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Mwenso and the Shakes
Photograph: Oluwaseye Olusa | Mwenso and the Shakes

The best Black History Month events in NYC

Get inspired by Black culture during these epic and educational Black History Month events

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
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It's finally time to celebrate the massive contributions of Black and African-American people with the most amazing exhibits, concerts, shows and more this February. Marking Black History Month is one of the best (and easiest) things to do in February and NYC is certainly not lacking in the many ways you can do this.

Here's where to celebrate the month-long event.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to things to do in winter

Best Black History Month events in NYC

Multitalented hip-hop, funk and soul-inspired artist Topaz Jones is performing at the Museum of the City of New York for Black History Month on Monday, February 14, at 6:30pm. After a screening of his award-winning short/documentary Don't Go Tellin' Your Momma, Topaz will perform an intimate acoustic set in the Museum's Rotunda, weaving in the personal stories that have shaped and nourished his songs. Tickets are $20 for the in-person performance and $10 to stream it.

The Black Index on view at Hunter College
Photograph: Whitfield Lovell | The Card Pieces, 2020.

2. The Black Index on view at Hunter College

"The Black Index," an exhibit and publication by Hunter College CUNY that features six contemporary artists—Dennis Delgado, Alicia Henry, Kenyatta A.C. Hinkle, Titus Kaphar, Whitfield Lovell, and Lava Thomas—who push against and beyond the mass-produced images of racially specific violence, is on view at Hunter College Leubsdorf Gallery now through April 3. The curator, Bridget R. Cooks, Associate Professor at the University of California Irvine, explains that the purpose of the exhibit is to “contest the overwhelming number of photographs of Black people as victims of violent crimes that are circulated with such regularity and volume that they no longer refer to the persons they depict.” The gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 11am—5pm. The exhibit is located 132 East 68th Street. Admission to the exhibit is free of charge. All visitors 12 and older are required to show proof of vaccination and be masked while in the gallery.

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The Musket Room's Black History Month pop-up
Photograph: courtesy of Camari Mick

3. The Musket Room's Black History Month pop-up

Michelin-starred Musket Room's Executive Pastry Chef, Camari Mick, has invited some of her favorite makers, chefs and entrepreneurs to collaborate in recognition of Black History Month. They've put together boxes featuring handmade breads, pastries, pastas and sauces (from Ghanaian bread to whoopie pies) available for pickup at The Musket Room (265 Elizabeth St.) on February 20 and 27 (noon-2pm). The makers will also be present at the restaurant both dates for guests to meet. All proceeds benefit the makers entirely. The $80 box includes two black cake whoopie pies by Camari Mick, five pieces Ghanaian bread by Nana Araba, two Sunflower Praline Macarons by Jamal Dailey, two sweet potato cappelletti and sauce by Aretah Ettarh, three baggies of a spice blend sampler by Zoe Adjonyoh, two bon bons—Hoecakes (molasses and cornmeal praliné) and Uncle Nearest Caramel with Pecan Crunch Bon Bons by Rachel Bosset, jerk sauce with a recipe by Brittney Williams and a green sauce and recipe by Luciana Lamboy. Go ahead and pre-order it here.

4. Moonlight & Movies: A Night of Afrofuturism

Celebrate Black History Month with a night of Afrofuturism on Thursday, February 24 (6:30pm), with an introduction by Emmy Award-winning actor Joe Morton, followed by a screening of Afronauts (Nuotama Bodomo, 2014), a short film inspired by the Zambian Space Program, and then The Brother from Another Planet (1984), about an extraterrestrial who is chased by outer-space bounty hunters through Harlem. Tickets are $20.

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  • Things to do
  • Upper West Side

Just in time for Black History Month, the New-York Historical Society is bringing Frederick Douglass’ vision of freedom, citizenship and equal rights to life in a new ongoing special installation opening on February 11, 2022. A range of artifacts and documents illustrate Douglass’ vision, including illustrations from the popular press of the time and scrapbooks of articles by or about Douglass compiled by his sons that also documented his work to usher in a more just country. Visitors will also see speech excerpt from his contemporary, Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, who raises the question of gender in step with Douglass’ ideas about racial equality. Political cartoons and a copy of an editorial that Douglass wrote about Chinese immigrants’ right to belong in the U.S. in the Chinese American newspaper are also on view. The maquette of a statue of Douglass erected on the campus of the University of Maryland in 2015, which was gifted to the late Congressman John Lewis, is also on display and a recreation of the Douglass statue, painted to be lifelike, greets visitors to the Museum at the 77th Street entrance.

  • Art
  • Central Park

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is literally making room for the real, lived history of Seneca Village, the once-thriving community founded by free Black New Yorkers that existed just a few hundred yards west of The Met between the 1820s and 1850s.

The period rooms inside the museum have shown off furniture and delicate artifacts from Europe's Rococo era to American Federalist style, but now, they'll include a permanent room that represents Afrofuturism—the African and African diasporic belief that the past, present, and future are interconnected.

