The month of February is traditionally dedicated to the legacy of African culture in America. In the past year, we have borne witness to a profound growth of awareness and development of the Black Lives Matter movement, which came to a head through massive and widespread protests and civilian acts of resistance and solidarity, even as COVID-19 raged around the world.
Celebrated in the U.S. and other parts of the world as a way of honoring important people, events and achievements of the African diaspora, this year’s Black History Month has more gravity and significance than ever, as a time for community members to take pause and look inward, asking what they can do to better confront racism and inequality.
Here’s how Bay Area organizations and arts institutions plan to celebrate Black History Month in 2021:
Online (and outdoor) events
Abolition Citizenship: Frederick Douglass and Art Education
Frieze Magazine associate editor Terence Trouillot moderates a discussion with artist/filmmaker Isaac Julien, UC Santa Cruz professor Jennifer González, and independent curator/writer Mark Nash. The conversation will highlight “Lessons of the Hour—Frederick Douglass,” part of Julien’s 2019 genre breaking multi-screen film installation about the abolitionist at the McEvoy Foundation for the Arts.
Noon. Feb. 4. Free, registration required. The related exhibition, “Lessons of the Hour,” runs through March 13 and is available to preview online. 415-580-7605. mcevoyarts.org
After Dark Online: Shaping Landscapes
Learn about how Black Bay Area leaders, past and present, have impacted and shaped our local landscape through advocacy and environmental changes. In this episode of the Exploratorium’s “After Dark Online” series, USC Professor Alaina Morgan will discuss the Black Panther Party’s impact on the East Bay and share contemporary and historic photographs.
7 p.m. Feb. 4. For 18 and older. Free. Viewing available after the live stream date on the Exploratorium YouTube and Facebook channels. 415-528-4444. exploratorium.edu
The Joyful Noise Gospel Singers Present: Benjamin Mertz
“Songs, Poems, and Stories of Black History,” an interactive online presentation will take place each Sunday in February. The Feb. 14 program is “Harlem Renaissance, the Fisk Jubilee Singers,” and features poetry of James Weldon Johnson and Langston Hughes. Feb. 21 presentation will be “Jim Crow, Work Songs, and the Blues,” with profiles on Fannie Lou Hamer and Bessie Smith. On Feb. 28 the final installation features “The Civil Rights Movement: Freedom Songs,” with profiles of Bernice Johnson Reagon and Harry Belafonte.
4 p.m. Sundays through Feb. Viewing available at us02web.zoom.us/j/83384891002. Free, donations welcome. joyfulnoisegospelsingers.org
SFBATCO Presents: Hella Theatre Podcast with Idris Ackamoor
Hella Theatre connects community with artists who are meeting the moment, and have fought for space critical to make art. Ackamoor was one of the people integral to creating the S.F. Art Commission’s Cultural Equity Initiative. This program will be the continuation of a conversation started with Ackamoor’s Cultural Odyssey co-founder Rhodessa Jones in an earlier episode.
6 p.m. Feb. 11. $15 suggested donation. Viewing available after the live stream date on the SFBATCO Twitch channel. 415-484-8566. sfbatco.org
Museum of African Diaspora’s Blatant Series: Art, Joy and Rage
February’s episode of the museum’s monthly series is set to feature award-winning documentary filmmaker Yoruba Richen and Maori Holmes, artistic director/BlackStar Film Festival CEO and Curator-at-Large for film at the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts. Prior episodes, as well as archived video materials are available to view on their Facebook page.
4 p.m. Feb. 16. Free, donations encouraged. 415-358-7200. bit.ly/3qJohv4
MoAD’s African Diaspora Film Club: ‘How it Feels to Be Free’
Join the museum’s monthly film club series, with conversation to be moderated by Cornelius Moore, co-director of California Newsreel and film curator at MoAD. This month’s event is set to feature filmmaker Yoruba Richen. Patrons are encouraged to watch the featured 2020 documentary film, “How it Feels to Be Free,” about trailblazing black female entertainers Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier in advance of the event, available to stream for free at the PBS “American Masters” website.
5 p.m. Feb. 21. Free, donations encouraged. 415-358-7200. bit.ly/39hPjnr
Storytime Science for Kids Online: The Color Episode
Join the Exploratorium for a story session, followed by an art activity geared toward younger children. Children’s educational outreach program director Vivian Altmann plans to read “Black Is a Rainbow Color,” written by Angela Joy and illustrated by Ekua Holmes.
