Timeout New York Kids

Make the most of your city

Black History Month 2012: Celebrating with NYC kids

Honor Black History Month this February with these seven family-friendly outings. 

Detail of Romare Bearden's The Lamp.

Detail of Romare Bearden's The Lamp. Courtesy Romare Bearden Foundation

With 29 days to celebrate Black History Month this year, families have ample time to learn about African-American history and culture, and reflect on how that heritage has informed our nation as a whole. We've rounded up the most kid-friendly events and venues in the city, from dance performances to workshops and sacred sites, to help make your month of discovery a whole lot of fun.

Brooklyn Children's Museum: Have a heart class
In one of the most original workshops in recent memory, city kids get a black-history-themed, hands-on tutorial on how their heart works. While dissecting chicken hearts, doctors-in-training learn about African-American movers and shakers in the medical field who have contributed to improving heart health, among them Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the nation's first successful open heart surgery in 1893, and Dr. Charles Richard Drew, who invented the concept of blood banks and a system to preserve blood plasma. Sun Feb 5 at 1:30pm. Brooklyn Children's Museum. Free with museum admission. Ages 5 and up.

Macy's Celebrates Black History Month Children's Reading Circle
Take the kids to this reading of artist Romare Bearden's Li'l Dan, the Drummer Boy: A Civil War Story, about a slave boy named Dan who learns that the Civil War is over and slaves are free from a band of Union soldiers passing through town. With nowhere to go, Dan joins the uniformed men from the North, but when Confederate soldiers attack the boy's new friends, it's up to Dan to save the day. Stay after for an arts-and-crafts session and receive a free copy of the book with a purchase of $50 or more from the children's department. Be sure to stop by the ninth floor to see the featured exhibit of Bearden's work, part of a series of events celebrating the African-American artist's 100th birthday. Sat Feb 11 at noon. Exhibit is up Feb 9--16. Macy's Herald Square. Free. Ages 4 to 8.

Youth Step USA Black History Month Step Show Classic
For some high-energy entertainment, bring the kids to cheer on the 10- to 18-year-olds stepping and clapping to the beat in this show, where 18 step teams compete for a spot in April's 2012 NYC Regional Championship. If you find your tiny dancers mimicking their moves, a synchronized blend of footwork and clapping, you may have to hunt them up some classes. Sat Feb 11 at 3pm. Minisink Townhouse, 646 Lenox Ave between 142nd and 143rd Sts (212-368-8400, youthstepusa.org). Free. Ages 10 and up.

The African-American Musical Mosaic at the American Museum of National History Museum
Kids (ages six and up) try their hand at mancala, an African board game played with seeds or stones that opponents seek to capture (noon--1pm). Assistant curator Alex de Voogt will be on hand to explain the rules and help iron out strategies. Afterward, enjoy live music performances from the Harlem Quartet, the First Corinthian Baptist Church, IMPACT Repertory Theatre, Charles Mack and Sandra-Reeves Phillips. Hip-hop aficionados will want to stick around for a chat and Q&A session at 5:15pm with Darryl "DMC" McDaniels (from Run-DMC), who will share some of his musical stylings after the discussion. Sat Feb 18 noon--6pm. American Museum of Natural History. Free with museum admission. All ages. 

Visit the African Burial Ground
Grade-schoolers know from history books that New York was an anti-slave state, but they may not know that prior to 1827, the year slavery was legally abolished, the Empire State was home to many African-Americans, both free and captive. This fact became crystal-clear in 1991, when workers excavating a plot of land downtown for a new office building stumbled across the remains of an African burial ground. Today the site is a national monument with an indoor and outdoor component. At the Visitors Center, young visitors learn about African-American life during the 17th and 18th centuries through interactive exhibits, replica artifacts and commemorative art commissioned for the monument. The sacred ground itself is located outdoors. Guide-led tours are available for kids in 6th grade and up on Feb 4 and 25 at 1pm, and a talk suitable for kids 9 and up takes place on Feb 28 at noon. Winter hours 9am--4pm daily. African Burial Ground National Monument, 290 Broadway between Duane and Reade Sts (212-637-2019, nps.gov/afbg). Free. Ages 8 and up.

Check out art at the Studio Museum in Harlem
Take budding Basquiats to this Harlem museum, whose works were created exclusively by artists and artisans of African descent. Among the temporary exhibits is "The Bearden Project," made up of work by a wide-ranging group of artists who were influenced by 20th-century master Romare Bearden (see Macy's, above, for a showcase of Bearden's work), and "Kira Lynn Harris: The Block," a site-specific installation that reimagines Bearden's iconic, 18-foot-long collage of the same name. Afterward, stop by the museum shop, which is stocked with crafts, stationery and some choice books for kids. Studio Museum in Harlem. $7, children under 12 free. Sundays free. All ages.

Brunch at Red Rooster
After taking in works at the Studio Museum, cap off your cultural outing by heading to Marcus Samuelsson's much buzzed-about restaurant for some down-home eats. Named after the speakeasy that counted Nat King Cole, Adam Clayton Powell Jr. and James Baldwin as regulars, Red Rooster channels the spirit of Harlem with such culinary offerings as mac & greens, corn bread, fried "yard bird" and "Helga's meatballs." Red Rooster, 310 Lenox Ave between 125th and 126th Sts (212-792-9001, redroosterharlem.com).

Share your thoughts
  1. * mandatory fields