A photo of Rosa Parks with her friend Neotia Gray Smiley and two aunts, pictured with Theodora Smiley. This photo is part of the Theodora Smiley Lacey Portrait Tour.

February is Black History Month, and there are lots of educational events happening that celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans, as well as African culture in general, happening throughout NJ.

January 17 – March 5

Traditions and Transitions: Historical to Contemporary Perspectives in Black Art
Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown
The annual art exhibit by Art in the Atrium will present a range of still life, portrait, landscape, and fiber art, as well as optical art, and abstract expressionistic and non-objective styles. A free public reception will take place on January 28 at 3 pm.

February 1-29

Dance Yourself Happy: The African Dance Class Experience
Virtual, via Monmouth County Library
Learn some of the core movements commonly done in West African dance as you celebrate Black History Month.

February 1

Guided House Tour: Eyewitness to Black History
Crane House and Historic YWCA, Montclair
You’ll learn about 200 years of Black history in Montclair and New Jersey through rare firsthand accounts, source documents and artifacts like a bill of sale for an enslaved person in the household, an 1800s newspaper, census data, personal letters, oral histories, and mid-century Jet and Ebony magazines.

South Orange Downtown Celebrates Black History Month
Papillon 25, South Orange
Celebrate Black entrepreneurs and community leaders and the impact they have made on the community. There are free hors d’oeuvres, live music and a cash bar.

February 2

Forever Motown
Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown
Some of the best Motown hits the stage on one night, performed by G.C. Cameron, former lead singer of The Spinners, Glenn Leonard, former lead singer of The Temptations and Traci Robinson, former lead singer of The Marvelettes. The show is part of Black History Month programming at MPAC.

Cooking Demo With Marcus Samuelsson
American Dream, East Rutherford
Chef Marcus Samuelsson, who recently opened Marcus Live! at American Dream, will celebrate Black History Month throughout February. On February 2, he will conduct a cooking demonstration of pan-seared catfish on the Dream Stage. This signature dish will be available on the menu at Marcus Live! for the first two weeks of February, followed by jambalaya for the remainder of the month. After Chef Marcus cooks, there will be a performance by One Voice, One Sound Mass Choir of Community Baptist Church of Englewood.

February 3

Diali Cissokho & Kaira Ba
Sitnik Theatre, Hackettstown
Hailing from a long line of Senegalese musicians and storytellers known as griots, Diali Cissokho moved to the U.S. almost ten years ago and shortly after formed the band Kaira Ba with several Piedmont musicians. Together, they blend the traditions and rhythms of West African music with the subtle timbres of the American South.

Tracy Morgan
Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown
The comedian known for “30 Rock” and “Saturday Night Live” brings his comedy to the stage. Adults only. This is part of Black History Month programming at MPAC.

Dances of the Ivory Coast Workshop
Staten Island Children’s Museum, Staten Island, NY
The Cumbe Center for African and Diaspora Dance presents the KOUKOU: Gathering Together dance workshop. KouKou is a dance of community that guides children in learning the fundamentals of African dance.

Alonzo Adams: A Griot’s Vision
The Rutgers Club, Piscataway
This will be an afternoon of art, live jazz music, storytelling and food.

February 4

Lance Bryant Trio Celebrates Black History
Madison Community Arts Center, Madison
Tenor saxophonist, arranger and educator Lance Bryant will bring his trio to the New Jersey Jazz Society’s Jersey Jazz LIVE! concert. He will be joined by bassist Tom DiCarlo and pianist James Austin, Jr. In celebration of Black History Month, the trio will play classic pieces that defined some jazz styles throughout the decades of the music, as well as some pieces that show how some of the iconic artists musically dealt with social justice.

February 10

Sunjata Kamalenya: The Story of the True Lion King of Africa
Shea Center for Performing Arts, Wayne
Sunjata Kamalenya (translated: Sunjata for Youth) is a new interactive production that celebrates the greatest hero of West African legend, Sunjata Keita, the first Mansa (king) of the ancient Empire of Mali. Based on the story of The Lion King, this production chronicles the struggles of a boy destined to be the leader of the Mande’ people of West Africa.

February 13

Step Afrika!
Shea Center for Performing Arts, Wayne
Step Afrika! blends  dance styles practiced by historically African American fraternities and sororities; traditional West and Southern African dances; and an array of contemporary dance and art forms. The performances integrate songs, storytelling, humor and audience participation.

February 15

The Wiz 
Union County Performing Arts Center, Rahway
Based on its namesake 1974 Broadway musical, The Wiz tells the classic story of Dorothy (Diana Ross), the Tin Man (Nipsey Russell), the Scarecrow (Michael Jackson), and the Cowardly Lion (Ted Ross) with music by Ashford & Simpson, Luther Vandross, Charlie Smalls and Quincy Jones. It will be shown on 35mm film as part of UCPAC’s 35mm Classic Film Series Presentation for Black History Month. There will be free popcorn, sparkly drinks, photo ops, and other surprises.

Art, Activism, Anonymity
Newark Museum of Art, Newark
You and other members of the museum will explore several contemporary works by African American artists that are currently on view. Expert docents will lead a conversation about each piece.