1 p.m. Feb. 24. Free. Available to stream on the Exploratorium YouTube and Facebook channels. 415-528-4444. exploratorium.edu
The History of African Americans in Santa Clara County
Local author/historian Jan Batiste Adkins plans to present a program commemorating contributions by black visionaries in the Bay Area from 1777 to present day, in a Zoom event hosted by the Los Altos History Museum. Through photographs and stories of African-American pioneers of the region, Adkins will present research from her latest book, “African Americans of San Jose and Santa Clara County,” followed by an interactive discussion.
5 p.m. Feb. 24. Free. Register at bit.ly/2Za6bGU for viewing link. 650-948-9427. losaltoshistory.org
Coalition of Black Excellence Week Summit ’21: Thrive Together
An annual Black History Month event focused on creating more systemic support within the Black community, bringing together professionals, business owners and nonprofits dedicated to the community. Featuring keynote speakers and panels with Fortune 500 members, government officials, activists, health professionals and entrepreneurs, this virtual event seeks to help amplify collective impact, and support goals in diversity recruitment, retention and philanthropy.
Feb. 24-27. $25-$50, available online. The event will be hosted on the Hopin online platform. 510-629-0541. cbenonprofit.org
History San José Presents ‘A Place at the Table: Black Pioneers of Silicon Valley’
A documentary film screening followed by an interactive Q&A with filmmaker Kathy Cotton. The Silicon Valley Black Project’s first film tells the story of African Americans in the early days of Silicon Valley and was selected for and screened at the 2019 S.F. Black Film Festival.
6 p.m. Feb. 25. $7. 408-287-2290. historysanjose.org
The Marsh Presents: Ron Jones
Author, storyteller, and former Palo Alto history teacher Ron Jones returns to The Marsh with performance excerpts from three of his works (“Breanna,” “Birds,” and “Escape”) which touch on the topics of race, family, living through the current pandemic, and more on Stephanie’s MarshStream.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 25. Free, donations welcome. 415-282-3055. themarsh.org/marshstream
Chanteys and Other Songs from Black Maritime Traditions
Join S.F. Maritime National Historical Park and the S.F. Maritime National Park Association for a virtual concert filled with maritime songs from Black traditions of the United States and West Indies featuring Ron and Natalie Daise from South Carolina, plus Peter Kasin and Richard Adrianowicz from the S.F. Bay Area.
11 a.m. Feb. 27. Free, donations welcome. 415-561-6662. maritime.org/afroseamusicconcert
Tomika Iyalla the Nigerian Queen Presents: Afro Groove
Learn some African dance moves from various parts of the continent in an outdoor, distanced class setting. Release stress and have fun with music and movement. Wear a mask. COVID safety measures will be in place.
1 p.m. Feb. 27. $20. 3261 Martin Luther King Junior Way, Oakland. bit.ly/364SH2O
The Marsh Presents: Candace Johnson’s An Evening of Negro Spirituals: Crossing Rivers and Building Bridges Through Song
A live-streaming event presented as part of the Marsh’s Solo Performer Spotlight series will features singer/actress Dr. Candace Y. Johnson in a recreation of moments in black history told through story, song, and spoken word.
7:30 p.m. Feb. 27 and 5 p.m. Feb. 28. Free, donations encouraged. Viewing available online on the MarshStream website. Performances will be live only, and not archived for later viewing. 415-282-3055. themarsh.org/marshstream
Call and Response: Intimate Talks with Jazz Icons
Bassist, composer and educator Christian McBride and moderator Andre Kimo Stone Guess plan to discuss musical inspirations, what it means to be an artist during challenging times and what the future may hold for musicians and the music industry. Audience Q&A included.
4 p.m. Feb. 28. Free-$50. livingjazz.org/call-response
African Book Club: ‘Fairytales for Lost Children’
As part of an ongoing series with author/professor Faith Adiele, the Museum of African Diaspora invites all to a discussion of “Fairytales for Lost Children,” Diriye Osman’s novel about young, gay and lesbian Somalis navigating complexities of family, identity and the immigrant experience in Kenya, Somalia and South London. To participate, get a copy of the book, read it in advance of the meeting and be ready to discuss with the group online via Zoom.
5 p.m. Feb. 28. Free, donations encouraged. bit.ly/36e7poh
More Than a Month: Children’s Author Lineup at the S.F. Library
Authors Matt de la Peña and illustrator Christian Robinson (2 p.m. Feb. 5 at bit.ly/3iwzT1C), Torrey Maldonado (4 p.m. Feb. 24 at bit.ly/2LSrVUB) and Elizabeth Acevedo with Mahogany L. Browne (2 p.m. Feb. 25 at bit.ly/3pjgvYg) discuss their writings and the ageless power of children’s literature to transform our understanding of the world. Jason Reynolds, author of National Book Award finalist “Ghost” and Newbery Honor award-winning “Long Way Down,” will deliver the 25th “Effie Lee Morris Lecture” in a live-streamed event at 5 p.m. on Feb. 25. Register at bit.ly/3oeKEad.
