Happy Thursday, folks! As you may have already realized, Black History Month is now in full effect. To help commemorate this glorious albeit short occasion, several organizations, networks and nonprofits have rolled out a whole host of events, talks, musical programming and more. Keep reading to see what’s in store for this week. And in the spirit of James Brown, don’t forget to say it loud and proud all month long.
Some big news to kick off the month: The Paley Center For Media has launched their Black History Month Celebration: A Salute to Black Achievements in Television Presented By Citi. The monthlong celebration spotlights critically acclaimed and culturally influential Black icons, innovators, and leaders including Tyler Perry and Gayle King and features multiple virtual experiences of Black women in government and politics. They also feature a celebration of the 100th anniversary of baseball’s Negro Leagues, with a special virtual tour for Citi cardmembers and Paley corporate members. For more information on how you can take part in the celebration, visit their website.
New York’s 92Y is also commemorating Black History Month by releasing a handful of archival programming featuring Issa Rae, Harry Belafonte, then-Senator Kamala Harris and more. Visit here to witness the amazing conversations.
Lastly, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts has released The Baptism (rhetoric), a new iteration of the visual poem tribute inspired by the legacies of civil rights leaders John Lewis and C.T. Vivian, by award-winning poet and artist Carl Hancock Rux, directed by visual artist Carrie Mae Weems, and now featuring a brand-new score by Grammy-nominated musician Meshell Ndegeocello. Per a press release sent to The Root, The original tribute, released last fall as The Baptism, featured Rux’s recitation of the three-part poem accompanied by Weems’ experimental imagery and direction, making for an existential and meditative exploration of the legacies of two towering icons and activists. The new short film experience, along with the original piece, is available to view for free here.
The Chicago Children’s Theatre is showcasing Diamond’s Dream, a virtual puppet production that takes place on a CTA Red Line train traveling south through pandemic-era Chicago until May 21. The play follows Diamond, a pre-teen African-American boy, has fallen asleep on the train while on his way to visit his dying grandmother. When he awakes, time and reality have shifted, and he meets the ghost of a young African-American girl, a shape-shifting elder spirit who died of Spanish Flu 100 years ago to the day. Both are confronted with paranormal puppets and images representing society’s ills—ignorance, poverty and racism. While the spirit girl seeks only rest, Diamond comes to understand she must first be remembered in order to find it. To view the production, make sure to visit the website.
Chicago’s City Lit Theatre is also hosting a virtual reading of Voice of Good Hope, written by Kristine Thatcher and Terry McCabe. The online event features the original cast and the play in its entirety. Voice of Good Hope tells the story of Barbara Jordan, first Black Congresswoman from the deep South. Click here to watch now.
Chicago’s comedy club and theatre The Second City will host a new, fun live-streaming debate show Black and White News: The Plan at 7 p.m. Thursday. The show will delve into Black stuff, white stuff, and a ton of uncomfortable-but-unavoidable stuff. If you’re tired of reading comments section meltdowns and wish you could watch people respectfully (or not) hash out their differences out loud, don’t miss out on this unafraid, unapologetic, and laugh-so-you-don’t-cry experience that lives at the intersection of Blackness, current events, and comedy. Visit here for more information.
Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre will host a three-day virtual festival inspired by the original Congo Square in New Orleans, LA. The festival will lead up to the main event, the 2021 Vision Benefit on Saturday, February 6. The benefit will feature an evening of art, performance and celebration, honoring Les Coney and Ron OJ Parson. For more details on how to register, be sure to go here.
The North Central College Performing Arts will host a multimedia concert performance of a Langston Hughes jazz poem suite titled, Ask Your Mama (12 Moods for Jazz) at 7 pm. The Langston Hughes Project features Hughes’ homage in verse and music to the struggle for artistic and social freedom at home and abroad at the beginning of the 1960s. Though it is free to attend, you must register here to get your ticket.
