Question, what do Aretha Franklin, World War I archives, and sketch comedy have in common? They are the focal points of Black History Month events that are designed to highlight the rich cultural contributions made by African Americans to national and global history. So, if you are looking for interesting ways to participate in the month long celebration, check out our list of unique experiences in 5 host cities east of the Mississippi River.
1. Washington, DC
The Intersections Festival (Feb 19 – Mar 1) is a performing arts showcase designed to spur connected communities by informing, inspiring, and educating, as well as entertaining. The diverse schedule of over 50 concerts and events features theatre, dance, film, music, and other genres and incorporates Washington DC’s African American culture. As an added bonus, the festival venue, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, is situated along the vibrant H Street corridor with lots of restaurants, shops, and other things to do. Festival passes are $85, or you can buy individual event tickets.
“We Return Fighting: The Afrian American Experience in World War I” (now through Jun 14) is a temporary exhibit at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. It documents the Black experience in the World War I era and features media pieces, a photo gallery, interactive elements, and more. Although the impact on enlisted service members is the foundation, the exhibit encompasses the social, economic, cultural and other experiences of African Americans broadly. The dedicated service of Black soldiers, and their return to a society that continued to deprive them of rights and opportunity, spawned a push for change that ultimately led to the modern Civil Rights Movement.
2. Nashville, Tennessee
United Street Tours (Now through October) are walking tours that are led and curated by locals. The Nashville tours unearth elements of Black history that have been hidden by the mainstream. For example, the Nashville Black History Walking Tour honors the past by weaving narratives about Nashville’s enslaved population into a two-hour expedition; while the Murals, Music, and Museums Walking tour is a journey that delves into the evolution of Black Nashville by exploring their contributions to art and blues music.
Jazz on the Move (Feb. 16th) is a jazz performance and education series, in its 14th season, hosted by the Nashville Jazz Workshop and the Frist Art Museum. This year’s event spotlights Betty Carter via a performance by Dara Tucker. Carter, a legend in her own right, began performing with greats like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Parker at a young age.
3. Chicago, Illinois
Chicago Modern Orchestra Project (Feb 29th) will showcase the works of Josephine Baker, the first international Black superstar. The evening is a collaboration between the the Chicago Modern Orchestra Project, Tsukasa Taiko percussion ensemble, and members of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians. The performance will include elements from Baker’s lauded Paris revue.
Black History Month Show (Now through March 11th) is brought to you by Second City, a world famous comedy company that calls Chicago home. The show brings to life iconic skits from its most notable African American alumni, including Keegan-Michael Key, Tim Meadows, Edgar Blackmon, Amber Ruffin, Sam Richardson and many more!
Black Creativity: 50 Years (Now through March 1st) hosted by the Museum of Science & Industry, is a visual timeline that highlights the achievements of African Americans in the arts and sciences. Celebrating its 50th year, the event boasts a bevy of musical and theater performances, exhibits, and educational programs.
4. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Culture Fest! (Feb 15th) is an all day celebration hosted by the Penn Museum that honors the traditions within Africa and the African diaspora. Explore contemporary and traditional cultural practices through crafting workshops, live performances, musical demonstrations, and vendors.
The Philly POPS Present Aretha: Respect at the Kimmel Center (Feb 14th-16th) celebrates the Queen of Soul with a night that dives into her extensive catalog. Featuring Broadway star Capathia Jenkins and R&B Singer Ryan Shaw, the evening will include moving performances of her hits, including: Respect, Chain of Fools, and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Tour Underground Railroad Sites in Philadelphia (Now- March 1st) to gain a better understanding of the covert web of churches, farms, and houses that proved safe havens to thousands of enslaved African Americans as they journeyed towards freedom.
5. Charlotte, North Carolina
2020 Queen City Black Business Expo (Feb 15th) celebrates Black Enterprise by featuring over 40 black businesses that operate across an array of industries within Charlotte. The companies are pillars in the Black community and drive development within the city. Expo attendees will receive discounts and giveaways while taking in music, food, and shopping.
The African-American Heritage Festival (Feb 29th) honors the contributions of Charlotte’s African American population over the last 250 years. Spend the day learning about the African heritage of Southern Foods; exploring the daily lives of enslaved peoples and their fight for freedom; and listening to music from across the Diaspora.