Black History Month Events in Los Angeles

Photo courtesy of California African American Museum

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.

Battleship IOWA (Feb. 2015)

Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Award at the Battleship IOWA
The Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Leadership and Service Award | Photo courtesy of Battleship IOWA, Facebook

Battleship IOWA has a series of events and tributes planned throughout February to honor Black History month. There is no better place in Los Angeles to celebrate and commemorate the impact African Americans have had in the United States Navy and to this country than on the “Battleship of Presidents,” the same ship where Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, the first African American to command a warship, served during his illustrious Naval career.

On Sunday, Feb. 1, "Celebrating the American Spirit - Battleship Iowa Salutes Black History Month” will be unveiled. The display includes artifacts, news clippings, and photography that offer visitors insight into five pioneering black servicemen. Focusing on the contributions of Robert Penn, Alex Haley,  John Henry “Dick” Turpin, Doris “Dorie” Miller and Samuel L. Gravely, “Celebrating the American Spirit” will be part of the ship’s tour through Feb. 28.

On Saturday, Feb. 8 at 5 p.m., the “Movie Under the Guns” monthly series launches with a free screening of “Tuskegee Airmen,” starring Laurence Fishburne and Cuba Gooding, Jr. The movie tells the story of the first group of African American military aviators in the United States Armed Forces, who fought the spread of fascism in Europe while facing racism at home. Special guest Lt. Col. Robert Friend will introduce the film and participate in a brief Q&A session. Lt. Col. Friend is one of the surviving members of the Tuskegee Airmen and flew 142 combat missions over Europe in World War II.

On Wednesday, Feb. 18, the second annual Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Service and Leadership Award will be presented in recognition of African American leaders in Southern California who exemplify the trailblazing, courageous service of the late U.S. Navy Vice Admiral.

For more info about Black History Month events at Battleship IOWA, visit

Pan African Film Festival (Feb. 5-16, 2015)

PAFF co-founders Danny Glover, Ja'Net DuBois and Ayuko Babu
L to R: PAFF co-founders Danny Glover, Ja'Net DuBois and Ayuko Babu | Photo courtesy of PAFF, Facebook

The annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival (PAFF) is the largest African American film festival in the United States dedicated to the exhibition of Black films. Each year PAFF exhibits more than 150 films made in the U.S., Africa, Europe, the Caribbean, the South Pacific, Latin America and Canada. Now in its 23rd year, PAFF is taking place Feb. 5-16, 2015 at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. Stanley Nelson’s "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution" will make its West Coast premiere as the Opening Night film selection. "Triangle-Going to America" will be highlighted as the Centerpiece selection and the festival closes with "The Man in 3B." 

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.


Photo courtesy of California African American Museum

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 Feb. 8, Target Sundays at CAAM kicks off Black History Month with a full day of programming from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. featuring live performances, spoken word, art workshops and more. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.

Afro-Latino Festival - MOLAA (Feb. 8, 2015)

Founded in 1996, the Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA) is the only museum in the United States dedicated to modern and contemporary Latin American art. Since its inception, MOLAA has doubled its size, added a 15,000 square-foot sculpture garden and expanded its permanent collection. Celebrate African contributions to Latin American culture at MOLAA’s annual Afro-Latino Festival, taking place on Sunday, Feb. 8 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The family-friendly event features craft vendors, face painting and art workshops. Children’s storytime starts at 12:30 p.m. in the screening room and docent tours of the galleries begin at 2 p.m.  Live performances take place from 1-4 p.m. in the Robert Gumbiner Sculpture Garden. Admission to the festival is free.

African American Festival - Aquarium of the Pacific (Feb. 21-22, 2015)

The Aquarium of the Pacific presents the 13th Annual African American Festival, taking place on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 21-22. The weekend festival celebrates the rich diversity of African-American and African cultures with live entertainment, arts and crafts, multicultural food and more. Festival performers include Mardi Gras second line dancers, hip hop and break dancers, tap dancers, jazz musicians, interactive drum circles, West African dancers and storytellers. The festival is included with paid general admission and free to Aquarium members.