In spite of the Pandemic, this year we celebrate Black History Month with a look-back at tragedies and accomplishments. Hand-in-hand, over 20-million people have taken part in Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests in the U.S. alone ~ and millions more worldwide. The Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation won Sweden’s Olof Palme human rights prize for 2020, with an online prize-giving ceremony that took place in Stockholm on January 30, 2021. In addition, Black Lives Matter has been nominated for a 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.
Now looking forward, we celebrate Black History Month 2021, with culturally significant artworks along with their creators, past and present, in all five boroughs. Here are a few suggestions.
MTA Arts & Design Celebrates Black History + Culture with its treasure trove of artwork within the MTA System
During Black History Month, MTA Arts & Design features its treasure trove of glass, mosaic and metal artworks throughout the MTA system. Above and below ground, passengers will enjoy seeing works by some familiar names from Faith Ringgold, Terry Adkins, and Maren Hassinger to Louis Delsarte, Xenobia Bailey and Derrick Adams + many many more. Above, artwork by artist Beatrice Lebreton, ‘Wisdom Along the Way,’ 2017 at Rockaway Avenue.
Tyler Gordon, the 14-year-old who went viral with his freehand portrait of V.P. Kamala Harris and Time Magazine cover art of Lebron James, is showcasing some of his iconic portraits in an outdoor art gallery located at 200 Hudson Street in Tribeca. The street-level, window exhibition entitled “Icons Collection” is on view through the month of March, 2021 thanks to Arnold NYC, Havas New York and the Hudson Square Properties joint venture in Havas’ New York building.
African American Landmarks & Historic Districts in New York City by NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) created an interactive story map to celebrate New York City’s African American history through its designated places. Entitled Preserving Significant Places of Black History, it celebrates New York City’s African American history through designated landmarks and historic districts. For five decades LPC has been recognizing, supporting, and celebrating places of African American cultural and historic significance through designation. This story map highlights landmarks and historic districts that illustrate the experiences and achievements of African Americans through interactive maps, narrative text, images, and multimedia content.
Ahmir ‘Questlove’ Thompson ‘Summer of Soul’ Kicks-Off the Sundance Film Festival & Wins Sundance 2021 Grand Jury Prize!
We can’t begin Black History Month without asking ~ Were you in Harlem in 1969? We would love to hear if you were there.
Summer of Soul will be, no doubt, picked up by one of the major streamers, since it was chosen as the winner of Sundance 2021 Grand Jury Prize. The documentary is still being shown in different film festivals so we will have to wait a little longer before we find out which OTT platform will stream the full movie online.
The Shed Celebrates Black History Month
The Shed presents Fighting Dark, a new audio tour and film by artist and storyteller Kamau Ware (Founder, Black Gotham Experience). This two-part project features an online audio tour and a short film that explores Manhattan and Brooklyn’s 19th-century history of racial violence and resilience. Fighting Dark is commissioned in conjunction with Howardena Pindell: Rope/Fire/Water, an exhibition currently on view at The Shed, and connects to Pindell’s investigation of the legacy of racial violence in the United States. Fighting Dark’s audio walking tour is streaming for free on The Shed’s website (theshed.org/fightingdark). The film will debut on theshed.org in the coming weeks.
NYC Landmarks Preservation Commission Designates 227 Duffield Street, once Home to Underground Railroad, a NYC Landmark ~ February 2
On February 2, 2021, the New York City Landmark Preservation Commission voted to designate 227 Duffield Street, Brooklyn, a New York City Landmark, with a vote of 11 in favor and 0 against.
The home is a rare surviving 19th Century abolitionists’ home, and a stop on the historic underground railroad. Don’t miss the fabulous Youtube video below with ‘Mama Joy’ Chatel.
As we approach Black History Month 2021, the Fulton Art Fair, in celebration of its 100th birthday of artist Richmond Barthé, announced the restoration of the much loved relief, ‘Exodus and Dance.’
In recognition of Black History Month 2021, CityParks Foundation SummerStage takes a look back at moments from its first-ever all-virtual season. The excerpts will include highlights from our SummerStage Anywhere 2020 programming, featuring spoken word, music and dance performances. Joining us to introduce the program is Harlem-based journalist and musician, Greg Tate, a SummerStage alumni and co-founder of the Black Rock Coalition, which is celebrating its 35th Anniversary. These are Free online events.
