The Guide to Black History Month Events in Los Angeles

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

Lauren Halsey exhibit at David Kordansky Gallery

Lauren Halsey at David Kordansky Gallery | Photo: KCRW


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.

Asha Grant, director of The Free Black Women's Library - Los Angeles

Asha Grant, director of The Free Black Women's Library - Los Angeles | Photo: CAAM

California African American Museum (February 2020)

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.

Upcoming Black History Month programs at CAAM include:

  • Be Ours: Palentine's Day with Danez and the Homies (Feb. 14) - Poet Danez Smith marks the publication of the new collection, Homie, with an unprecedented gathering of Angeleno writers and artists, including a reading with Fatimah Asghar and a conversation between the two poets. Stay for a DJ set and libations at a Palentine’s after-party. Books will be available for purchase courtesy of Eso Won Books.
  • Free Black Women’s Library Book Swap and Art Workshop (Feb. 15) - Join Asha Grant, director of The Free Black Women's Library - Los Angeles, for an afternoon of literature and art in conjunction with Making Mammy: A Caricature of Black Womanhood, 1840–1940. Grant leads an art workshop centered on the book Blues Legacies and Black Feminisms by Angela Davis to explore radical feminism and reclamation of the black female body. For all ages and capabilities.
  • In Conversation: Dominique Moody and Lynell George (Feb. 16) - In conjunction with Dust My Broom: Southern Vernacular from the Permanent Collection, artist Dominique Moody and journalist Lynell George discuss how the legacy of American southern art traditions reflects such themes as spirituality and community.
  • Men in Fashion and Entrepreneurship (Feb. 19) - Fashion is one of the many ways people of all genders express themselves, yet gender stereotypes often diminish the power and play in men’s fashion. Explore the unique experiences and contributions of fashion industry leaders T.J. Walker and Carl Jones (Cross Colours), Eric Jones (LFLS Shoes), Michael Ferrera (Michael Ferrera Custom Clothing), and Thrash of Thrash Bespoke.
  • Zines Workshop with Able ARTS Work (Feb. 22) - In Timothy Washington: Citizen/Ship, the artist’s wall-length collage represents people, places, and events that he’s taking on an interstellar journey. Using the art form of zines and collage, join Able ARTS Work—a nonprofit offering opportunities in the creative arts for people of all abilities—to make a statement about someone or something you feel strongly about and would like to share with worlds beyond. Ages 6 and up.
  • Animate Space with Debbie Allen Dance Academy DADA Ensemble (Feb. 23) - The Debbie Allen Dance Academy DADA Ensemble performs dances inspired by Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century and Hip Hop music.
  • CAAM Reads! "Hunger" (Feb. 23) - CAAM's monthly book club continues this winter with titles that complement ongoing exhibitions. In conjunction with the exhibition Making Mammy, the book club will discuss Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by leading cultural critic Roxane Gay. See the exhibition beforehand and come ready to share your ideas.
Lauren Halsey exhibit at David Kordansky Gallery

Lauren Halsey at David Kordansky Gallery | Photo: KCRW

Lauren Halsey - David Kordansky Gallery (Through Mar. 14, 2020)

David Kordansky Gallery presents an exhibition of new work by acclaimed LA-based artist, Lauren Halsey. Featuring sculptural painting installations, the show is Halsey’s first at the gallery, filling it with a vivid, "mythopoetic hauntscape" of South Central Los Angeles. These latest works continue Halsey’s exploration of monuments, memorials, and public space, particularly her reckonings with gentrification and the threatening economic displacement of Black and Latino/a stores and shops.

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"Lezley Saar: Salon des Refusés" | Photo courtesy of California African American Museum

African American Heritage Month (February 2020)

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. For a complete list of African American Heritage Month events, visit the DCA website.

central-library-rotunda

Rotunda at the Central Library | Photo courtesy of Candice Montgomery, Flickr

Los Angeles Public Library (February 2020)

Numerous branches of the Los Angeles Public Library are hosting events for African American Heritage Month, including movie screenings, family storytime, arts & crafts, and panel discussions. Upcoming events include:

