Black History Month Continues + Upcoming Social Justice Talks & Events in NYC

By Alison Durkee

While February may be nearing an end, there are still plenty of chances to mark Black History Month and learn more about the African-American experience and the ongoing struggle for social justice in America.

Several events this February will focus on the experiences of black Americans both before and after the Civil War. Discover how modern-day Central Park was once the home to a thriving community of free African-Americans at a session on Seneca Village and the park’s hidden archeology on February 22. Of course, it wasn’t only free African Americans who made their home in New York City, and those in attendance at Slave Stories, Our Stories on February 23 will gain a deeper understanding of the 18th century slave experience that took place far from the Southern plantations usually associated with the practice. Once the slaves were emancipated, many went west in search of a better life. Their migration will be the focus of a talk on February 27, led by Tufts University History professor Kendra Field. On March 1, the Culinary Historians of New York join forces with the Mount Vernon Hotel Museum & Garden for James Beard Award-winning author Adrian Miller and his The Presidents’ Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families. Samples of presidential favorites will be served.

On February 22, trace black history through a single iconic family at the Black Calhouns, a session with Gail Lumet Buckley chronicling her family’s history from the Civil War to the Civil Rights era. Buckley’s mother, Lena Horne, will then be honored in the city on March 6, as Harlem Stage presents Lena Horne at 100, an evening of song and dance in tribute to the legendary stage and screen performer. Another 20th century black icon, Jackie Robinson, will be the focus of a February 27 talk delving into the baseball player’s strong faith. One influential black figure of the 20th century you may not have heard of, on the other hand, is Mary Hamilton, who was jailed in 1963 when she refused to be called by her first name rather than surname by the court, as many African-American court witnesses were at the time. Her ensuing legal battle, the Supreme Court case Alabama v. Hamilton, and its impact on racial equality will be the subject of a February 26 talk at the New-York Historical Society.

Of course, there’s still plenty to discover and discuss when it comes to the black experience today. The Myrtle Ave Black Artstory Month will continue on February 23 with a discussion on how American currency was founded on the backs of enslaved Americans and still continues to marginalize minorities and disadvantaged communities – and what can be done to change that. On February 22, SHEISPOETICJUSTICE will put the Black Arts Movement into the spotlight through spoken word, with an evening in tribute to Maya Angelou. The experiences of African-American writers in a post-Obama America will also be explored at a session on February 27, which will discuss how to weaponize African-American voices through writing and push for social change. One black writer who has been able to rise above in today’s society is Robin Thede, who became the first African-American to serve as head writer of the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2016 and is now the only woman of color with her own late night show. On February 27, the Paley Center for Media will honor Thede and discuss her current show, BET’s The Rundown with Robin Thede, at a conversation with Thede and her colleagues.

While it’s important to honor the achievements of black Americans, it’s also necessary to acknowledge that when it comes to social justice, there’s still much more to be done. Understand the problems that make social justice necessary on February 27 at The Counterrevolution, which will delve into how the government has gone to war against its own citizens, or gain a greater understanding of our democratic system that enables social justice in the first place at Think Olio and BAM’s Questioning Democracy seminar series, which continues on March 15. On March 1, Columbia University will continue its seminar series dedicated to political uprisings, with sessions exploring different modalities of “disobedience, inservitude, revolt, social movement, or other forms of political contestation.” One of these ways to protest, of course, is through art, and those wanting to learn more about social justice through public art can attend a session on performance and protest in public art on February 28 at the Museum of the City of New York.

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