February is Black History Month, and there are lots of great events taking place that celebrate the achievements and contributions of Black Americans, as well as African culture in general.
“Judas and the Black Messiah”
Lawrence Branch of the Mercer County Library System
Watch this movie during a matinee performance.
Black History Month Opening Ceremony
Mercer County Community College, Kerney Hall at the James Kerney Campus, Trenton
Listen to guest speakers talk about the importance of Black history.
Black History Month Festival
Robbinsville High School, Robbinsville
Shop from art vendors and clothing vendors, listen to music and have some food with members of the school’s RVille Black Culture Club.
Film and Chat
Mercer County Community College, CM 108, West Windsor
Watch the film “Get Out,” the story of a family meeting gone wrong, and take part in a Film and Chat session.
Theatre at Raritan Valley Community College, Branchburg
This RVCC Theatre-School Time Series is great for kids in grade 5 and older. They’ll watch “Finding North,” a play that brings to life the powerful stories of the strivings, sacrifices and dreams of John P. Parker, a former enslaved man who dedicated his life to helping enslaved people escape through the Underground Railroad in southern Ohio.
Of Our New Day Begun
Patriots Theater at the War Memorial, Trenton
The New Jersey Youth Symphony lends its music to this dance performance, featuring guest dancers from The Newark School of the Arts and The Discovery Orchestra’s George Marriner Maull. You will hear and see the culture of African legacy in America through a blend of music, oration and dance.
Art, Brunch & Champagne
The Rutgers Club, Piscataway
Join the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University for a celebration of Black History Month featuring special exhibitions and presentations by student artists.
Black History Month Trivia
Mercer County Community College, Student Center, West Windsor
You can flaunt your Black history prowess during this trivia event.
February 10 – 26
Hip Hop Cinderella
New Victory Theater, New York
Although this isn’t specific to Black History Month, the performances are a new take on the classic tale, reimagined to incorporate hip-hop dance, rap and pop music, arriving in time for the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.
February 10 – March 14
Manifesting Beloved Community Art Exhibition
West Windsor Arts Council, Princeton Jct.
West Windsor Arts and Art Against Racism present a juried exhibition of work exploring the relationship of community health with race, racism and efforts to create an antiracist society. Inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Beloved Community represents a global vision where all people share in the wealth of a healed planet. Artists were asked to explore one or more themes in their work related to economic justice, health care, housing, employment, the environment, and/or cultural expression.
Cirque Zuma Zuma
Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown
As seen on “America’s Got Talent!” this African-style Cirque du Soleil will storm through MPAC, with the performers executing acts of balance, agility and flexibility. The kids will be clapping and tapping to the beats of African music, drumming and dance.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants
Cicely L. Tyson Community School of Performing and Fine Arts, East Orange
U.S. Senator Bob Menendez will host his 11th annual Black History Month celebration. This year’s honorees are six-time GRAMMY-Award winner and East Orange native, Dionne Warwick, and retired New Jersey State Senator Ronald L. Rice. The event emcee is ABC7 Eyewitness News reporter Toni Yates. There will be performances by the Cicely L. Tyson School of Performing and Fine Arts Choir. Moyo Kehinde, a Nigerian born singer and alumni of the school, will perform the National Anthem. The East Orange Public Safety Honor Guard will present the colors for the event.
Black and Native American Troops at the Battle of Monmouth
Monmouth Battlefield State Park, 16 Business Rte. 33, Manalapan
Learn about the roles Black and Native American soldiers played in the Battle of Monmouth during the Revolutionary War.
February 16 – 26, select dates
Vanguard Theater Company, Montclair
This 2008 Tony Award-winning autobiographical rock musical about a young African American’s artistic journey of self-discovery has elements of philosophical existentialism, metafiction and the artistic journey. It’s a good lesson for kids 13+.
February 17 – 26
The Chef of Romagical Realism
Middletown Arts Center Theater, Middletown
Delve into the premise of inner and outer beauty through shy and introverted Halo, a man so unappealing to the eye that the world rejects him. However, he has a magical gift for baking and cooking where his food is so profound that it has the power to heal people and so delicious that people levitate and experience immense pleasure while consuming his food. Meet the playwright and during a Talk Back Q&A session after the Feb. 19 performance.