  • Afrofuturism Series: "Black Panther" (Feb. 11), 3D Printing (Feb. 18 & 25) - Robertson Branch
  • African Mask - Westchester-Loyola Village Branch (Feb. 13)
  • "Love & Basketball" - Central Library (Feb. 15)
  • African Village Folk Tales - Northridge Branch (Feb. 15)
  • Book Club: The Underground Railroad - Granada Hills (Feb. 19)
  • Harlem Renaissance Stories: Songs & Crafts - West LA (Feb. 20)
  • Blair Imani / Tre'vell Anderson - Exposition Park (Feb. 20)
  • Tell Me a Story - Baldwin Hills (Feb. 21)
  • Stories Take You Here, Stories Take You There - Central Library (Feb. 22)
  • Courage Under Fire: The History of African American Firefighters in Los Angeles - Central Library (Feb. 22)
  • "A Ballerina's Tale" - Chinatown (Feb. 24)
  • Teen African American Month Book Club - Los Feliz (Feb. 25)
  • Classics Book Club: "Beloved" - Granada Hills (Feb. 26)
  • The Very Best of Eddie Murphy Film Festival - Hyde Park (Feb. 29)

For a complete schedule, visit the LAPL calendar.

"No Crystal Stair: The Photography of John Simmons" at The Museum of African American Art

"No Crystal Stair: The Photography of John Simmons" | Photo: The Museum of African American Art

"No Crystal Stair: The Photography of John Simmons" - MAAA (Through Mar. 29, 2020)

Now on view at The Museum of African American Art, No Crystal Stair: The Photography of John Simmons features images selected from Simmons' vast archive of photographs from the 1960s and '70s and highlights the enduring profoundness of Simmons' early works. Simmons is renowned for his captivating photographs that present the beauty, complexities, challenges, and intimate moments of black life and the broader world around him.

Pan African Film & Arts Festival (Feb. 11-23, 2020)

Now in its 27th year, the Pan African Film & Arts Festival (PAFF) is the largest Black film festival and largest Black History Month event in the United States. Featuring more than 150 new films and 100+ fine artists, PAFF takes place at the Cinemark 15 on the grounds of Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza. For more info, including tickets and the full schedule of films, visit the PAFF website.

This year's Opening Night was a red carpet screening of Hero at the Directors Guild of America (DGA). Hero is inspired by the extraordinary life of Trinidad and Tobago citizen, diplomat and judge Ulric Cross, the most decorated West Indian of World War II. Cross was a member of the highly-decorated group of Caribbean pilots who flew combat missions for the UK’s Royal Air Force (RAF) in WWII. This Caribbean group was the equivalent of the famed Tuskegee Airmen – African American pilots who flew combat missions for the U.S. Air Force in WWII. After his service, Cross went on to play an active and important role in the Pan African Movement, which led to the creation of the 28 modern Caribbean and 54 modern African nations. This Pan African Movement influenced U.S. domestic policy towards African Americans and inspired the Civil Rights movement. It also inspired Black Power movements in the Americas as well as the rise of Black consciousness that swept around the world and resonates to this day.

LACMA (February 2020)

Betye Saar: Call and Response (Through April 5, 2020)
Los Angeles native Betye Saar is one of the most talented artists of her generation. Her work consistently addresses issues of race, gender, and spirituality. Saar’s work combines many different symbols along with objects found on her travels across Africa, Mexico, Asia, Europe, and the Caribbean, as well as in LA itself. Now on view at LACMA, Betye Saar: Call and Response looks at the relationship between preliminary sketches in small sketchbooks - which Saar has made throughout her career - and finished works. From her early years through a new sculptural installation, Call and Response is the first exhibition at a California museum to address Saar's entire career and the first anywhere to focus on her sketchbooks.

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, 150 Portrait Tone, 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.

 

"Fighting for the Right to Fight" exhibit at the Museum of Tolerance

"Fighting for the Right to Fight" at the Museum of Tolerance

Fighting for the Right to Fight - Museum of Tolerance (Through May 6, 2020)

Now on view through May 6 at the Museum of Tolerance, Fighting for the Right to Fight shares the personal and group experiences of African American men and women during WWII. Many African Americans fought on foreign battlefields, worked in factories on the home front, and made innumerable sacrifices in the effort to free others from the tyranny of the Axis powers – even as they were denied personal freedoms in the United States. This traveling exhibition examines social changes brought about by the events of WWII, and connects African Americans’ efforts during the war to the burgeoning Civil Rights Movement. A particularly impactful aspect of the exhibit is the focus on the stories of seven African American Medal of Honor recipients from WWII. The exhibit also includes an eight-minute video on the Tuskegee Airmen.

In conjunction with Fighting for the Right to Fight and Black History Month, MOT will be hosting a Family Sunday on Feb. 16. Activities include:

  • Discovery activity to explore the Fighting for the Right to Fight exhibition (noon - 5 p.m.)
  • Creating Art through Unity – A Human Element Project: What does the American flag mean to you? (1 p.m. – 3 p.m.)
  • Interactive webcast - Student reporters invite us to examine artifacts and explore important WWII US memorials to understand African American experiences in WWII (2:30 p.m.- 3:20 p.m.)
  • Uplifting soul music to celebrate Black History Month with the band, Tough Love and the #loverevolution (3:30 p.m.- 4:30 p.m.)

