Why This Matters: Arts and culture play a significant role in shining a light on the events and people central to the African-American experience.
By Giovanna Torres
Few things shine a light on the people and events central to the African-American experience more powerfully than arts and culture. It is why there are many ways the Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural community is engaging residents and visitors in February during Black History Month.
To help you observe Black History Month, here is our list of experiences to read, hear, see and visit this month that reflects the cultural community’s commitment to honoring the stories and contributions of African-Americans in February and throughout the year.
ASC Regional Artist Project Grantee and Charlotte author Patrice Gopo was named one of Barnes and Noble’s Fall 2018 Discover Great New Writers’ selections. Her book, “All the Colors We Will See,” is composed of short stories that explore Gopo’s experience growing up the child of Jamaican immigrants in Anchorage, Alaska, and the complexities of identity, immigration and race. She also tackles marriage and divorce, accepted beauty standards and faith.
Learning Local Lectures: Charlotte’s Historic West End
When: Saturday, February 22, 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Where: President James K. Polk State Historic Site
Presented by: President James K. Polk State Historic Site
Cost: Free admission, registration required
Johnson C. Smith University archivist, Brandon Lunsford, tells the story of the National Endowment for the Humanities-funded project, “Charlotte’s Historic West End.” The aim of the project and its digital mapping components is to provide a platform for publishing location‐based content including historical photographs, documents, and oral histories that tell the story of the vibrant 150-year-old African-American community that surrounds Johnson C. Smith University on the west side of Charlotte, North Carolina.
Yvonne Orji is a Nigerian-American actress, comedienne and writer who is best known as one of the stars of HBO’s critically acclaimed comedy series “Insecure”. The show follows the friendship of two modern-day black women (Orji & series creator, Issa Rae). Season 4 will be airing in 2020. Yvonne is also known for her inspiring TED Talk, in which she discusses factors that make for a healthy relationship.
ShapingCLT: School Segregation
When: Thursday, February 13, 6-9 p.m.
Where: Levine Museum of the New South
Presented by: Levine Museum of the New South
Cost: $10 (non-members). Space is limited, reservations required.
Local historian and author Pamela Grundy will discuss her latest publication, Color and Character: West Charlotte High and the American Struggle over Educational Equality. Drawing on nearly two decades of interviews with students, educators, and alumni, Grundy uses the history of a community’s beloved school to tell a broader American story of education, community, democracy, and race—all while raising questions about present-day strategies for school reform.
Philadelphia, 1959. Billie Holiday is giving one of her last performances, a riveting portrait of the lady
and her music mere months before her death.
This sensational drama starred James Earl Jones as Troy Maxson, a former star of the Negro baseball leagues who now works as a garbage man in 1957 Pittsburgh. Excluded as a black man from the major leagues during his prime, Troy’s bitterness takes its toll on his relationships with his wife and his son, who now wants his own chance to play ball.
Classic Black Cinema Series: Black Girl
When: Sunday, February 9, 2 p.m.
Where: Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture at Levine Center for the Arts
Cost: $9, free for members – buy tickets
A film series specifically designed to share the vast artistic value Black film has had throughout the years with the community and further the appreciation of Black cinema.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater grew from a now-fabled performance in March 1958 at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. Led by American dance icon Alvin Ailey and a group of young African-American modern dancers, that performance changed forever the perception of American dance.
African-American Heritage Festival
When: February 29, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Where: Charlotte Museum of History
Cost: Free admission
Explore the African roots of Southern foods; tour the 1774 Alexander homesite through the eyes of Bet, one of the enslaved people who lived and worked on the property; listen to African and African American music; and more. Spend the day exploring arts, music, dance, fashion, storytelling, and learn about everyday people who have accomplished extraordinary things.
Take a stroll in Romare Bearden park and check out “Spiral Odyssey”, one of Uptown’s newest public artworks. Created by Chicago-based artist Richard Hunt, the artwork honors his friend and Charlotte native Romare Bearden. Hunt and Bearden were the first two African-American artists to have solo exhibitions at New York’s Museum of Modern Art in 1971 and the most influential African-American artists of the 20th century.
The murals created by local artist Tommie Robinson – “We Too, Shall Rise” and “Go Tigers!” – reflect the rich history of Second Ward High School, built in 1923 as the first public high school for African-American students in Charlotte and closed in 1969 in the name of “urban renewal.”
This exhibition explores the rise and demise of Charlotte’s Brooklyn neighborhood, once the most thriving and vibrant black community in the Carolinas.