Black History Month Reading Event
McDonald’s, Neptune City
Bring your kids to hear books read by Black authors, teachers, police officers, principals and nurses. They will also be giving out 50 tote bags, books and Happy Meal cards.
Guided House Tour: Eyewitness to Black History
Crane House & Historic YWCA, Montclair
Explore 200 years of Black history in Montclair and New Jersey through rare firsthand accounts, primary and secondary source documents and artifacts. You’ll get to see a bill of sale for an enslaved person in the household, an 1800s newspaper, an 1840s New York Knickerbocker magazine, census data, personal letters, oral histories and mid-century Jet and Ebony magazines.
“Free Renty” Screening and Discussion
Montclair Film Cinema 505, Montclair
As part of the Price of Liberty Film Series, learn about issues related to race, segregation, integration and Civil Rights. “Free Renty” tells the story of Tamara Lanier, an African American woman determined to force Harvard University to cede possession of daguerreotypes of her great-great-great grandfather, an enslaved man named Renty. The daguerreotypes were commissioned in 1850 by a Harvard professor to “prove” the superiority of the White race. The film focuses on Lanier and tracks her lawsuit against Harvard, and features attorney Benjamin Crump, author Ta-Nehisi Coates and scholars Ariella Azoulay and Tina Campt.
New Jersey’s Tuskegee of the North: A Program on the Bordentown School
The Mercer County Library, Lawrence Headquarters Branch, Lawrenceville
Join this discussion on the Tuskegee Airmen who fought during World War II.
Through March 5
Soul of African American Art
Mayo Performing Arts Center, Morristown
Through March 5
The all-new exhibit featuring 58 selected works of art by 31 artists celebrating African American culture will be for sale.
SLADE: A Family Affair
South Orange Performing Arts Center, South Orange
Kelvin and Corrine Slade are father-daughter artists. Kelvin, who takes photographs of jazz performers, has an underlying love for the musical genre, and Corrine taps into her admiration for jazz when creating comforting abstract environments in her oil paintings. In celebration of Black History Month, this exhibition portrays the influence that Black music, particularly jazz, has had on the artists.
Through March 25
Unfinished Women Cry in No Man’s Land While a Bird Dies in a Gilded Cage
Camden Rep, Camden
The play’s central conceit is the juxtaposition of the Hide-A-Wee Home for Unwed Mothers and Pasha’s boudoir, where Charlie Parker, the brilliant Black saxophonist of years past, spent his last days. The play focuses on that moment when the girls must decide whether to keep their babies or give them up for adoption. Despite their fantasies of rescue by “caring” young fathers, they must decide alone.
Price of Liberty Film Series: “Reparations”
Montclair Film Cinema 505, Montclair
Although this film screening and discussion take place in March, it’s still important to listen to this story told by Black and Asian Americans who believe that collective liberation can only be achieved by standing with one another. In the film they reflect on the legacy of slavery, the inequities that persists, and the critical role that solidarity between communities has in acknowledging and addressing systemic racism in America.
Through March 31
Arts of Global Africa
Virtual tour, presented by Newark Museum of Art
The arts of Africa are as varied as the continent itself; millions of people of African descent live around the world, extending African creative expression well beyond the continent’s boundaries. The works on view highlight the continent’s diversity of materials, ideas and forms, and integrate historical and contemporary art. Changing installations include examples of masks, figural sculpture, textiles, pottery, jewelry, furniture, photography, video and paintings.
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. All Together Now: A Celebration of Equality Series is great for students, families and educators. You can take a virtual tour to learn about The Fight for Civil Rights and Liberties. Or, join a Town Hall to hear about Affirmative Action and the 14th Amendment. The museum has a rare printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed by Abraham Lincoln. Free with admission, for more information visit ConstitutionCenter.org.
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
The Newark Museum will present Afro-Elegance: Kings and Queens Black Tie Affair on Feb. 11. Educators are welcomed on Feb. 23 to learn about Global Africa: Design & The Diaspora. Then on March 30, plan a return visit to explore the life, liberty and legacy of America.
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 Kids Speak Out, an arts and history display; a Black business showcase; a spotlight on African American authors, characters and illustrators; a jazz performance; a screening of Disney’s “Soul” movie; and a Black History Jeopardy! game.
You can also celebrate Black History Month at home by sharing a book, movie or a craft project together as a family. For ideas, and lots of coloring sheets, check out our Black History Month celebration board on Pinterest.