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18 ways to honor Black History Month around L.A.

Illustration: A collage of events happening for Black history month, including bingo and painting.
A look at the many activities happening — mostly virtually — for Black History Month in and around Los Angeles.
(Micah Fluellen / Los Angeles Times; Getty Images)

February is Black History Month, and if we learned anything in 2020, we’ve got lots of catching up to do. Good news: pandemic or no pandemic, there are still plenty of ways in Southern California to celebrate and learn, virtually.

If we’ve missed an event, send an email to jeanette.marantos@latimes.com and we might be able to include it. And of course, since we still live in COVID-uncertain times, check the website to make sure the event hasn’t changed.

Happening all month

Amanda Gorman performing the poem that made her Inaugural L.A. Youth Poet Laureate in 2014 is just one of the many moving videos, photos, historical articles and online talks sponsored by the Los Angeles Public Library during African American History Month. The moving video of Gorman reciting her poem “Neighborhood Anthem” is almost a dance, punctuated by her graceful, expressive gestures.

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“Still,” a spoken-word performance by Javon Johnson about his experience of being Black in America, performed at the Pasadena Playhouse and offered online on Playhouse Live for $19.99. Sample: Johnson recounts taking a ride with his 5-year-old nephew, and how the boy hides when he sees a police car. Johnson tells his nephew not to hide, but “We both know the truth is far more complex than ‘Do not hide’... We both know it’s not about whether or not a shooter is racist; it’s about how poor black boys are treated as problems well before we’re treated as people.”

Manmade wetlands in South L.A. make a convincing habitat, and winter hiking trails to put on your to-do list.

Black Artists + Designers Guild presents the Obsidian Experience, a “virtual concept house” of the future designed “as an enlightened way of being and dwelling” for Black families. The designs by 23 members of the Black Artist + Designers Guild will evolve during the month at obsidianbybadg.house.

“Who I Am,” a celebration of African American Heritage, is a free Theatre West production on YouTube that features seven actor-writers sharing their personal stories and life lessons from parents and grandparents, and “what it means to be Black in America in the face of 2020’s call to action.” theatrewest.org

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The UCLA Library Film & Television Archive presents L.A. Rebellion, a collection of films made by African and African American students who entered UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and television in the late 1960s and went on to create a new kind of cinema now known as the L.A. Rebellion. You can view early works of these students online from UCLA’s Project One film collection. A three-disc DVD of 25 of their short films is also available for free to archives, libraries and researchers.

Feb. 4
A Zoom discussion of “Four Hundred Souls: A Community History of African America, 1619-2019,” hosted by the California African American Museum from 5 to 6:30 p.m. The book is described as a series of historical essays, short stories, personal vignettes and fiery polemics by 90 writers edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain, who will discuss the works with UCLA Assistant Professor Kyle Mays and Society of Black Alumni Presidential Professor and John Hopkins University Professor of History Martha Jones during this free live event. RSVP online.

Feb. 6
Whitefire Theater presents “Dare to Claim the Sky,” a personal story about faith, family, depression and self-identity in the face of systemic racism, written and performed online via Vimeo by Sharon Williams from 7 to 8:30 pm. Tickets are $15.99. whitefiretheatre.com

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L.A. Times Ideas Exchange with Rebecca Carroll. Black cultural critic Rebecca Carroll, author of “Surviving the White Gaze,” discusses her struggle to create an identity as a Black woman in America after growing up as the only Black person in her rural — and very white — New Hampshire town. Carroll will be joined by her friend, author Gabrielle Union and L.A. Times writer Greg Braxton in this live conversation on the Los Angeles Times YouTube channel. Tickets are $5 and $32 (includes a copy of Carroll’s book with a signed bookplate). events.latimes.com/ideasexchange/

Feb. 9
Bingo with comedienne Angel Gaines combines humor with history from noon to 1 p.m. as one of several online Black History Month events organized by the city of Santa Monica. Tickets for all events are free, but reservations are required. Other online events include the opening ceremony on Feb. 4 (Rosa Parks Day) highlighting the history of Santa Monica’s Black community, author Catherine Adel West reading and discussing her debut novel “Saving Ruby King,” on Feb. 11; a discussion on Feb. 16 about the history and upcoming art project commemorating Historic Belmar Park, once the center of Santa Monica’s African American community; an Afro-Joy Dance Party with dancer Tatiana Zamir on Feb. 18, and the second Celebrating Black Excellence Community Awards on Feb. 25. Info: santamonica.gov

A Zoom discussion of “Black Diamond Queens,” a history of African American women in rock and roll between the 1950s and 1980s by Maureen Mahon, hosted by the California African American Museum from 5 to 6:30 p.m. Panel members include Mahon, New York University Professor Daphne Brooks, Yale Professor William R. Kenn, George Washington University Professor Gayle Wald and visual artist Nikita Gale. The event is free, but you must RSVP to attend.

