Now is the Time. Memphis is the Place.

Celebrating Black History Month 2018 in Memphis

"It's Beautiful Where You Are" by Joseph Boyd, Photo: Amanda Hill

Featured photo: “It’s Beautiful Where You Are” by Joseph Boyd, Photo: Amanda Hill

February is known as Black History Month across the country, and in Memphis there are many ways to join in and celebrate the month.

Mural at Redzone Ministries in Orange Mound

Mural Design: Erin Williams, Artists: Orange Mound students, Photo: Amanda Hill

In this drama by August Wilson set in the 1950s, the evolving African-American experience is explored as a former star of the Negro baseball league is excluded from the major leagues during his prime. Now working as a garbage man, bitterness takes its toll on his relationships as his son wants his own chance to play in the major leagues. Winner of the Tony Award for Best Play.

Nina is a smart and sexy hustler who has rejected everything her parents fought for in the Black liberation movement. When her estranged father, Kenyatta, wants to reconcile, negotiating her past and present becomes a revolutionary act. From one of the most exciting young voices in the American theatre, this dynamic play about fathers and daughters sears with wit and wisdom and the brutal politics of freedom.

  • Feb 1: University of Memphis: Black History Month Opening Ceremony 

This event is the opening celebration of Black History month for the University of Memphis. The first black chairman of the Memphis City Council Fred L. Davis will be honored. The event will take place on the University of Memphis campus in the Rose Theater. For more info you can contact the Multicultural Affairs office at 901-678-2000.

Join a special panel discussion, hosted in partnership with The Collective (The CLTV), that will inspire you with the stories left in legacy by the photographs of Ernest Withers. Panelists include participants that heroically participated in strikes and sit-ins, along with children and grandchildren of those memorialized in the images who will share their personal stories of resistance. The evening’s discussion will be introduced by Rosalind Withers, President and Board Chairman of the Withers Collection Museum and the only daughter of Dorothy and Ernest Withers.

Engage your emotions when Alvin Ailey® American Dance Theater returns with contemporary works that touch on timely topics and the beloved classic Revelations, Alvin Ailey’s masterpiece that fervently explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.

Join City Tasting Tours for Black History Month as they take you on a journey through Memphis. Throughout the tour you will visit Slave Haven, the Historic Mason Temple, the National Civil Museum/Lorraine Motel, and Stax Museum of American Soul Music. Following the tour, you’ll enjoy delicious and generous tastings from 3 authentically Memphis restaurants, all a short walk from each other. For more info and to purchase tickets visit City Tasting Tours.

Collage honors the legacy and contributions of giants and pioneers, from past to present.  RISE showcases the company’s sheer athleticism and emotional conviction through powerful, historically inspired performances. RISE also features the company’s professional dancers performing alongside Collage’s dance stars of tomorrow.

In light of Black History month, Obscura is proud to present guest DJ Siphne Aaye and her unique blend, as she weaves her magic along with DJs Alpha Heather and Plastic Citizen. They’ll also be raffling 2 pairs of tickets to Marvel’s Black Panther movie at 11:30.

In an effort to support local Black Businesses, Cynthia Daniels & Co. will host Matinee Movie & Mimosas monthly at Slice of Soul. Unwind and enjoy Orange Mound Mimosas with signature pizza dishes. February features the classic film Boomerang at 2pm.

On February 8th join the Art Village Gallery for their screening of Sankofa. Which is a film directed by an Ethiopian filmmaker, Haile Gerima. The film shows the importance of not having people of African descent drift far away from their African roots.

On February 17th join the Art Village Gallery for their Panel Discussion “Lost Roots.” The panel is in  partnership with the University of Memphis African Student Association and will be about the disconnect between Africans and African-Americans.

On February 24th join the Art Village Gallery for an evening of art and poetry. The event feature various poets and artists throughout the city of Memphis along with a live African Jazz Ensemble.

  • Feb 9: Gospel Explosion   

The explosion will consist of African-American spirituals and is a time for the community to come together in song and dance. It will be located at the University of Memphis in the Rose Theater. For more info you can contact the Multicultural Affairs office at 901-678-2000.

Nathan Richardson captures completely the physical and spiritual essence of Frederick Douglass. He tells of his escape from slavery and his rise as a great writer, orator and abolitionist. Mr. Douglass will recite his famous speeches. Concluding the program is a noteworthy unscripted Q & A session between Mr. Douglass and the audience.

For Colored Girls…” is a production that highlights the love and light of the Black woman; as well as unpacks the various issues she faces & overcomes throughout life. This unique stage play consists of a series of poetic monologues, accompanied by dance movements and music, a form Ntozake Shange coined as the choreopoem. As a choreopoem, the piece weaves interconnected stories of love, empowerment, struggle and loss into a complex representation of sisterhood.

Starting with a reception at 6:00pm and then the highly anticipated Marvel movie “Black Panther” will hold its pre-screening at 7:00pm.  African Cuisine and the sounds of African drums will also be a part of the reception. The screening will take place at the Malco Cordova Cinema. For more info click HERE.

