The Guide to Black History Month Events in Los Angeles

LA events and cultural attractions are celebrating Black History Month throughout February

"Black American Portraits" at LACMA
"Black American Portraits" | Photo: LACMA

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.

African American Heritage Month (February 2022)
Presented by the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCA), African American Heritage Month is a City of Los Angeles cultural celebration that runs concurrently with Black History Month. Many DCA events are included in the Black HIstory Month list - for a complete schedule of African American Heritage Month online and in-person events, visit the DCA website.

Charles White's "Freedom Now" at CAAM
Charles White, "Freedom Now" (1966–67) | Photo: California African American Museum

CAAM (February 2022)

Located at Exposition Park in Downtown L.A., the California African American Museum (CAAM) exists to research, collect, preserve and interpret the history, art and culture of African Americans. The museum's permanent collection houses 4,000 objects that span landscape painting and portraiture, modern and contemporary art, historical objects and print materials, and mixed-media artworks.

Current and upcoming exhibitions at CAAM include:

Hank Willis Thomas’ "All Power to All People" at Leimert Plaza Park
Hank Willis Thomas’ "All Power to All People" at Leimert Plaza Park | Photo: @leimertparkjazzfestival, Instagram

Monumental Tour (Through May 2022)

Monumental Tour is a touring exhibition of public art that empowers social change through the arts. Presented by Kindred Arts, City of Los Angeles Council District 10 and the Department of Cultural Affairs, the Los Angeles stop features sculptures installed across South Los Angeles and Downtown LA. The works will be on view at four locations through May 2022.

Hank Willis Thomas - "All Power to All People"
Installed at Leimert Plaza Park (4395 Leimert Blvd. Los Angeles 90008), All Power to All People combines the Afro pick and the Black Power salute - two potent symbols of Black identity and social justice. Standing 28 feet tall and weighing 24,000 lbs, All Power to All People represents a call to action - in artist Hank Willis Thomas' own words, "We the people are standing up to take the power back."

Christopher Myers - "Caliban's Hands"
Located at Benny H. Potter Park (2413 2nd Ave, Los Angeles 90018), Christopher Myers’ monumental Caliban's Hands symbolizes the indigenous cultures occupied and suppressed by European colonial societies, and speaks to the dynamics of privilege, oppression, and forced servitude. The sculpture's name references a character from Shakespeare's The Tempest, which many consider an allegory of European colonization.

Arthur Jafa - "Big Wheel IV"
LA-based artist and cinematographer, Arthur Jafa was inspired by his childhood fascination with monster vehicles to create Big Wheel IV, an open-ended installation located at the Nate Holden Performing Arts Center (4718 W. Washington Blvd. Los Angeles 90016). Jafa wrapped four massive, seven-foot monster truck tires in iron chains - Teddy Pendergrass ballads play on loop. The installation evokes the deindustrialization and transition to the service economy that Jafa’s generation watched unfold and dashed so many Black middle-class aspirations.

Coby Kennedy - "Kalief Browder: The Box"
A protest work created by Coby Kennedy, Kalief Browder: The Box is a tribute to Kalief Browder, who was incarcerated for three years with neither trial nor proof. The steel and glass sculpture replicates the dimensions of a solitary confinement cell (8x10x6 feet). The work is a critique of the gross abuses of civil liberties found in American incarceration systems - the exterior features texts and graphs that explore the U.S. carceral system. The installation is located at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy (100-198 N Central Ave, Los Angeles 90012), part of the Japanese American National Museum campus in Little Tokyo.

“1975 (8)” by Noah Davis at The Underground Museum
Noah Davis, “1975 (8)” (2013) at The Underground Museum | Photo: @theundergroundmuseum, Instagram

"Noah Davis" - The Underground Museum (through Sept. 30, 2022)

Opened in 2012, The Underground Museum is the realization of the dream of the late artist Noah Davis and his wife Karon to bring world-class art to Arlington Heights. Davis was a rising star in the art world who established a relationship with MOCA to exhibit works from the permanent collection. Although The Underground Museum focuses on contemporary African American art, a message at the museum's entrance notes, "This is a black space, but all are welcome."

Now on view at The Underground Museum, Noah Davis is a selection of works that includes 1975 (8) (2013) - part of a series inspired by his mother Faith Davis' photos of everyday life while growing up in Chicago in the 1970s. Other highlights include Man with Alien and Shotgun (2008), Mary Jane (2008), The Last Barbeque (2008), Imaginary Enemy (2009), and Painting for My Father (2011).

