America, Europe and Canada. PAFF was founded in 1992 by award-winning actor Danny Glover, Emmy Award-winning actress Ja’Net DuBois, and Executive Director Ayuko Babu, an international legal, cultural and political consultant who specializes in African Affairs. PAFF is a non-profit corporation dedicated to the promotion of ethnic and racial respect and tolerance through the exhibition of films, art and creative expression.
Black Women: State of the Union (BWSOTU) is a theatrical and community event that represents and celebrates Black women as complex and resilient people. BWSOTU promotes greater understanding of Black women’s significant contributions to the world through performance, visual arts, community events and media. To celebrate Black History Month, BWSOTU returns to the Company of Angels Theatre with Taking Flight, an edgy and emotionally eclectic exploration of the challenges and achievements of Black Women in contemporary America. Located in the historic Alexandria Hotel in Downtown, the Company of Angels is LA’s oldest non-profit repertory theater company, founded in 1959 by actors Richard Chamberlain, Leonard Nimoy, Vic Morrow and famed entertainment attorney Bertram Fields. Tickets for Taking Flight are $20 or $15 with a Senior/Student discount. For reservations, call 213.489.3703 or visit www.companyofangels.org.
In honor of Black History Month, the Santa Monica Playhouse presents Bananas! - A Day in the Life of Josephine Baker, a one-woman cabaret written and performed by Sloan Robinson, with accompaniment by pianist Aeros Pierce. Bananas! takes its name from a famous striptease costume worn by Baker, a legendary performer and civil rights activist who was the first African-American female to star in a major motion picture. In 2009, Bananas! received N.A.A.C.P. Theatre Awards for Best Music Director, Best Costumes and a nomination for Best Female Performance. General Admission tickets for Bananas! are $20. Two shows only: Saturday, February 16th at 8 p.m. and Sunday, February 17th at 3 p.m.
On Monday, February 25th, the Los Angeles Gay & Lesbian Center’s Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center celebrates Black History Month with two free events that highlight the cultural contributions that African Americans have made to our society. At 7:30 p.m., A Tribute to African American Authors features renowned actors and singers performing selected works. A reception for the new exhibit Ain’t Just Paint: Works from the CCH Pounder Collection follows A Tribute. The events are taking place in the Renberg Theatre and Advocate & Gochis Galleries, both located at the Center’s Village at Ed Gould Plaza in Hollywood. Admission to both events is free, but reservations are required for A Tribute: www.aatribute.eventbrite.com.