Feb. 10 & 13
Heartbeat Opera presents a theatrical-virtual song cycle, “Breathing Free” online, based on Beethoven’s only opera, “Fidelio,” as seen through the Black Lives Matter movement, hosted by the Broad Stage in Santa Monica. The online performances feature three singers, three dancers and eight instrumentalists in a format envisioned as nine interconnected music videos performed at 7 p.m. both evenings. Tickets start at $10 but additional donations are requested to help the Broad Stage support artists and their work.

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Mo Jackson wanted to share their love of camping with other people of color. They started BIPOC Camping Kits with that in mind

Feb. 13
Forest Lawn presents “In Honor of Black History Month: Preserving Honor & Excellence,” Inspirational music, dance and readings performed live starting at noon on its Facebook page. forestlawn.com/events/

Feb. 15
Shādee, a 90-minute dramedy, written, performed and produced by G. Smokey Campbell online via Vimeo about Nick Nile, an innocent activist wrongly imprisoned. Campbell plays 20 characters in this play about gentrification and the privatization of prisons, as part of Whitefire Theatre’s 10th Solofest. Tickets are $15.99. whitefiretheatre.com

Feb. 18
Writers Quincy Troupe and Erin Aubry Kaplan discuss Miles Davis as part of the California African American Museum’s exhibition “Men of Change: Power. Triumph. Truth.” honoring influential Black men such as Muhammad Ali, James Baldwin, Ta-Nehisi Coates, W.E.B. Du Bois, Kendrick Lamar and Davis, whose works have altered the history and culture of the United States. Kaplan, a contributing writer for the the New York Times opinion page and former op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times, and Troupe, who collaborated with Davis on “Miles: The Autobiography,” and wrote the memoir “Miles & Me,” discuss Davis’ life and music from 4 to 5:30 p.m. The discussion is free, but you must RSVP for Zoom instructions.

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Feb. 21
2021 Los Angeles Black History Month Festival (virtual edition)
The fourth Los Angeles Black History Month Festival at Leimart Park, originally scheduled for Feb. 6-7, has been rescheduled due to COVID-19 to be a livestream event from 4 to 9 p.m. via Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in Leimert Park Village, according to organizer Myleta Perdomo, who started the event with her husband, Kenrick in 2018. Performers include Ijahken and the Fari Soldiers (Conscious Reggae), Voice Rogers (Gospel), Jerri Jhetto (African Fuse). Speakers include Dr. Patricia Adelekan, Aziz, L.A. City Controller Ron Galperin and Donte and JeVonda Wade, authors of “Wade Super Duper Cape.” Info: lablackhistorymonthfestival.com.

Zendaya’s stylist isn’t just a stylist. He’s an ‘Image Architect,’ carefully constructing looks from ‘Malcolm & Marie’ to the Met Gala.

Feb. 22
Hip-Hop artist Talib Kweli discusses his memoir “Vibrate Higher: A Rap Story,” in a free Zoom talk hosted by the California African American Museum from 4 to 5:30 p.m. RSVP for Zoom instructions.

Feb. 27
Men of Change: A Healing Circle, the final event of the California African American Museum’s celebration of Black History Month, is billed as an “interactive healing circle by and for Black men and masculine-identifying folks,” led by Zen Buddhist Gregory Reimoku Smith, a member of Black Boys OM. The free workshop includes a short presentation, guided meditation and discussion from 2 to 3:30 p.m. RSVP for Zoom instructions.

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And beyond.....

March 20 - June 6
Artist Amy Sherald’s first West Coast solo exhibition at Hauser & Wirth’s Arts District complex in downtown Los Angeles. “The Great American Fact” presents five of works from 2020 by the artist renowned for her portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery and the 2020 portrait of Breonna Taylor for Vanity Fair. The gallery is presently closed to the public due to COVID-19, but is working on procedures to reopen for the exhibition. Info: hauserwirth.com


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