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 2017)

“Celebrating the American Spirit – Battleship IOWA Salutes Black History Month”
“Celebrating the American Spirit – Battleship IOWA Salutes Black History Month” | Photo courtesy of Battleship IOWA

Located at the L.A. Waterfront in San Pedro, Battleship IOWA is presenting events and tributes 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 Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, the first African American to command a Navy warship, served during his illustrious Naval career.

The Battleship IOWA Museum is featuring Celebrating the American Spirit – Battleship IOWA Salutes Black History Month, a temporary display that will be part of the ship’s tour through Feb. 28. Guests will learn about the achievements that many African Americans made in the United States Navy and service for this country. The exhibit focuses on five pioneering black servicemen: Robert Penn, a Medal of Honor recipient; Alex Haley, the first chief journalist for the Coast Guard; John Henry “Dick” Turpin, one of the first African American Chief Petty Officers in the United States Navy; Doris “Dorie” Miller, the first African American to be awarded the Navy Cross; and Samuel L. Gravely.

The Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely Leadership & Service Award, which is conferred annually by the nonprofit Pacific Battleship Center (PBC), will be presented on Thursday, Feb. 16 aboard the historic ship. This award recognizes African American leaders in Southern California who exemplify the trailblazing service of the late Vice Admiral. This year's recipient is the award winning director, screenwriter and author, Antwone Fisher. The celebration experience launches on the fantail of the Battleship IOWA with a sunset reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Award Program at 6:30.

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

California African American Museum (February 2017)

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.

Programming at CAAM during Black History Month includes "Sports and Politics," a panel discussion on Feb. 2; a family program spotlighting the museum's courtyard banners, including Ella Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes and John Outterbridge (Feb. 5); a landscape art workshop on Feb. 12; a conversation with mother-daughter artist duo, Betye and Alison Saar (Feb. 16); and "Truth to Power," a lecture on African American comedians and social commentary (Feb. 19). All public programs at CAAM are free. RSVP by calling 213.744.2024.


Rotunda at the Central Library in Downtown L.A.
Rotunda at the Central Library | Photo courtesy of Candice Montgomery, Flickr

Numerous branches of the Los Angeles Public Library are hosting events for African American Heritage Month, a City of Los Angeles cultural celebration that runs concurrently with Black History Month. Events include movie screenings, family storytime, arts and crafts, and panel discussions. A meet and greet with Lt. Col. Robert Friend, one of the last surviving Tuskegee Airmen, is taking place on Friday, Feb. 10 at the Sunland-Tujunga Branch Library.

Pan African Film Festival (Feb. 9-20, 2017)

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. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, PAFF is taking place Feb. 9-20 at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Crenshaw 15 Theatre, located within Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

PAFF 25 will screen 202 films, of which 124 are feature-length. The 78 short films screened at PAFF 25 will be in consideration for Academy Awards as PAFF has been approved as an Academy qualifying festival. Representing 56 countries on six different continents, PAFF will present the largest selection of Black films ever screened at one event. "It's been an incredible experience to witness the growth of this PAFF and at the same time witness the tremendous development of the Pan African film industry,” says Ayuko Babu, PAFF Executive Director. “Both have allowed me the pleasure of working with thousands of filmmakers and honoring the artistry from South Africa to Atlanta - all of whom tell their own stories and present their images to the world, so beautifully.”

PAFF 25 will celebrate the work of actress Alfre Woodard with The Lifetime Achievement Award, presented by PAFF co-founder Ja’net Dubois during the Opening Night Gala on Thursday, Feb. 9 at the DGA Headquarters in Los Angeles. Woodard will share her journey with the PAFF audience in a hosted “Conversation With Alfre Woodard,” narrated by director Neema Barnett, at the Cinemark Baldwin Hills Theater.

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.


"A Tribute to Langston Hughes" at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills
Photo courtesy of WordTheatre, Facebook

On Saturday, Feb. 6, WordTheatre presents A Tribute to Langston Hughes, taking place from 7:30-9 p.m. at Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills. In honor of Black History Month, an all-star cast will tell stories, recite poems, and perform jazz and blues in celebration of Hughes, the acclaimed poet, novelist, social activist, and a key figure of the Harlem Renaissance. A Tribute to Langston Hughes is taking place in the Hall of Liberty. Doors at 7 p.m., free admission and parking.

African American Festival - Aquarium of the Pacific (Feb. 25-26, 2017)

African American Festival at Aquarium of the Pacific
African American Festival | Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific

The Aquarium of the Pacific presents the 15th Annual African American Festival, taking place on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 25-26. 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 is free to Aquarium members.

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