February 15-18

New Jersey Symphony Orchestra Presents: Respect: A Tribute to Aretha Franklin
February 15, MPAC, Morristown
February 16, Count Basie Center For The Arts, Red Bank
February 17, NJPAC, Newark
February 18, State Theatre New Jersey, New Brunswick
A tribute to the Queen of Soul, this program features Capathia Jenkins and three-time Grammy nominee Ryan Shaw performing such iconic hits as “Respect,” ‘Think,” “A Natural Woman” and many more. This is part of Black History Month programming at MPAC.

February 16

Dionne Warwick
Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown
Six-time Grammy Award-winning music legend Dionne Warwick has more than 75 hit songs and has sold over 100 million records. This concert is part of Black History Month programming at MPAC.

February 17

Black History Month Reading Event
McDonald’s, Neptune City
Listen to books read by Black authors, teachers, principals and community members. As part of the celebration, you can get a tote bag, book and/or Happy Meal while supplies last.


February 18

Guided House Tour: Eyewitness to Black History
Crane House and Historic YWCA, Montclair
Explore 200 years of Black history in Montclair and New Jersey through rare firsthand accounts, and primary and secondary source documents at the Crane House & Historic YWCA. Artifacts include a bill of sale for an enslaved person in the household, an 1800s newspaper, census data, personal letters, oral histories, and mid-century Jet and Ebony magazines.

February 22

LSC After Dark: R&B Night
Liberty Science Center, Jersey City
Celebrate everything R&B, with new laser shows, food, dancing and games. This party for adults 21+ includes a special nod to Black History Month, an R&B laser show, the Cosmic Pioneers planetarium show, dance parties, food and smoking cocktails, and access to all of the museum’s exhibits.

Celebrate Culture With Game Night
West Windsor Arts, West Windsor
There will be a traditional and contemporary African and Afro-Caribbean board game collection, including Bid Whist, Spades and Dominoes. Check out the powerful art exhibition, “Manifesting Beloved Community,” inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to represent a global vision where everyone shares in the wealth of a healed planet.

February 24

A Life of Service: The Theodora Smiley Lacey Portrait Tour
Fairleigh Dickinson University, Hackensack
Theodora Smiley Lacey was an advocate for education, equity and racial justice. Philip Smallwood has captured her essence in a portrait slated to go on national tour. During the unveiling celebration, journalist and WABC reporter Anthony Johnson will lead a panel discussion on the relationship between community activism, the impactful role of art in societal narratives, and the profound historical perspectives that shape our understanding of figures like Mrs. Lacey.

Downtown Somerville Black Arts & Ideas Festival
Downtown Somerville
Learn about Black History Month by visiting various locations in town for special conversations, panels, performances and moments of solidarity. Topics include the legacy of Paul Robeson, finding financial freedom and conversations on black entrepreneurship. You can also bring your family to a free photoshoot or check out a pop-up exhibit and live jazz music.

Black History Celebration: Black Resilience Upward and Onward
Lawrence High School, Lawrenceville
There will be a series of programs, vendor shopping, music and food options during the 11th annual event, hosted by the students of the Lawrence High School Arts & Humanities Academy and supported by the Lawrence Township Education Association.

JON SWEENEY / i heresy

February 29 – March 2

i, heresy
Hearst Dance Theater, Lewis Center For the Arts, Princeton
This new multi-media dance work by Princeton University senior (Aniyah) Storm Stokes speaks to the Black spirit being liberated from oppression. There are themes of breaking free from White supremacist religious “rights,” and Black femme and queer wayward “wrongs.”

Through April 7

Contemporary African Spirituality in Art
South Orange Performing Arts Center, South Orange
The exhibition features the works of many local artists in mixed media, paint and photos. There’s a mix of tradition and modernity and how it relates to African spirituality.

Even more to see and do:

The National Constitution Museum, Philadelphia, PA
If you’re up for a day trip, the National Constitution Museum in Philadelphia has numerous events planned in honor of Black History Month. Explore the lives of Harriet Robinson Scott, Harriet Tubman, Harriet Jacobs and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who confronted slavery through literature, lawsuits and direct action. Visit the Civil War and Reconstruction exhibit for a very special viewing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Learn about the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, Black soldiers who fought during the Civil War. Check out artifacts from the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which focuses on our First Amendment rights and civil rights. You can take a self-guided tour of African American artifacts, and look at Freedom Fighter portrait books.

Springfield Avenue Partnership, Maplewood, NJ
SAM is a longstanding participant in Maplewood’s Black History Month Celebrations. Every year businesses and cultural organizations host events that educate and celebrate the achievements and traditions of Black Americans. There are lots of events planned at Springfield Avenue this February, plus town-wide events listed on the Maplewood Black History Month Calendar. Some highlights include Jazz performances, a stage play celebrating people of color, an ancestry collage for adults, and stories of Black families from New Jersey.

You can also celebrate Black History Month at home by sharing a book, movie or craft project as a family. For ideas, and lots of coloring sheets, check out our Black History Month celebration board on Pinterest.

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