It's impossible to fully capture centuries of black history in just 28 days (29 in a leap year) — yet every February, people in Baltimore and beyond give it their best shot. This year is no exception.
Local institutions, museums, restaurants and even cruise ships are hosting a range of events, each exploring the extraordinary histories, hardships and countless contributions of black people in America.
Whether you're looking to laugh or learn, discuss or dance, there's something for everyone this Black History Month. We've highlighted five ways to celebrate this year. (And you can find more events at the bottom of this article.)
Cabaret at Eubie Blake Cultural Center
While many institutions choose to explore black history that reaches far back in time, the Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center recognizes that some of the most creative contributions were made within recent history.
Reminiscent of the many live music fetes thrown in Baltimore in the 20th century, the cultural center will celebrate some of the most influential black singers of the past few decades with its "Lovingly Soulful" cabaret event.
Tevin Brown, a vocalist who plays the keyboard, will play a range of Stevie Wonder covers. Justin Burley will sing sultry hits by Luther Vandross. Tierra Strickland will channel Phyllis Hyman, and Christian Harris will take on music by Anita Baker. Brit Bradley will serve as emcee and host.
Each singing legend featured in the event "made their mark in the 20th-century in R&B, soul and some even in pop, and we wanted to celebrate them," said Eubie Blake executive and artistic director Troy Burton.
Rhythm and blues exudes a level of sophistication, Burton said, so "come dressed like you feel, but if you feel like you want to pull out your gown, wear a gown."
"It will be a return to elegance," he said.
Dinner begins at 7 p.m. with entertainment beginning at 8 p.m. through midnight. Feb. 18. Eubie Blake National Jazz Institute and Cultural Center, 847 N. Howard St. $20-$25 at the door. $120 for table of eight. Dinner items will be available for an additional $12-$20. eubieblake.org.
'What Does it Mean to be Black?'
When photographing a woman for her CloseUp Baltimore project, artist and activist Shan posed a question to her subject: What does it mean to be black? That one seemingly simple question led to a two-hour exchange.
"We all come from so many types of blackness ... and from that moment, I realized that that was a meaningful question for me, me being black as well," said Shan, whose full name is Shan Wallace. Now, the 25-year-old photographer has teamed up with the Creative Alliance to host a panel discussion and event centering on that same question.
"It's a way that others can potentially figure out their own definition, take a look at their types of blackness," Shan said. "I think as black people, a way for us to move forward is to look at our sameness and our differences, acknowledging them and then us moving forward and being better toward each other and others."
The panel, hosted by Baltimore-based artists Linnea Poole and Gerald Leavell II, will feature Shan, black Muslim activist Leila Rghioui, Liberian-born writer Bilphena Yahwon and Honduran musician Aurelio Martinez. Shan's photography will also be featured, along with music performances by DJ Pierre and Shalanda Hansboro.
"I would say come with an open mind and an open heart," Shan said, "and be prepared to hear about different stories ... and different types of blackness."
Reception begins at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 17, with a discussion at 6 p.m. The Creative Alliance, 3134 Eastern Ave. Free. creativealliance.org.
'Reflections' exhibit at Chesapeake Arts Center
Two generations will band together for a presentation that combines African-American history, social justice and creative expression in a month-long exhibit at the Chesapeake Arts Center.
The project, called "Reflections," has enlisted 25 senior citizens, ages 65 to 92, to write poems and short stories about their experiences growing up during the height of the civil rights movement. Eighth graders from Brooklyn Park Middle School's Performing & Visual Arts program will transform their words into works of art.
"It's so important, especially for young people, because they need to know what happened. They don't realize how bad race relations were in the city," said Gloria Garrett, one of the project's organizers.
The 57-year-old Charles Village resident, who has been working in the senior citizens division of the city's Department of Recreation and Parks for 15 years, helped recruit the senior writers to share their personal histories, many of which touch on the 1968 riots and the reeling effects of segregation throughout the Baltimore area.
Garrett said one woman wrote about how she was rejected from a hospital while in labor because she was black. She was only admitted after recommendation from a white man. Another wrote about how devastated she was as a young girl when a storekeeper wouldn't allow her to try on a dress because of the color of her skin.