The New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC) launched the site, Seneca Village Unearthed, an online exhibit and collection of artifacts from what was once New York City’s largest community of free African-American landowners. Seneca Village was located in what is now Central Park, a scenic landmark. Through this online exhibit and collection, the general public will for the first time have access to nearly 300 artifacts and get a glimpse of what life was like for Seneca villagers in the mid-19th century
While The Green Book has been very much in the news this year, with The Museum of Arts & Design’s exhibition by artist Derrick Adams entitled Sanctuary and Unpacking the Green Book: Travel and Segregation in Jim Crow America, along with the about-to-be released movie, Green Book, The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture houses the full digital collection of Green Books and other similar guides.
Known for his artistic connections between the transatlantic slave trade and the creative visions brought with them to this country, Armstead’s work is best described in his artist statement referencing his long-term series, Farther Land, “…..recent work explores the African-American experience inside the American Revolution. Farther Land symbolically reflects on 10 years of the artist’s research on the true story of slave turned double-agent spy James Armistead Lafayette. The founders’ high ideals and the penalty for deviation from them are both reshaped as objects that relate this point of view. The series responds to the age of revolution and the founders’ declaration that “all men are created equal” with irony and suggestive material content.”
African Burial Ground (managed by the National Park Service) is the oldest and largest known excavated burial ground in North America for both free and enslaved Africans. It protects the historic role slavery played in building New York. The Visitors Center is located at 290 Broadway; The outside memorial is located at the intersection of African Burial Ground Way (formerly Elk Street) and Duane Street.
3 Points of View by Kamoinge Photographers Anthony Barboza, Beuford Smith and Shawn Walker on view at Keith de Lellis Gallery and in the online viewing room. The exhibition is on view to February 26.
In 1963 a group of Black photographers based in New York came together in the spirit of friendship and exchange and chose the name Kamoinge—meaning “a group of people acting together” in Gikuyu, the language of the Kikuyu people of Kenya—to reflect the essential ideal of the collective. Focusing on the first two decades of the collective (1963–1983), Working Together celebrates the Kamoinge Workshop’s important place in the history of photography and foregrounds the collective’s deep commitment to photography’s power and status as an independent art form.
The first museum exhibition dedicated to David Hammons’s pivotal early works on paper, David Hammons: Body Prints, 1968–1979 brings together the monoprints and collages in which the artist used the body as both a drawing tool and printing plate to explore performative, unconventional forms of image making. More than a half century after they were made, these early works on paper remain a testament to Hammons’s desire to reinterpret notions of the real; his celebration of the sacredness of objects touched or made by the Black body; his biting critique of racial oppression; and his deep commitment to social justice.
“Grief and Grievance” is an intergenerational exhibition, bringing together thirty-seven artists working in a variety of mediums who have addressed the concept of mourning, commemoration, and loss as a direct response to the national emergency of racist violence experienced by Black communities across America. The exhibition will further consider the intertwined phenomena of Black grief and a politically orchestrated white grievance, as each structures and defines contemporary American social and political life.
Celebrate Black History Month with the first of two weeks of Nightly Opera Streams showcasing some of the extraordinary African American artists who have starred on the Met stage. Explore the articles and resources below to expand your knowledge and enhance your experience as you enjoy the screenings.
The 28th edition of the New York African Film Festival (NYAFF) returns with a virtual program celebrating the shared aspirations that drive humanity through time and the voices of the women who push the culture forward while preserving treasured traditions. Presented by Film at Lincoln Center (FLC) and African Film Festival, Inc. (AFF), this year’s NYAFF will showcase ten features and 21 short films from Africa, Europe, North America, and South America. The event will be presented under the banner “Notes from Home: Recurring Dreams & Women’s Voices” in FLC’s Virtual Cinema from February 4 to 14 and at the Maysles Documentary Center in Harlem from February 18 to March 4.
The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture (Division of NYPL) continues with its Conversations in Black Freedom Studies. Join them on this free Zoom event exploring the life and legacies of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Gwen Patton, and Julian Bond.
Check out the rest of The Schomburg Center’s calendar of online events during Black History Month.
Black Art: In the Absence of Light streaming on HBO Max beginning ~ February 9
Inspired by the late David Driskell’s landmark 1976 exhibition, “Two Centuries of Black American Art,” the documentary Black Art: In the Absence of Light offers an illuminating introduction to the work of some of the foremost Black visual artists working today.
