Each February, Black History Month posts and emails fill the digital ethers, but we all know that Black history is American history with roots too deep and wide to be contained in a solitary month– as is the case with all such designated months. Still, we take this time to reflect on the history, struggles, joys and contributions that Black Americans have made in this country– and around the world.
While in-person events still mostly elude us, there is no shortage of ways to celebrate. You can learn about and appreciate Black history through literature (check out “The ABCs of Black History” and “Black Futures” for a start), visual art and films, music, panel discussions and more. Here is a roundup of what we’ve found so far, and we’ll keep our eyes and ears open for more.
Highlights at CAAM
The California African American Museum never disappoints. Its offerings for Black History Month are robust, including story times, a panel with about Black women in rock and roll, a film screening of “Body and Soul” featuring the acclaimed actor and activist Paul Robeson and a healing circle for men.
In its newsletter, CAAM writes that the annual celebration of achievements by African Americans dates back to 1926, and was the brainchild of writer and historian Carter G. Woodson (“The Mis-Education of the Negro”). Woodson is one of 27 revolutionary men profiled in CAAM’s current exhibition Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth., which will be on view once museums can reopen.
To learn more about these events and more, visit caamuseum.org.
New library card
The Los Angeles County Library is ringing in this year’s Black History Month will a new library card.
The special edition 19th Amendment Centennial library cards features Moses X Ball’s “Resistance and Restitution” painting. Ball’s artwork depicts five important Black woman suffragists who fought for an intersectional vision linking race, class and gender: Ida B. Wells, Mary Church Terrell, Nannie H. Burroughs, Mary B. Talbert and Frances E.W. Harper. Moses’ work declares that they deserve proper recognition for their accomplishments with improving the lives of all women.
The library will also host a genealogy workshop, kids’ book parties, virtual programs and make reading recommendations all month long. You can read our review of one of the library’s recommendations, “The ABCs of Black History” by Rio Cortez. For more, visit the library’s website.
And speaking of libraries, make sure to check out this blog post from the Los Angeles Public Library as well keep tabs on what its libraries will bring us to help celebrate Black history and achievement as well.
At the theatre
In celebration of Black History Month, The Groundlings Theatre and School will host a series of online performances and panels in an effort to further explore diversity and inclusion in comedy and entertainment.
The month-long celebration kicks off on Feb. 3 and 4 with two nights of special editions of their all-improvisational shows: “The Crazy Uncle Joe Show,” a long-form improv show and “Cookin’ With GAS,” a short-form improv show. Both shows will run throughout the month of February and all performances will be directed by Groundlings alumnus Jordan Black (Saturday Night Live, Last Man Standing).
The Groundlings have also partnered with the Amazing Grace Conservatory, a Los Angeles-based institution which offers programs and professional training in the performing arts for emerging artists and at-risk youths. On Feb. 28, Groundlings and Amazing Grace Conservatory students will come together in a joint performance of sketch comedy called “Sunday Funday.” Proceeds from the show will be split to benefit both non-profit institutions.
The Groundlings will host two special webinars in February to promote important conversations of diversity, equity and inclusion. On Feb. 14, Groundlings alumni and Main Company members Jordan Black, Daniele Gaither (“BoJack Horseman”), Julian Gant (“Call Me Kat”), Phil LaMarr (“Family Guy”) and Lyric Lewis (“A.P. Bio”) will join moderator and Main Company member Leonard Robinson (“Insecure”) in a discussion on sketch, improv, comedy and becoming a Groundlings Main Company member as a person of color. The conversation, called “This Is Us,” will dig deep into race and why representation with opportunities matter.
On Feb. 28, Leonard Robinson will also moderate “Racism in Sketch & Improv Comedy: Part 2,” a follow-up discussion with Groundlings consultant Povi-Tamu Bryant of Freedom Verses, a specialist in leadership, equity and diversity training. The webinar will dive deeper into racism, intersectionality and creating equity on sketch and improv comedy stages. Proceeds from both webinars will benefit The Groundlings Diversity Fund, which supports Groundlings students of diverse backgrounds at all levels.
The entire line up of special events for Black History Month include:
- The Crazy Uncle Joe Show: Feb. 3 and 17 at 8 p.m. PST.
- Feb. 3 show cast includes Jordan Black, Nyima Funk, Julian Gant, Sandi McCree, Leonard Robinson, and Gary Anthony Williams. Directed by Jordan Black.
- Cookin’ With GAS: February 4, 11, 18 and 25 at 8 p.m. PST.
- Feb. 4 show cast includes Nyima Funk, Daniele Gaither, Julian Gant, Phil LaMarr, Leonard Robinson, and Gary Anthony Williams. Directed by Jordan Black.
- This Is Us webinar on Feb. 14 at 4 p.m. PST with Jordan Black, Daniele Gaither, Julian Gant, Phil LaMarr and Lyric Lewis and Leonard Robinson.