"These things really happened," Garrett said. "You're hearing true stories, real stories from the people who lived it, and we gotta get these stories out there now."
The gallery opens Feb. 6 and will be on view throughout the month. A reception will be hosted in the center's Studio 194 Theatre at 12:30 p.m. on Feb. 23. Chesapeake Arts Center, 194 Hammonds Lane, Brooklyn Park. Free. chesapeakearts.org.
'Dark Humor' exhibit and film series
Through the beaded sculptures of MacArthur fellow Joyce J. Scott and paintings by artist Peter Williams, "Dark Humor" will offer creative commentary on race and social justice issues with just a touch of satire.
The exhibit at Towson University was not planned specifically for Black History Month, but the show is fitting, said Erin Lehman, art history lecturer and director of the school's Holtzman and Center for the Arts galleries.
"What you see when you go into the gallery are these dazzling, gorgeous works of art, but they have a message. Often through a biting humor, they explore difficult topics, like racism, sexism, identity," Lehman said.
"The intention is to provide an audience with a laughter that is pleasing and uncomfortable at the same time. You enjoy it, but it makes you think."
The art gallery will also host a "Dark Humor" film series in conjunction with the exhibit, featuring "Ethnic Notions," a documentary which explores the many tropes used throughout African-American history, 1974 blaxploitation film "Foxy Brown," and more. A discussion will be held after each screening.
The opening reception for "Dark Humor" will be held 7:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Feb. 9. The exhibition will be on view Feb.10-March 17, March 27-April 1. The "Dark Humor" film series is hosted at 3 p.m. on Feb. 11 and 25, Mar. 4 and 11. Towson University Center for the Arts, 8000 York Road, Towson. Free. towson.edu.
Black Memorabilia Fine Art & Crafts Show
Whether you like crafts, collectibles, museum exhibits or meeting historic figures in the flesh, the Reginald F. Lewis Museum's Black Memorabilia Fine Art and Crafts Show will allow attendees to see black history in its various forms.
More than 10 vendors at the event will display and sell collections of sheet music from black artists, black dolls and other memorabilia related to civil rights, music, sports, politics and slavery. Items by black artists, including jewelry, carvings and ceramics, will also be sold, according to Terry Nicole Taylor, the museum's education program manager. Attendees will also have the opportunity to bring in objects to be appraised for $5 each.
"It gives us a different way of looking at our past through art and artifacts that have been collected," Taylor said.
Exhibits on Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X and Dorothy Dandridge will also be on display, while a lecture will mark the "pre-grand opening" for the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad national park, slated to open in March on the Eastern Shore.
And if that isn't enough, African-American notables will be on hand to sign autographs. Guests include author A. Peter Bailey, a former communications manager for Malcolm X; Tuskegee Airman Charles McGee; and Negro League baseball players such as Mamie "Peanut" Johnson, the first female pitcher to play in the league.
Opens at 10 a.m. Feb. 11. The Harriet Tubman lecture will begin at 1 p.m. Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, 830 E. Pratt St. $6-8 museum admission. lewismuseum.org.
Black History Month at the B&O The B&O Railroad Museum highlights African-Americans’ contributions to the railroad industry with events and two special exhibits. 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays through February. 901 W. Pratt St. $12-$18. borail.org.
“Picturing Frederick Douglass” Harvard University professor John Stauffer discusses his book, which uses 50 years of photographs to chronicle the abolitionist’s life. 1 p.m. Saturday. Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture, 830 E. Pratt St. $6-$8 museum admission. lewismuseum.org.
To Catch A Thief A tour and activities exploring the USS Constellation’s role in fighting the slave trade shortly before the Civil War. 1 p.m. every Saturday in February. 301 E. Pratt St. $7-$18; children 5 and under free. historicships.org.
Hampton National Historic Site The mansion and former plantation hosts a Black History Month-themed event or walking tour each Sunday in February. 2 p.m. Feb. 5 and 26, 1 p.m. Feb. 12 and 19. 535 Hampton Lane, Towson. Free. nps.gov/hamp.