"Blondell Cummings" - Art + Practice (through Feb. 19, 2022)

Founded by artist Mark Bradford, philanthropist and collector Eileen Harris Norton, and community activist Allan DiCastro, Art + Practice (A+P) is a nonprofit foundation based in Leimert Park Village. A+P supports the needs of South L.A. foster youth and provides the community with access to museum-curated contemporary art.

Blondell Cummings: Dance as Moving Pictures sheds new light on the pivotal work of African American choreographer and video artist Blondell Cummings. Through a unique movement vocabulary that she called “moving pictures,” Cummings made dance that combined the visual imagery of photography and the kinetic energy of movement to explore the emotional details of daily rituals, as well as the intimacy of black home life.

Los Angeles Public Library (February 2022)

In collaboration with DCA, numerous branches of the Los Angeles Public Library are hosting online events for African American Heritage Month, including Book Club readings, movie screenings, arts & crafts, and panel discussions.

There are also in-person events for the whole family:

For a complete list of events, visit the LAPL Calendar.

“I Can’t Breathe” handwritten lyrics by H.E.R. at the GRAMMY Museum
“I Can’t Breathe” handwritten lyrics by H.E.R. | Photo: GRAMMY Museum

"Songs of Conscience, Songs of Freedom" - GRAMMY Museum (Through May 8, 2022)

Now on view at the GRAMMY Museum, Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom examines the role music has played in informing and inspiring social consciousness throughout American history. Charting a path from spirituals sung by enslaved people in America and the songs and sounds of the American Revolution, to the mass movement of music and art that helped to stir action during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, to the continued fight for racial justice in America today, the exhibit spans time and genre to tell the stories of music’s role as a source of inspiration and education.

Songs of Conscience, Sounds of Freedom was originally on display at the GRAMMY Museum when it opened in 2008. Since that initial run, the exhibit has been updated to include the Black Lives Matter movement, songs that fight for LGBTQ+ rights, and how music from artists like H.E.R., Dave Specter and Mickey Guyton continue the traditions of using music as a catalyst for social change. Highlights include handwritten lyrics to “I Can’t Breathe” and the Martin LX1 Little Martin Acoustic guitar used by H.E.R. to write the song; and the custom dress designed by Naeem Khan worn by Mickey Guyton during her performance of “Black Like Me” at the 63rd Annual GRAMMY Awards.

Kehinde Wiley's "Yachinboaz Ben Yisrael II" at LACMA
Kehinde Wiley, "Yachinboaz Ben Yisrael II" (2021) | Photo: LACMA

LACMA (February 2022)

"Black American Portraits" (through April 17, 2022)
Envisioned in part as a tribute to Two Centuries of Black American Art - guest-curated by David Driskell at LACMA 45 years ago - Black American Portraits reframes portraiture to center Black American subjects, sitters, and spaces. Spanning over two centuries from c. 1800 to the present day, this selection of approximately 140 works draws primarily from the museum's permanent collection and highlights emancipation and early studio photography, scenes from the Harlem Renaissance, portraits from the Civil Rights and Black Power eras, and multiculturalism of the 1990s.

Mark Bradford: 150 Portrait Tone (ongoing)
Mark Bradford’s 150 Portrait Tone, a mural-size composition that contains elements of both abstraction and realism, is based on an idea for a work that the artist conceived after the fatal shooting of Philando Castile by a police officer in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in July 2016. The painting features excerpts of Reynolds’s dialogue from the video. The title refers to the name and color code of the pink acrylic used throughout the painting. Like the now-obsolete “flesh” crayon in the Crayola 64 box (renamed “peach” in 1962), the color “portrait tone” carries inherent assumptions about who, exactly, is being depicted. In the context of Bradford’s painting, the title presents a sobering commentary on power and representation.

Academy Museum of Motion Pictures (February 2022)

Now open on Museum Row, the spectacular Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is the largest institution in the United States devoted to the arts, sciences, and artists of moviemaking. The museum is celebrating Black History Month with its ongoing Oscar Sundays and Family Matinees film series. Tickets on sale at the museum website.

Oscar Sundays
Held every Sunday evening in the David Geffen Theater, Oscar Sundays is an ongoing series that celebrates films that have been honored at the Academy Awards. Throughout February, the series features Black filmmakers cited at the Oscars:

  • Feb. 20: “Sounder” - pre-screening Q&A with actor Kevin Hooks.
  • Feb. 27: “Moonlight” - post-screening Q&A moderated by Jacqueline Stewart with director Barry Jenkins, editor Joi McMillon, and cinematographer James Laxton.

