Black History Month, anchored by the birthdays of Frederick Douglass (February 14) and Abraham Lincoln (February 12), celebrates the important people and events that have shaped the history of black people in America and throughout the world. As you know, Harlem has a notable place in the ledgers of black history. It was home to the Harlem Renaissance, with cultural and intellectual luminaries as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes, Billie Holiday, Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Malcolm X, Dr. Martin Luther King, Richard Wright, Lena Horne, WEB DuBois and Zora Neale Hurston and so many others. Celebrate this month in Harlem with events honoring black culture and traditions; music, dance and art; civil rights activism and more. Kids and the whole family can explore the Apollo Theater, the Schomburg Center, Harlem Stage, Morris-Jumel Mansion, the Dwyer, etc.,. Read on for more information, and check the HW site for update:
Langston Hughes Read-In and Tribute
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; read-in, 1pm, free; tribute, 7pm, $10; 212-491-2200, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
The Schomburg Center celebrates the birthday of the great American writer Langston Hughes with a community read-in of Hughes’ works at 1pm, followed by an evening tribute including readings, music and special performances at 7pm. In honor of Hughes, a leading figure in the Harlem Renaissance, the City declared the East 127th Street brownstone where Hughes lived for 20 years, until his death in 1967, a landmark and renamed the block Langston Hughes Place.
February 2, 9, 16 and 23
Amateur Night at the Apollo
Apollo Theater, 7:30pm, $19–$29, 212-531-5300, apollotheater.org
There’s simply no place like the Apollo on Amateur Night, where many celebrated black performers, including Ella Fitzgerald, got their big breaks. The 2011 season begins with a new crop of talent looking to win over the notoriously fickle Apollo crowd each Wednesday night. February 9 will be “Brooklyn Night,” with a slate of contestants hailing from the beloved Borough of Kings.
Create African-Inspired Masks with Susan Hale
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 4pm, free, 212-491-2200, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
Learn about different kinds of traditional African masks, patterns, colors and techniques. Afterward, design and create your own African-inspired mask to take home. Materials are provided, but space is limited; to register contact the center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 212-491-2229.
February 8–May 1
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: How the Apollo Theater Shaped American Entertainment
Museum of the City of New York, admission: $10, adults; $6, seniors and students; 212-534-1672, mcny.org
The Museum of the City of New York celebrates the Apollo Theater’s status as a historical and cultural landmark with an impressive array of photographs, artifacts, costumes and videos. The exhibition brings to life numerous groundbreaking moments in African-American music and history that took place on the Apollo’s stage, including Ella Fitzgerald’s Amateur Night win and Barack Obama’s election campaign rally.
February 8–June 30
Harlem is…The Gospel Tradition
Dwyer Cultural Center, $5 donation requested, 212-222-3060, dwyercc.org
This exhibition examines the pivotal role of four churches at the forefront of the migration of African-Americans from downtown New York City to Harlem. It also honors some of Harlem’s most significant contemporary religious leaders.
Apollo Legends: Leslie Uggams and Dionne Warwick
Museum of the City of New York, 6:30pm, $20, 212-534-1672, mcny.org
In a city full of famous venues, few have launched more careers or proven to be more of a cultural epicenter than the Apollo Theater. A panel discussion with Leslie Uggams and Dionne Warwick, moderated by historian Ted Fox, will explore the theater’s unequaled tradition. The event is presented in conjunction with the museum’s exhibition Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing. (See February 8 for a description of the show.)
Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing: Gallery Tour
Museum of the City of New York, 1pm, admission: $10, adults; $6, seniors and students; 212-534-1672, mcny.org
Co-curator and University of Pennsylvania professor of music Guthrie P. Ramsey Jr. leads a special tour of the exhibition exploring the legacy of the Apollo Theater. (See February 8 for a description of the show.)
Harlem in Film
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 212-491-2200, 4pm, free, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
Come to the Schomburg Center for a screening of I Remember Harlem, Parts 1 and 2, “The Early Years” and “The Depression Years.”
Dr. Larry Ridley and the Jazz Legacy Ensemble
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 7pm, $20, 212-491-2200, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
Dr. Larry Ridley and his ensemble play this special concert, accompanied by students from jazz studies programs at various historically black colleges and universities.