Fighting for the Right to Fight is included with museum admission.

"A Celebration of Love" at Forest Lawn—Hollywood Hills

"A Celebration of Love" at Forest Lawn—Hollywood Hills

A Celebration of Love - Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills (Feb. 15, 2020)

Located close to Griffith Park, Forest Lawn—Hollywood Hills is an idyllic landscape that showcases a unique collection of American artwork, with larger-than-life statues of Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln.

On Saturday, February 15 Forest Lawn—Hollywood Hills presents A Celebration of Love, a one-night-only spectacular of music, dance, and spoken word in honor of Black History Month. The evening's keynote speaker is Dr. Terrence Roberts - author, retired professor, and one of the Little Rock Nine. Featured performances include MJDD Inland Empire Band, Umoja Ensemble of the Inland Empire, Donald Hayes & Orchestra, singers & choirs, Elaine Gibbs ("The X Factor") comedian Six Foota Slimm, and a tribute to Janice Freeman.

A Celebration of Love is taking place in the Hall of Liberty. Doors open at 6:00 p.m. for a pre-show reception with refreshments and DJ Dan Jackson. Performances begin at 7:00 p.m. Seating is available on a first come, first served basis. Admission and parking are free. For more information, visit the Forest Lawn website.

"The Future is Black: Embracing Our Roots" at the Los Angeles LGBT Center

"The Future is Black: Embracing Our Roots" at the Los Angeles LGBT Center

The Future is Black: Embracing Our Roots - Los Angeles LGBT Center (Feb. 22, 2020)

In honor of Black History Month, the Los Angeles LGBT Center is hosting The Future is Black: Embracing Our Roots. Taking place 2-7pm, the event will include a ceremony, live performances, an art exhibit, dinner, a resource fair, and more, to celebrate and honor the continued advancement of black people. All are welcome to enjoy a day of celebration and inspiration. Dinner provided by Chef Marilyn’s: Queen of Down Home Southern Goodies. Bar sponsored by Angel City Brewery and Tito's Handmade Vodka. Admission is free, RSVP at Eventbrite.

LA #Unshuttered exhibit at the Getty Center

LA #Unshuttered | Photo: Jeremy Davis, Getty Center

Getty Center (February 2020)

LA #Unshuttered (Through July 1, 2020)
LA #Unshuttered
showcases the photography of young artists advocating for social justice. Located at the Getty Center in the Museum Entrance Hall, Plaza Level, the projections in this installation provide a unique gallery experience. Featured are works by ten Los Angeles-based, high-school students who have been learning about, engaging in, and working for causes greater than themselves. They collaborated with nonprofit organizations and community establishments to explore topics such as mental health, African American hair and identity, immigration experiences, stereotypes about aging and beauty, religious tolerance, and LGBTQ+ pride.

Balthazar: A Black African King in Medieval and Renaissance Art (Through Feb. 16, 2020)
Early medieval legends reported that one of the three kings who paid homage to the newborn Christ Child in Bethlehem was from Africa. But it would be nearly one thousand years before artists began representing Balthazar, the youngest of the magi, as a Black African. This exhibition explores the juxtaposition of a seemingly positive image with the painful histories of Afro-European contact, particularly the brutal enslavement of African peoples.

"THE GIVERNY SUITE" by Ja’Tovia Gary on view at the Hammer Museum

Ja’Tovia Gary, "THE GIVERNY SUITE" (still), 2019 | Three-channel video installation. Dimensions variable. Color, black-and-white, sound, 41 min. (loop). Courtesy of the artist and Paula Cooper Gallery, New York. © Ja’Tovia Gary, courtesy of Paula Cooper Gallery, New York

Hammer Projects: Ja’Tovia Gary (Through May 17, 2020)

Ongoing since 1999, Hammer Projects is a signature series within the Hammer Museum’s exhibition program. Hammer Projects are single-gallery exhibitions highlighting the work of contemporary artists from around the globe, often presenting new work at a pivotal moment of an artist’s development.

Filmed on location in Harlem, New York, and in Claude Monet’s historic gardens in Giverny, France, THE GIVERNY SUITE is a multi-textured cinematic poem that meditates on the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women. Ja’Tovia Gary unleashes an arsenal of techniques and materials, including direct animation on archival 16mm film, woman-on-the-street interviews, and montage editing, to explore the creative virtuosity of Black femme performance figures while interrogating the histories of those bodies as spaces of forced labor and commodified production.