Family Matinees
Every Saturday morning, the Academy Museum screens Family Matinees - films for families of all ages in the Ted Mann Theater. All films in this series are rated G or PG, unless otherwise noted. The final Family Matinee of every month is an accommodative screening - the museum offers open captioning, keeps the theater dimly lit, and maintains a lower volume for neurodivergent viewers.

  • Feb. 19: “A Wrinkle in Time”
  • Feb. 26: “Soul” (accommodative screening)
"Diedrick Brackens: heaven is a muddy riverbed" at Craft Contemporary
"Diedrick Brackens: heaven is a muddy riverbed" | Photo: Craft Contemporary

"Diedrick Brackens" - Craft Contemporary (Through May 8, 2022)

Now on view at the Craft Contemporary, heaven is a muddy riverbed is the first West Coast survey of artist Diedrick Brackens and the first exhibition to look at his poetry in depth. Known primarily for his narrative, figurative, tapestry weavings that reference real life events and allegories, this exhibition is an intimate examination of the catfish in Brackens’ weavings and poetry. An accompanying publication documents all of Brackens’ catfish-themed weavings and poems to date. A reading area with books selected by Brackens is included in the exhibition space, offering visitors an additional opportunity to learn about the many influences on his work.

Best of Pan African Film & Arts Festival (Feb. 15-28, 2022)

The Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF), one of the largest Black History Month events in America and the largest Black film festival, will kick off its yearlong 30th celebration in February with the inaugural Best of PAFF Retrospective Series, taking place virtually from February 15-28. Schedule and tickets to the on-demand program are available at the PAFF website.

In addition, the 30th annual Pan African Film & Arts Festival is slated to take place April 19 - May 1, 2022. The hybrid festival of in-person and virtual screenings will take place in Los Angeles at its flagship venues the Directors Guild of America, Cinemark Baldwin Hills, and XD and Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza.

"Just Take a Walk in the Zoo!" book cover
"Just Take a Walk in the Zoo!" | Photo: LA Zoo

"Just Take a Walk in the Zoo!" - LA Zoo (Feb. 19, 2022)

Join Los Angeles Zoo CEO and Director Denise Verret for a conversation and book signing with “Just Take A Walk in the Zoo!” author Tommy Morrow. Following the talk, Denise Verret will lead a special walk through the LA Zoo. Books will be available for sale. For program time, call the Zoo at 323.644.4200.

"Ulysses Jenkins" - Hammer Museum (Through May 15, 2022)

Now on view at the Hammer Museum in Westwood, Ulysses Jenkins: Without Your Interpretation is the first major retrospective of the groundbreaking video and performance artist. A pivotal influence on contemporary art for over 50 years, Ulysses Jenkins's video and media work is remarkable for its fusion of forms to conjure vibrant expressions of how image, sound, and cultural iconography inform representation.

Led by associate curator Erin Christovale, a free walkthrough of the Ulysses Jenkins exhibit is taking place at 1pm on Sunday, February 27.

Battleship IOWA at the Port of Los Angeles in San Pedro
Battleship IOWA in San Pedro  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

Battleship IOWA: Gravely Celebration Experience (Feb. 23, 2022)

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 Battleship IOWA, located at the L.A. Waterfront in San Pedro. The “Battleship of Presidents” is the same ship where Vice Admiral Samuel L. Gravely, the first African American to command a Navy warship, served during his illustrious Naval career.

On Wednesday, February 23, local high school students are invited to the Gravely Celebration Experience - a special luncheon featuring a panel of diverse individuals discussing their inspirations and motivations to break through societal barriers and find success. The panel will be moderated by Tanya Acker, co-host of CBS’ Hot Bench and host of The Tanya Acker Show podcast. The event will include a Q&A session during which students may directly engage the panel speakers. Special guests and panelists TBA. Participating students will receive a free box lunch and beverage to enjoy during the panel. RSVP at the Gravely Celebration Experience website.

African American Festival at the Aquarium of the Pacific
Photo: Aquarium of the Pacific

African American Festival - Aquarium of the Pacific (Feb. 22-23, 2020)

The Aquarium of the Pacific will host its 20th annual African American Festival on Saturday and Sunday, February 26-27. The weekend festival features music, dance, storytelling, and historical displays. The Aquarium will also announce and celebrate the recipients of its 2022 African American Scholar Program. The festival is taking place from 9am to 5pm on both days - entry is included with paid General Admission and free to Aquarium members.