Harlem Stage, Aaron Davis Hall, 7:30pm, $25, 212-281-9240, harlemstage.org
Tamar-kali presents her newest multidisciplinary piece, which incorporates dance, song, burlesque, humor and spectacle in an homage to old-fashioned cabaret. Tamar-kali has a storied involvement with hip-hop, rock and punk and is central to NYC’s revered Black Rock Coalition crew.
Black History Month Youth Film Series
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 10am, free, 212-491-2200, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
This weeklong film series presents a variety of movies about black culture, history and experience to empower and educate young people. To register, contact the center at email@example.com or 212-491-2234.
Symposium: Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing
Museum of the City of New York, 6:30pm, admission: $12, adults; $8, seniors and students; 212-534-1672, mcny.org
A panel of writers, critics and historians will use the exhibition on the Apollo Theater as a jumping-off point to discuss institution’s importance to black cultural life for more than 75 years.
Harlem Stage, The Gatehouse, 7:30pm, $10, 212-281-9240, harlemstage.org
Artist John Sims will present his documentary film Recoloration Proclamation as part of a special multimedia event. The film examines reactions to the Confederate flag, its iconic—and racist—cultural symbolism and its effects on our oft-fractured society.
Harlem Stage, The Gatehouse, 5pm, free, 212-281-9240, harlemstage.org
Teens can speak their minds through poetry, spoken word, freestyle music and emceeing at this monthly open mic night. The event is a safe space for young people to come together and be heard.
Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep South
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 6pm, free, 212-491-2200, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
Katrina Browne’s movie examines the history of her New England forefathers, who were among the largest slave traders in the country. The screening, presented by African Film Festival New York, will be followed by a Q&A with the director.
Black History Month Family Discussion Group
Morris-Jumel Mansion, 1pm, free, morrisjumel.org
Children from grades 3 through 6 and their parents are invited to a group discussion about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the importance of serving one’s community. Call 212-923-8008 to register.
Harlem Fine Arts Show
Riverside Church, $20, 914-450-4269, hfas.org
This exposition showcases works by emerging and established artists that are reflective of their African-American heritage and ancestry.
City Stories: Family Workshop
Museum of the City of New York, 2pm, admission: $10, adults; $6, seniors and students; 212-534-1672, mcny.org
Visit the museum for a reading and meet-and-greet with acclaimed author Andrea Davis Pinkney (Duke Ellington: The Piano Prince and His Orchestra). Pinkney will be sharing excerpts and insights from her books and providing context for younger audience members.
Digital Diaspora Family Reunion
Harlem Stage, The Gatehouse, 3pm, admission: $10, adults; $5, teens; 212-281-9240, harlemstage.org
Family photographs deserve better than a shoebox at the back of the closet; the Digital Diaspora Family Reunion project asks participants to “explore the rich and revealing historical narratives found within their own family photograph collections.” Members of the community are invited to bring images, photo albums and other scannable mementos in to Harlem Stage from February 23 to 25. The project will culminate on February 27 with a special live event and multimedia presentation celebrating Harlem’s hidden family history. Make a reservation to bring in your images by calling 212-281-6002 or visiting ddfr.tv.
The Apollo Legacy: Jazz!
Museum of the City of New York, 7pm, $5, 212-534-1672, mcny.org
In honor of Black History Month and in conjunction with its exhibition on the Apollo Theater (see the February 8 description of the show), the Museum of the City of New York presents a special night of music hosted by Loren Schoenberg, executive director of the National Jazz Museum in Harlem. The National Jazz Museum All-Stars honor the artists that helped make the Apollo a mecca of American music, from Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald to Cab Calloway, Count Basie and Duke Ellington.
A Tribute to Betty Allen
Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, 7pm, $10, 212-491-2229, nypl.org/locations/schomburg
The New York City Opera and the Schomburg Center team up to honor the life and achievements of African-American mezzo-soprano Betty Allen, whose successes in the 1950s helped dissolve racial barriers in opera. The evening features film and sound clips of Allen, as well as musical selections.
James Baldwin, drawing by Danny Tisdale