Join Colored Girls and MLK50 on Feb. 15 for an advance screening of “Black Panther” at Malco Paradiso Theatre. MLK50: Justice Through Journalism is a yearlong reporting project focused on economic justice and timed to the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The dress code: Resistance. Wear your favorite character costume or “woke-est” outfit. (There will be prizes.)

  • Feb 16: Freedom Awards and Mahogany

This event is centered around honoring 4 influential individuals in the city for the categories of religion, community service, education, and young alumni. Location is at the University of Memphis at 6:00pm. Open to the public.

GPAC will be hosting New Ballet Ensemble with a show just for kids that share a West African folk tale about the Sky God. Tickets are $8. For more details click here.

Hosted by the Spartan City Poetry Club. Open to all poets who have original content and also want to read any black writer material as well. For more information check out the event page here.

Following the assassination of Dr. King, Stax Records artists such as Isaac Hayes and the Staple Singers took it upon themselves to begin advocating for social justice and economic equality both in their hometown and throughout the world. Encouraging them was then-label president Al Bell, an ally of Dr. King and Jesse Jackson, who saw that Stax had a platform, a message, and in some ways, an obligation to bring about positive change. The foundation laid by these artists some 50 years ago has been built upon by current Memphis musicians such as Marco Pavé, a hip-hop artist whose socially conscious lyrics and local activism go hand-in-hand. Join us for this special discussion between a Memphis music icon and a rising star, both of whom have placed community improvement at the center of their work. The conversation will be moderated by Dr. Zandria Robinson, Associate Professor of Sociology, Rhodes College. Free admission.

This panel discussion will highlight African American dance artists creating and performing in the Mid South. They will discuss current aspirations, challenges and how choreographers like Ronald K. Brown have changed the landscape of dance in America. Panelists include Wayne Smith, N’Seeka MacPherson and Daphne Lee. More info here.

This special Café Conversation, programmed by The Collective (The CLTV), will inspire thought, action, and change. The event will begin with poetry from two of The CLTV’s own brilliant poets, presented in response to two Withers photographs on exhibition. Participants then move to the Café Conversation where the moderator will talk through three to four issues facing the Black community in Memphis. The participants will break into small groups, and each group will be assigned one of the issues discussed to create short, mid, and long-term responses to their issue. The evening will end with an informal presentation of their findings. Held in conjunction with “Black Resistance: Ernest C. Withers and the Civil Rights Movement.”

Celebrate the opening of “African-Print Fashion Now!” at the Brooks Museum with a red carpet entrance photographed by Ziggy Mack, a fashion show by Memphis Fashion Week, and entertainment by Siphne Aaye.

This dramatic musical captures prominent moments such as the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL. It is a mesmerizing and creative work of art, with jazz tunes and bass strings that will bring any audience to their feet. Originally written in 1976 to honor Dr. King’s bravery, many of the messages still resonate with activists today.

Ronald K. Brown will teach a Community Master Class on Friday, February 23 at 6pm in the Communication and Fine Arts Building Room 124 at The University of Memphis. Designed for intergenerational participants, RKB’s Community Master Classes can accommodate students of various skill levels, from those with a wide range of dance experience to those with none at all.  Classes begin center floor with an emphasis on alignment, rhythm, and using the body to express ideas and themes: strength, prayer, and celebration. The class will continue with center floor work and dance phrases across the floor.Master Class participants can receive a $10 ticket to the Ron K. Brown/ EVIDENCE performance at GPAC. Please give the box office your name when purchasing your ticket. More info here.

For the 2nd year Black Children’s Books and Authors will Celebrate Black History Month with readings from picture, chapter, middle, and young adult books by Black authors. Open and free the public. For registration click here.

Come early before the Ronald K. Brown/EVIDENCE dance performance, relax and mingle with new and old friends during this special pre-show event. Guests can enjoy happy hour, hors d’oeuvres and live music. This event is hosted by the Memphis Music Initiative and the Memphis Urban League Young Professionals.

Founded by Ronald K. Brown in 1985 and based in Brooklyn, New York, Evidence, A Dance Company focuses on the seamless integration of traditional African dance with contemporary choreography and spoken word. Through its work, Evidence provides a unique view of human struggles, tragedies, and triumphs. Brown uses movement as a way to reinforce the importance of community in African-American culture and to acquaint audiences with the beauty of traditional African forms and rhythms. He is an advocate for the growth of the African-American dance community and is instrumental in encouraging young dancers to choreograph and to develop careers in dance. GPAC will host a post-performance question and answer session with Ronald K. Brown directly following the show.  This discussion will allow audience members to ask questions of the company and learn more about the choreography being presented. Get more info here.

Join St. Jude as they celebrate Black History Month by recognizing achievements of African-Americans in helping build the brand of the organization. They also will be presenting an award to honor the 50th anniversary of the loss of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The time will be from 6:00pm-10:00pm. For more info and ticket purchases click here.

Check out these museums below for more things to do:

Stax Records

Photo: Noah Glenn

Know of another way to honor and celebrate Black History Month that we missed? Let us know here.