National Museum of African American History and Culture It’s pretty tough to get tickets to the Smithsonian’s newest museum, but maybe you’ll have better luck with its series of Black History Month events, most of which take place after regular hours. Events include a book discussion, panel with fashion designers and more. Feb. 8, 9, 21, 26. 14th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, Washington. Free. nmaahc.si.edu
Creativity Exchange: Intersections Between Black Artists and Black-Owned Businesses A vendor fair, workshop and panel discussion featuring Baltimore-based black artists and entrepreneurs. Noon Feb. 11. Baltimore Museum of Art, 10 Art Museum Drive. Free. artbma.org.
The Thirteenth Amendment Tour A tour of the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum and Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park focusing on the past and present ramifications of the Constitutional amendment that abolished slavery. Event ends with a screening of Ava DuVernay’s documentary “13th.” 10 a.m. Feb. 13. Great Blacks in Wax Museum, 1601 E. North Ave. email@example.com or 410-728-3837 for pricing and info.
Frederick Douglass Week Tours BBH Tours hosts a week of walking tours, re-enactments, lectures and more. Feb. 14-20. For more information, contact Lou Fields at 443-983-7974 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Awake Zion” A screening of a film about reggae music and culture in Brooklyn, N.Y., Jamaica and Israel. Pre-film talk at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16, screening at 7:30 p.m. $7-$13. creativealliance.org.
“The Black Panthers: Vanguard of The Revolution” Screening of the documentary followed by a discussion. 5 p.m. Feb. 17 at National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, 1601 E. North Ave. Free. Search event name on eventbrite.com.
“Colorblind: The Katrina Monologues” Arena Players presents this play about Hurricane Katrina and the devastation it left behind. Various times Feb. 17-19, 24-26. 801 McCulloh St. arenaplayersinc.com.
“Sing Me a Dream: Music and Protest” Morgan State University’s jazz ensemble and theater group perform an orchestra work composed by MSU alum Benny Russell than incorporates text from major works of African-American literature. 7:30 p.m. Feb. 17-18, 2 p.m. Feb. 18. Murphy Fine Arts Center, 2201 Argonne Drive. $10-$15. murphyfineartscenter.org.
Legends and Legacies Jubilee Dozens of Baltimore attractions offer an afternoon of Black History Month-inspired activities and displays. Noon Feb. 18. Baltimore Visitor Center, 401 Light St. Free. baltimore.org.
African American Heritage Tour Annapolis Tours hosts a two-hour walking tour highlighting African-American history in the state capital. 1 p.m. Feb. 18. Departs from City Dock, 1 Dock St., Annapolis. $10-$18, free for ages 2 and under. annapolistours.com.
“Olympic Pride, American Prejudice” A screening of a documentary on 18 African-American athletes who won medals at the 1936 Olympics in Nazi Germany. A discussion with filmmaker Deborah Riley Draper will follow. 2 p.m. Feb. 19. Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African-American History and Culture, 830 E. Pratt St. $6-$8 museum admission. lewismuseum.org.
“Seventeen Men” Artist Talk Artist Shayne Davidson discusses her project on display as part of the Evergreen Museum and Library exhibition “Seventeen Men: Portraits of Black Civil War Soldiers.” 6:30 p.m. Feb. 22. 4545 N. Charles St. Free. museums.jhu.edu.
Black History Month Open House Free admission to the Lewis Museum’s exhibits, plus crafts, live music and more. 10 a.m. Feb. 25. 830 E. Pratt St. $6-$8 museum admission. lewismuseum.org.
Black History Month Lunch Cruise Spirit Cruises hosts a narrated cruise highlighting important moments in black history along the Inner Harbor waterfront. Noon Feb. 25. $46.90-$61.90. 561 Light St. spiritcruises.com.
American Girl Tea Time with Addy Learn about American Girl doll/character Addy Walker, who escaped slavery for freedom in the north in 1864. 2 p.m. Feb. 25. Mount Clare Museum House, 1500 Washington Blvd. $6-$10; registration required. mountclare.org.
Becoming: A Living Altar In conjunction with the Baltimore Museum of Art’s “Queer Interiors” exhibit, the Rooted Collective celebrates the black LGBTQ community through music, movement and poetry. 2 p.m. Feb. 25. BMA, 10 Art Museum Drive. Free. artbma.org.