The space, conceived and designed by Lead Curator and Designer Hannah Beachler (known for her work on Black Panther and Beyoncé’s "Lemonade" video) and Senior Exhibition Designer Fabiana Weinberg, includes a wood-framed 19th-century home that contains works from The Met’s American Wing that are reminiscent of pot shards and remnants from Seneca Village that were found in 2011. Representing the future with the past in mind, works of art and design from the Department of Modern and Contemporary Art are interspersed in the space as well as contemporary furniture, photography, and ceramics alongside from The Met’s Michael C. Rockefeller Wing.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
Photograph: Anna-Marie Kellen, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art

"Before Yesterday We Could Fly" also features recent acquisitions made specifically for the project, including works by Ini Archibong, Andile Dyalvane, Yinka Ilori, Cyrus Kabiru, Roberto Lugo, Chuma Maweni, Zizipho Poswa, Jomo Tariku, Tourmaline, and Atang Tshikare. There are also animations by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Fabiola Jean-Louis, and Jenn Nkiru.

Its title is inspired by Virginia Hamilton's retellings of the "Flying African" tale, which celebrates enslaved peoples’ imagination, creative uses of flight, and the significance of spirituality and mysticism to Black communities in the midst of great uncertainty, the Met says. 

The period room "celebrates the ingenuity, artistry, and determination of people of African descent and reconfigures how we think about space, place, and time," says Consulting Curator Dr. Michelle Commander. "The untold story of Seneca Village underscores that we walk on hallowed ground right here in New York City. Aspects of our history often fall out of conversation because of the passage of time. In other cases, they have been effectively buried or intentionally silenced. When these significant histories resurface, we ought to show reverence for those who came before whose lives and sacrifices paved the way for our very being. In this period room, archival and archaeological truths meet a range of art from across several centuries, cultures, and geographies. With the guidance of informed speculation, we imagine what was, what might have been, and what is yet to be."

"Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room" is now open at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in Gallery 508 on the first floor.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room
Photograph: Anna-Marie Kellen, courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art
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7. Brooklyn Children’s Museum’s Black Futures Festival

Enjoy a week of reflection and future-forward fun inspired by the national celebration of peoples of the African Diaspora and Black History Month at the Brooklyn Children's Museum. Festival curator Àṣẹ Dance Theater Collective will help present interactive dance performances and a Genea-Djali workshop, plus storytelling inspired by Crown Heights, a quilting workshop, local eats and so much more!  

Black-Owned Brooklyn Marketplace at Nordstrom
Photograph: courtesy Nordstrom

8. Black-Owned Brooklyn Marketplace at Nordstrom

This February, in honor of Black History Month, Nordstrom is partnering with Black-Owned Brooklyn, a digital publication spotlighting Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs throughout Brooklyn for an in-store marketplace at the flagship’s Center Stage space from February 14-March 6. Curated by Black-Owned Brooklyn’s husband-and-wife team, Tayo Giwa and Cynthia Gordy Giwa, the marketplace brings together eight local Black-owned businesses across apparel, food, home goods, and self-care products, including: Chen Burkett New York (women’s clothing brand representing Caribbean style), Heavy Metals NYC (avant-garde jewelry and accessories), Breukelen Polished (vegan, highly pigmented nail lacquer), Savant Studios (a range of soulful and stylishly detailed pieces), Modish Decor Pillows (luxe pillows, candles, coasters and more), Sarep + Rose (sustainable leather handbags, backpacks, sandals, wallets and home decor), Brooklyn Brewed Sorrel (non-alcoholic beloved brewed and aged hibiscus beverage) and Sol Cacao (artisan “bean to bar” chocolate manufacturer that crafts single origin chocolate bars).

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Black History Month at NYC Parks
Photograph: courtesy of NYC Parks

9. Black History Month at NYC Parks

Celebrate Black History Month with these NYC Parks' events and virtual exhibits:  

Herbert Von King Park History and Stewardship Program 
Saturday, February 5, 1-2:30 p.m. 

Celebrate Black History Month with the Urban Park Rangers. Participate in an afternoon of service in this local neighborhood park and learn about important African American activists Herbert Von King and Hattie Carthan; two remarkable leaders during the last century that helped to build community and inspired stewardship in the surrounding historic neighborhood. 

Flushing Freedom Mile 
Sunday, February 13, 11am-12:30pm

Join the NYC Parks Urban Park Rangers on a Flushing Freedom Mile walk and learn about Queens historic landmarks including the John Bowne House, the Lewis Latimer House, the Friends Meeting House and their connection to freedom via the Underground Railroad, as well as activists instrumental in paving the way to universal human liberties. 

Artworks Honoring the Black Experience: Frederick Douglass Memorial  

Fredrick Douglass Circle, Central Park North, Manhattan 

This monument honors abolitionist, writer, orator, and publisher Frederick Douglass. It stands at the gateway to Harlem on Central Park's west side. The memorial includes a complex colored paving pattern that alludes to traditional African-American quilt designs, which was designed by Harlem-based artist Algernon Miller. 

Dr. Ronald E. McNair Monument 
Dr. Ronald McNair Park, Brooklyn 

This artwork depicts physicist and astronaut Dr. Ronald E. McNair who died aboard the Challenger space shuttle when it exploded in 1986. It would have been his second trip to space. Nigerian-born sculptor Ogundipe Fayomi created this monument which sits in his namesake park. 

Want to go to a museum this month?

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