These events are part of the San Francisco Public Library’s robust “More Than a Month” Black History month programming.
Available to stream on the library’s YouTube channel. Free. sfpl.org
Diasporic Futurism Part II: The Future Futures
A group exhibition with immersive video installation in the gallery, paintings, sculpture, comic and graphic works showcasing emerging and established Black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) artists curated by Leah King and Juan Carlos Rodríguez Rivera. A free ‘Second Saturday’ online opening reception is set for 6 p.m. on Feb. 13. Register online for the Zoom link.
Through Feb. 27, on view by appointment or online. Free. Root Division Gallery, 1131 Mission St., S.F. 415-863-7668. rootdivision.org
SFJazz Online Fridays at Five
Feb. 19: 2010 NEA Jazz Master/pianist Kenny Barron performs duos with violinist Regina Carter, 2021 NEA Jazz Master/SFJazz Resident Artistic Director/drummer Terri Lyne Carrington and trumpeter Eddie Henderson, recorded live on Nov. 8, 2018
Feb. 26: S.F. based vocalist Paula West’s quartet performs “Great American Politic,” recorded April 20, 2018. As an exploration of political moods of America through the years, the concert is focused on the music of Simon and Garfunkel, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie.
5 p.m. Fridays through Feb. 26. $5 for monthly subscription to view all the Friday online shows. 866-920-5299. sfjazz.org/fridaysatfive
CinemaLit: In Celebration of Black History Month, Black Lives on Film 2
Join a Zoom Salon to discuss the film of the week, available to watch at your leisure on the Kanopy streaming service, which is free with most local library cards or Mechanics’ Institute membership. The featured weekly films starting on Feb. 5 are “Lorraine Hansberry Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart” (117 min. 2017), “Anita Speaking Truth to Power” (77 min. 2013), “Moonlight” (111 min. 2016), and “Miss Juneteenth” (100 min. 2020).
6 p.m. Fridays, through Feb. 25. Free-$10. Register for each week’s sessions at milibrary.org/events/cinemalit-film-series
Black Laughs Matter: Online Comedy Show
Join in for a weekly online comedy show live from San Francisco. Hosted by comedian/actor Terry Dorsey, there’s a different lineup each week featuring top black comics from the Bay Area and guest comics from across the county.
8 p.m. Saturdays. Free, $10-$20 suggested donation. RSVP online for a Zoom link to the performance. bit.ly/3oqgO2o
Art of the African Diaspora online exhibition
An online group exhibition hosted by the Richmond Art Center. Artists will host virtual open studios, artists talks and other events in conjunction with the exhibition. Details for these events, as well as the timing of their Feb. 13 artists reception, will be on their website as the opening date approaches. Until then, you can check out “At This Very Moment: A Richmond Art Center Community Photo Project,” an online exhibit of photographic works by Richmond community members created during the past year and curated by Dawline-Jane Oni-Eseleh.
Feb. 11-May 16. Reception Feb. 13. 510-620-6772. richmondartcenter.org
MLK Day Walk of Dreams on the Richmond Greenway
The Watershed Project created a community installation to celebrate East Bay environmental justice heroes. Take part by writing a word or a sentence that conveys your dreams for Richmond on an online “Walk of Dreams Board.” The project will transcribe these sentiments onto fabric swatches and add them to the “living sculptures” located along the Richmond Greenway. If you live near or visit the greenway, you can write your dream on a blank piece of fabric, which will be displayed on the sculptures.
Through Feb. 26. Free. bit.ly/3oa5CaO
Oakland MLK 40 Days of Service
Oakland residents are encouraged to take action locally, keeping neighborhoods, local parks and waterways clean by picking up litter, reporting illegal dumping and pledging to practice environmental conservation actions at home. The city of Oakland offers a list of resources and suggested acts of service on its website.
Through Feb. 28. Free. bit.ly/3rXdsH5
AfroFuturism: S.F. Poet Laureate Monthly Poem Jam
San Francisco Poet Laureate Kim Shuck, Kim McMullin and special guests present an evening of poetry reading in celebration of African American literature, featuring Ishmael Reed, Staajabu, Devorah Major, Tureeda Mikell, Avotcja and Dr. Glenn Parris.