"Until the Flood" - Kirk Douglas Theatre (Through Feb. 23, 2020)

Now playing at the Kirk Douglas Theatre, Until the Flood by Pulitzer Prize finalist and celebrated performer Dael Orlandersmith (Forever) explores the social uprising in Ferguson, Missouri following the shooting of teenager Michael Brown. Pulling from her extensive interviews with Missouri residents, Orlandersmith crafts a stunning theatrical experience that must be seen. The Chicago Tribune called it “palpably compassionate” and raved that it “achieves a great beauty by bringing us together rather than driving us apart.”

Black-Eyed Pea Griddle Cakes at Hemings & Hercules

Black-Eyed Pea Griddle Cakes with smoked red pepper jelly and fermented greens | Photo: Hemings & Hercules

Salmon with sorghum, grain mustard and chive at Hemings & Hercules

Salmon with sorghum, grain mustard and chive | Photo: Hemings & Hercules

Hemings & Hercules - Hatchet Hall (Thursdays, February 2020)

Taking place at Hatchet Hall on Thursdays in February, Hemings & Hercules is a seasonal dinner that celebrates the country's first two celebrity chefs: "Both slaves, one owned by Thomas Jefferson [James Hemings], the other by George Washington [Hercules Caesar], whose skill and knowledge influenced future generations of American chefs."

The eight-course dinner is created by chef Brian Dunsmoor and chef de cuisine Martin Draluck using early American techniques and seasonal ingredients. Seating is available for 12 guests each night in The Family Room. Pricing is $100 for dinner, or $140 with beverage pairing. Tickets are on sale at the Hemings & Hercules website.

Black History Month screening of "Invisible Warriors" at Battleship IOWA in San Pedro

Black History Month celebration featuring "Invisible Warriors" | Photo: Battleship IOWA, Facebook

"Invisible Warriors" - Battleship IOWA (Feb. 25, 2020)

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.

In partnership with the National Naval Officers Association (NNOA), National Museum of the Surface Navy, and the Port of Los Angeles, Battleship IOWA presents a screening of Invisible Warriors on Tuesday, Feb. 25. Invisible Warriors features the first Black women to work in industry and government administrative service. The film is an unforgettable conversation among a diverse group of African American “Rosie the Riveters” who recount what life was really like during World War II. They fled lives as domestics and sharecroppers to empower themselves while working in war production and U.S. government offices.

These patriotic pioneers share their wartime memories of their battles against racism at home, Nazism abroad, and sexism everywhere. The screening will be followed by a conversation with the film’s director, Prof. Gregory Cooke and special guests Rear Admiral Sinclair M. Harris, USN (ret.) and Commander Stacey L. O’Neal. The theme of the discussion is "Taking Command – Finding Opportunity Through Adversity."

This Black History Month celebration is taking place 6:30pm – 9:00pm. Tickets are on sale at Eventbrite. Pricing is $20 for Adults and $15 for Students. Tickets include hors d'oeuvres and complimentary beer & wine for guests 21+ with ID.

"Harp-Strum" by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye on view at The Huntington Library

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, "Harp-Strum," 2016. Oil on canvas, diptych: 71 x 79 in. each. © Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. Courtesy of the artist, Jack Shainman Gallery, New York and Corvi-Mora, London.

The Hilton Als Series: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye - The Huntington Library (Through May 11, 2020)

Now on view at The Huntington Library, recent portrait-like paintings by contemporary British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye are displayed adjacent to the historic Thornton Portrait Gallery in an exhibition curated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hilton Als, staff writer and theater critic for The New Yorker magazine, and associate professor of writing at Columbia University.

The installation of five of Yiadom-Boakye's studies of fictional characters create a dialogue with The Huntington's collection of highly formal 18th-century British portraits. Drawn from the world of found images and imagination, Yiadom-Boakye's figures seem familiar but also mysterious. She typically finishes each painting in a single day, infusing the works with freshness and spontaneity, as if they were painted from life.

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African American Festival | Photo courtesy of Aquarium of the Pacific

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

The Aquarium of the Pacific presents the 18th Annual African American Festival, taking place on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 22-23. The weekend festival celebrates the rich diversity of African American and African cultures with live entertainment, arts & crafts, and more. Festival performers include Mardi Gras second line dancers, hip hop and break dancers, jazz musicians, interactive drum circles, West African dancers and storytellers. Visitors can meet, learn about, and even touch animals from Africa with special guests Conservation Ambassadors.

The festival is taking place from 9am to 5pm on both days and is included with paid general admission and free to Aquarium members.