Color Of Change has launched The Pedestal Project, an augmented reality (AR) experience on Instagram that lets users place statues of racial justice leaders atop empty pedestals where confederate statues once stood as a refreshing new symbol of equality and progress. Per a press release sent to The Root, the campaign encourages people to snap a picture or a video of their experience and share to social page by tagging @ColorOfChange. The Pedestal Project Instagram Lens is activated via a mobile device on the Color Of Change Instagram page, at home, anytime. Color Of Change encourages people to go outside, safely, within their own communities to find empty pedestals where confederate symbols once stood. The AR experience is easy and immersive. Upon accessing the lens, users will be able to select from a gallery of statues, place it atop an empty pedestal, and, in the activists’ own voice, hear why change is worth fighting for.
The 50th Annual International African Arts Festival (IAAFestival) in conjunction with the NY Chapter of the National Association of Kawaida Organizations (NAKO) will host a special Black History Month program entitled The Afrocentric Paradigm. The guest speaker will be the “Father of Afrocentricity,” Dr. Molefi Kete Asante. Dr. Asante has authored over 90 books, including: Afrocentricity; The Afrocentric Idea; Maulana Karenga: An Intellectual Portrait; Rooming in the Master’s House, and As I Run Towards Africa. Adeyemi Bandele & Sharon Gordon will serve as moderators. To view the enlightening conversation, be sure to visit the website.
The Wirtz Center for Performing Arts at Northwestern University is kicking off their Visions and Voices, a Black Playwrights’ Reading Series. The focus will be Alice Childress’ 1969 book Wine in the Wilderness, which follows artist and sophisticate Bill Jameson as he paints his views of Black womanhood during race riots in 1964. While searching for his final model, a woman he describes as “as close to the bottom as you can get,” he thinks he has found a match in Tommy. But Tommy soon tests his toxic assumptions. For tickets and more details, be sure to visit here.
Chicago’s Playmaker’s Laboratory will host That’s Weird, Grandma: House Par-Tay production in honor of Black History Month at 8:00pm. Now in its nineteenth year, That’s Weird, Grandma features adaptations of stories written during PML’s creative writing residencies in Chicago elementary schools. PML’s network of professional actors, comedians and musicians bring the young authors’ stories to life as raucous sketches, songs and movement pieces, performing first for students in their schools and then for the public. For tickets, make sure to visit their site.
Instagram, the NFL and America’s favorite DJ D-Nice are teaming up to help fans get ready for the 2021 Super Bowl LV. The festivities kick off this Sunday at 12 p.m. ET, where D-Nice will takeover the official Instagram account and offer up an interactive playlist via Instagram Stories featuring his favorite game day tracks, set to top highlights from the 2020 NFL season. The party will then move over to D-Nice’s Instagram account where fans can tune-in and exclusively live stream his pre-game DJ set from Raymond James Stadium, 90 minutes before kickoff.
In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7, a star-studded filmed reading of George M. Johnson’s All Boys Aren’t Blue will bring several scenes of this bestselling memoir-manifesto to life, directed by Nathan Hale Williams and starring Jenifer Lewis (Black-ish), Dyllon Burnside (Pose), Bernard David Jones (The Mayor) and Thomas Hobson (Sherman’s Showcase). After the show, Johnson will host a Q&A centered around the evening’s theme: “Stigma Gotta Go.” You can view the trailer here, and register for Monday’s screening now.
America’s Black Holocaust Museum President & CEO, Dr. Robert Davis will have a candid conversation with Judge Derek C. Mosley in tandem with their February programming lineup. Listeners can hear directly from Judge Mosley on what motivates him, what he has learned, and what he hopes to accomplish with his work. The interview will take place via Zoom and will livestream on the museum’s Facebook page at 12 p.m. ET, followed by 15 minutes of Q&A. For more details on this event, be sure to visit here.
New York’s leading nonprofit off-Broadway company the MCC Theater is hosting a LiveLab at 6:30 p.m. ET from storyteller and actor Mfoniso Udofia and directed by Awoye Timpo. On Love will stream on MCC’s YouTube Channel before becoming available on MCC on Demand. The reading will then be followed by a 15-minute talkback. MCC Theater will also host a digital open mic night, Open Mic, On Love, on February 12, 2021, at 5:30 p.m. EST. The LiveLab will feature Tẹmídayọ Amay, Keith David, Antwayn Hopper, Chiké Johnson, Patrice Johnson, Zonya Love, and Anastacia Mccleskey. For more information or to sign up for the free event, you can visit their website.