Available to stream on San Francisco Public Library’s YouTube channel. Free. bit.ly/3hI2512
Healdsburg Jazz Presents: ‘Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Through the Eyes of Children’
A one hour long online music and spoken word performance inspired by and dedicated to the legacy of MLK and the music of the Civil Rights Movement. It features vocalists Kim Nalley and Tiffany Austin, pianist Tammy Lynn Hall, poet Enid Pickett, youth Poet Selma Asantewa Apara, drummer Genius Wesley, and bassist Marcus Shelby. The event was filmed at The Sound Room in Oakland, CA, and directed by filmmaker Kevin Johnson.
Available to stream on the Healdsburg Jazz Vimeo channel. Free, donations encouraged. 707-433-4633. healdsburgjazz.org
Living Jazz Presents: ‘In the Name of Love: 19th Annual MLK Musical Tribute’
Hosted by Dana King, this event lineup features many Oakland artists and activists including Kronos Quartet and Meklit, the Dynamic Miss Faye Carol, Branice McKenzie and Bryan Dyer with Glen Pearson, Living Jazz Children’s Project, Myles Staples of the 2020 Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest, the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, Tory Teasley and the Teasers, and a presentation of the Oakland Citizen Humanitarian Award by Rep. Barbara Lee.
Available to stream on the Living Jazz YouTube channel. Free, donations encouraged. livingjazz.org/mlktribute
MLK Unity Group Creating Beloved Community Presents: ‘40th Annual Virtual Celebration’
A live-streamed event with the theme of “Restoration, Reconciliation and Resilience!” features keynote speaker the Rev. Loretta Dickerson-Smith, with musical selections, interviews, dance and performance art from Hue Vision Productions, as well as a dedication to the memory of late civil rights leader and U.S. Rep. John Lewis.
Available to stream on the BCACTV YouTube channel. Free, donations encouraged. bit.ly/3irE6Uh
National Museum of African American History and Culture Presents: ‘The People’s Holiday’
This event features a live-streamed music performance with Grammy Award-winning bassist, composer and educator Christian McBride inspired by his social justice focused album, “The Movement Revisited: A Musical Portrait of Four Icons.” The 45-minute concert also features students from the Juilliard School and a poetry reading by Sonia Sanchez. It concludes with a conversation between McBride and Sanchez moderated by museum associate director of curatorial affairs Dwandalyn Reece.
Available to stream for free at s.si.edu/3nfoT9v
NorCalMLK Virtual Celebration 2021
Though the march and in-person events of the annual NorCalMLK celebration did not take place this year, NorCalMLK organizers pivoted to a series of online offerings that include a “King and Faith Speaker Series.” In partnership with the San Francisco Public Library, the annual Black and Brown Comix Arts Festival celebrated works by people of color in popular visual culture with programs and activities for all ages is available to stream on the festival’s Facebook page.
Available to stream on the NorCalMLK Facebook page. Free. sfmlkday.org
Not a Moment but a Movement Series: ‘Crowndation’
Center Theatre Group presents a series of play readings featuring visual artists and musicians to celebrate Black voices in the arts. Introduced by Vanessa Williams and hosted by Bruce A. Lemon Jr., the first installment features a reading of Angelica Chéri’s one-person play “Crowndation; I Will Not Lie to David,” with music by Jessica Lá Rel and visual art of Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle.
Available to stream through March 22. $10. ctgla.org/notamoment
Oakland Museum at Home: Black Power Virtual Exhibition
Take a virtual tour of the museum’s current exhibitions online, including the “Black Power” group exhibition.
Oakland Symphony Chorus virtual performance
Enjoy an archived performance of the Oakland Symphony’s “Mass for Freedom” by Michael T. Roberts, recorded live from Oakland’s First Congregational Church in April 2019.
Available to stream on the Oakland symphony website. Free. 510-444-0801. oaklandsymphony.org
S.F. MoAD MLK Day Celebration and National Day of Service
The Museum of the African Diaspora presented a day of online programming to celebrate the civil rights leader that included a children’s story time with the San Francisco Public Library, a civil rights era photography exhibition, spoken word/poetry reading, collage art activity, and “Meet Us Quickly: Performing and Painting for Justice,” a discussion of the performance trilogy that addresses social justice issues with mass incarceration, as well as the “Meet Us Quickly: Painting for Justice From Prison,” digital exhibition created in conjunction with the performance.
Available to stream on the museum’s YouTube and Facebook pages. Free. moadsf.org
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