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 (February 2016)

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.

“Celebrating the American Spirit – Battleship Iowa Salutes Black History Month” will be on view for ticketed tour visitors through Monday, Feb. 29. The exhibit features artifacts, news clippings and photography that offers insight into the contributions of five pioneering black servicemen: Robert Penn (1872-1912), Alex Haley (1921-1992), John Henry “Dick” Turpin (1876-1962), Doris “Dorie” Miller (1919-1943) and Samuel L. Gravely (1922-2004).

On Thursday Feb. 18, the third annual Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Leadership & Award will be presented to Noel Massie, president of United Parcel Service (UPS) in Southern California. This prestigious award recognizes African American leaders in Southern California area 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. 4-15, 2016)

Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in “Miles Ahead”
Don Cheadle as Miles Davis in “Miles Ahead” | Photo courtesy of Pan African Film Festival

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 24th year, PAFF is taking place Feb. 4-15 at the Rave Cinemas Baldwin Hills 15 at Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

The Opening Night feature film, America is Still the Place uncovers a story about a giant oil spill on the beaches of northern California and the institutional racism that Charlie Walker has to overcome in order to finally achieve the “American Dream.” The Centerpiece selection is Agents of Change, a documentary that examines the untold story of racial conditions on college campuses and across the country that led to the protests of the late 1960s. Miles Ahead, the Closing Night feature, is inspired by events in the life of Miles Davis. Don Cheadle makes his directorial debut and stars as the legendary jazz musician.

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

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.

California African American Museum (February 2016)

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.

Programming at CAAM during Black History Month includes a prop-making workshop on Saturday, Feb. 6; lectures in the Carter G. Woodson African American History Series on Feb. 7, Feb. 20 and Feb. 28; and a writers’ workshop on Feb. 27 presented by The Community Writers Group, which seeks to preserve the histories of the peoples of the African Diaspora through the writing of personal narratives.

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. 14, Target Sundays at CAAM celebrates Black History Month with a full day of programming from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. featuring live performances, spoken word, art workshops and more. Admission is free and all ages are welcome.


El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument
Photo courtesy of El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument, Facebook

In February 2016, El Pueblo de Los Angeles Historical Monument (El Pueblo) will open Forgotten Founders: The Hidden African Ancestry of L.A. at the historic Pico House in Downtown Los Angeles, just miles away from the original location of the first Los Angeles Pueblo. During its one month installment, this collaborative exhibit will trace the role of individuals of African descent in the founding of Los Angeles. While emphasizing the diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds of the forty-four pobladores who founded the pueblo on the edge of the Los Angeles River in 1781, the exhibit will also trace the connections between this specific event and the broader history of communities of African descent in Mexico and the American West.

“AND ALL THAT JAZZ” - FOREST LAWN Hollywood Hills (Feb. 6, 2016)

On Saturday, Feb. 6, Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills presents And All That Jazz…, a special evening of stories from the rich history of jazz that are brought to life in an inspiring evening of music, fiction, poetry and memoir. And All That Jazz is taking place in the Hall of Liberty from 7-9 p.m. Admission is free.

And throughout the month of February, Forest Lawn presents the photo exhibition, Saluting L.A. Jazz: The Performance Portraits of Bob Barry.

African American Festival - Aquarium of the Pacific (Feb. 27-28, 2016)

The Aquarium of the Pacific presents the 14th Annual African American Festival, taking place on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 27-28. 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.