- The Groundlings & Amazing Grace Conservatory Present: Sunday Funday on Feb. 28 at 2 p.m. PST. Cast to be announced.
- Racism in Sketch & Improv Comedy: Part 2 webinar on Feb. 28 at 4 p.m. PST with Leonard Robinson and Povi-Tamu Bryant.
Visit here for information on these events and to purchase tickets, visit.
Honor and excellence
Forest Lawn will mark Black History Month in a much-anticipated virtual celebration, “Preserving Honor & Excellence.” This performance of inspirational music, dance, and readings will stream live via Facebook Live on Feb. 13. The celebration honors Black culture with New Orleans-style jazz, a tap dancing and bucket drumming performance from the Broadway musical “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk,” as well as soul and rhythm and blues vocals.
The 2021 iteration of Forest Lawn’s annual celebration brings together acclaimed Black performers. As its name suggests, Jazz Band is a traditional New Orleans-style jazz band that transports listeners to the French Quarter’s Preservation Hall for a “second line” musical parade down Bourbon Street. The bucket drummers and tap-dancing twins featured in the special number from the award-winning Broadway musical “Bring in ‘da Noise, Bring in ‘da Funk” highlight the history of Black men in America from slavery to the present. Vocals include tributes to a leader of the U.S. Civil Rights Movement and the “High Priestess of Soul,” Nina Simone, and to rhythm and blues singer and songwriter Big Mama Thornton, who is credited for infusing Black cultural influence into the evolution of rock and roll.
The performance continues with three medleys set in 1920s Harlem during the great migration north. The music of legend Duke Ellington is followed by a tribute to the great Black opera stars who paved the way for Black classical musicians, with excerpts from Porgy & Bess. The final medley honors the music of Black Broadway, including The Wiz and The Color Purple. The celebration features Michael Ellington as emcee and spiritual keynotes by Pastor Jean Burch from Community Bible Church of Greater Pasadena and Pastor Geremy Dixon from the First Church of God Center of Hope in Los Angeles.
Continuing Forest Lawns’ tradition of community support, the memorial park will award four Black History Month scholarships of $1,000 each to select high school and college students.
Forest Lawn’s Preserving Honor & Excellence celebration will take place virtually at 12 p.m. Feb. 13. Streaming is available via Forest Lawn’s Facebook page live. Visit forestlawn.com for more information.
With its heart on giving back, the Brotherhood Crusade will host a food and clothing distribution on Feb. 27. The giveaway will begin at 8 a.m. and last until items are gone. Organizers expect to donate food baskets, new clothes and shoes and Target gift cards to 1,500 families.
The drive-through “grab and go” will take place at The Los Angeles Sentinel, 3800 Crenshaw Blvd., L.A.
Raising Black voices
If you and your family were inspired by the 2021 inaugural poet Amanda Gorman, PBS has a bounty of teaching resources for parents and educators to use in the coming weeks. This includes a new animated short of Gorman’s poem, “Talking Gets Us There,” an original she wrote for the PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism special.
Resources that can help parents and educators elevate Black voices and stories and teach Black history and anti-racism can be found on PBS LearningMedia and PBS KIDS for Parents. They include:
Black Voices and History Resources:
- A collection that helps parents celebrate and honor Black history with conversation prompts, crafts and reading recommendations for little ones and adults alike
- A video where Oprah Winfrey interviews Stacey Abrams and shares her thoughts on voting for her values
- A lesson on astronaut Mae Jemison, the first Black woman to go into space.
- A video of writer Alice Walker sharing her stories from her childhood
- A panel of experts discussing how to use media to provide important context for kids and support anti-racist teaching
- Tips for creating a just and caring classroom
- A list of tools for anti-racist teaching
- The PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism special
Streaming & TV*
*Check your local listings
- PBS KIDS Talk About: Race and Racism
- Special is available to stream on the PBS KIDS Video app and YouTube
- PBS KIDS 24/7 Channel: Feb. 16
- PBS KIDS Family Night event: Feb. 19 – 21
- The Power of We: A Sesame Street Special
- Special is available to stream on PBS KIDS Video app
- PBS KIDS: Feb. 9 and Feb. 11
- PBS KIDS 24/7 Channel: Feb. 10 and Feb. 16
- PBS KIDS Family Night event: Feb. 19 – 21
- Xavier Riddle and the Secret Museum
- Episodes that celebrate Black leaders available to stream on the PBS KIDS Video app and YouTube
- “Celebrating Black Leaders” episodes will air throughout the month, including a PBS KIDS Family Night event the weekend of Feb. 5 – 7
- Featured episodes include: “I am Harriet Tubman,” “I am Jesse Owens,” “I am Ella Fitzgerald,” “I am Rosa Parks,” “I am Thurgood Marshall,” “I am Maya Angelou,” “I am Frederick Douglass,” “I am Zora Neale Hurston” and “I am Wilma Rudolph”