Directed by Sam Pollard (Atlanta’s Missing and Murdered: The Lost Children) the film shines a light on the extraordinary impact of Driskell’s exhibit on generations of Black artists who have staked a claim on their rightful place within the 21st-Century art world. Interweaving insights and context from scholars and historians, along with interviews from a new generation of working African American curators and artists including Theaster Gates, Kerry James Marshall, Faith Ringgold, Amy Sherald and Carrie Mae Weems, the documentary is a look at the Contributions of Black American artists in today’s contemporary art world.
Black Art: In the Absence of Light is produced and directed by Sam Pollard; produced by Daphne McWilliams; cinematography, Henry Adebonojo; editing, Steven Wechsler; original music, Kathryn Bostic. Executive producers, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Jacqueline Glover; consulting producer, Thelma Golden.
More on ARTnews.
Three on 3 Music presents its Fifth Annual Negro spiritual Symposium.
Commemorate Black History Month with a tour of Seneca Village. Learn about the lives of Seneca Village’s residents in the 1800s and the community’s place in pre-Central Park. The tour will be given by Urban Park Rangers from 1:00-2:00pm at 81st Street and Central Park West. This is a Free event.
Commemorate Black History Month with the Urban Park Rangers in a walk through Brooklynn Bridge Park, highlighting the borough’s link to freedom. Meet at the corner of Furman and Old Fulton Streets in Brooklyn Bridge Park. This Free event will take place from 11am to Noon.
Join award-winning journalist Alvin Hall and social justice trainer Janée Woods Weber for a discussion of their 12-day road trip from Detroit to New Orleans inspired by The Negro Motorist Green Book, the historic guide Black Americans relied on for safe and accommodating travel for decades. Authors of the podcast Driving the Green Book, Hall and Woods Weber will share recollections of important stops along their 2,021-mile journey and memorable encounters with Black Americans who used the Green Book to circumvent the institutionalized racism of the travel industry and patronize Black-owned businesses. Tickets Here.
Did you know that The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture holds the largest full digital collection of Green Books and other similar guides? Online and free to the public.
In celebration of Black History Month, NYC Parks will host a virtual panel focused on the ongoing effort to name park spaces in honor of the Black experience. NYC Parks Presents Honoring Black History: The Parks Naming Project will take place on Wednesday, February 24th from 6:00-7:00pm.
In honor of Black History Month, Green-Wood presents this virtual celebration and recognition of the unique stories of Black lives memorialized at the Cemetery. This conversation is part of a series of virtual programs about the history of Green-Wood and its permanent residents, Zooming iron History. Reservation to this virtual program are free with Tickets.
Join the Urban Park Rangers as they highlight the site that birthed hip-hop ~ at Cedar Playground in the Bronx from 1:00-2:00pm.
There are a lot of music venues in Harlem. Here’s one to add to your list during Black History Month. The New Amsterdam Musical Association(NAMA), founded in 1904, is the oldest African American Musical organization in the United States. They are located at 107 West 130th Street. Don’t miss Saturday, February 27th.
The 35th Annual Brooklyn Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. a Virtual BAM Event through February 28
After a painful year, we take this moment to reflect and to move towards the future. We draw inspiration from Dr. King’s words, his life, and the actions of those around us who continue the fight for equality and justice. With a keynote address by Alicia Garza—author of The Purpose of Power, principal at Black Futures Lab, and co-founder of the Black Lives Matter Global Network—and performances by Grammy winner PJ Morton, Tarriona “Tank” Ball, Sing Harlem!, poets Timothy DuWhite and Ashley August, and other changemakers, this tribute to Dr. King grounds us in a message of hard-earned hope. This is a Free event.
In Pursuit of Freedom explores Brooklyn’s anti-slavery movement from the end of the American Revolution to the early days of Reconstruction through photographs, census records, anti-slavery and local newspapers, maps and more.
Harlem-based tour company Welcome To Harlem originated in 2004 with tour guides who are born and raised in the neighborhood. Tours range from walking tours through historic neighborhoods to jamming jazz and gospel brunch.
Taste Harlem is another Harlem-based tour company, specializes in historical food and culture tours, taking guests on a journey through the heart and soul of Harlem.
We expect more Black History Month events to develop as the month moves on, and we will continue to update.