February marks 28 days of celebrating the achievements and contributions of African Americans in the United States as Black History Month begins.
The annual observance began as “Negro History Week” during the second week of February in 1926, which was chosen to coincide with the birthdays of President Abraham Lincoln and abolitionist Frederick Douglass, according to history.com. By the late 1960s, with a growing civil-rights movement, the weeklong celebration had evolved into a monthlong commemoration on many college campuses.
This year, the national theme of Black History Month is “Black Health and Wellness,” which considers activities, rituals and initiatives that Black communities have done to be well. Here are ways to honor African American history and culture in Central Florida this month.
- The City of Orlando is celebrating Black History Month with a number of workshops and panel discussions around this year’s theme of Black health and wellness. Topics include unlocking access to credit and capital, building health equity and life in Parramore. Orlando’s signature event at Dr. Phillips Center will take place at 6 p.m. Feb. 9 with the city’s poet laureate Shawn Welcome, a keynote speaker and live performances. Dates and time vary for other discussions, which are spread throughout February. For more information, visit orlando.gov.
- Timucua Arts Foundation will highlight the talents of Black artists this month with concerts from composer and drummer Gerald Law II, trombonist Derrick Harris, several local poets, April Brown and music director Kevin Harris. Performances take place at 2000 S. Summerlin Ave. in Orlando. For more information, visit timucua.com.
- Trav’lin: A 1930s Harlem Musical looks at love during the 1930s Jazz Age in a production put on by The Winter Park Playhouse. The show features a score from Harlem Renaissance composer J.C. Johnson, whose songs were recorded by Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington. Tickets range in price from $20-$46. The musical is showing on select dates through Feb. 19 at 711 Orange Ave., Suite C in Winter Park. For more information, visit winterparkplayhouse.org.
- The Sanford Jazz Ensemble will perform and recognize the influence of African-American groups in contributions to music, such as 4-part harmonies. The show features music from The Diamonds, Bill Haley & His Comets, The Beatles and more. Tickets are $20 for the performance at 3 p.m. Feb. 6 at 201 Magnolia Ave. in Sanford. For more information, visit ritztheatersanford.com.
- The Hannibal Square Heritage Center presents “Community Collage” with works from more than 20 artists who have exhibited at the center’s Folk & Urban Art Festival during its 12-year history. Culturally and ethnically diverse artists will share paintings, jewelry, quilts, sculptural works and more. The opening reception is 7-9 p.m. Feb. 11 and the exhibit is on view through June 4 at 642 West New England Ave. in Winter Park. For more information, call 407-539-2680 or visit hannibalsquareheritagecenter.org.
- 1619 Fest Orlando is back for a third year of festivities, paying tribute to 400 years of African American history in the United States after captives first arrived in Jamestown. The festival, themed “Maafa to Freedom,” will include food, art, live music, a 5K run and a panel discussion. 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 12 at 1050 W. Morse Blvd. in Winter Park and noon-6 p.m. Feb. 13 at 721 W. New England Ave. in Winter Park. The festival is free to attend, but some classes and events cost extra. For a full lineup of events, visit eventbrite.com.
- Orlando Museum of Art unveils a new exhibit this month showcasing works from Black street art pioneer John Jean-Michel Basquiat. Titled “Heroes & Monsters,” the show features 26 works created at the height of the artist’s career. The exhibit opens Feb. 12 at 2416 N. Mills Ave. in Orlando. For more information, visit omart.org.
- I Still Got Joy Concert! celebrates Black History Month with a live concert from Roy & Revelation and Souls Of Creation at New Life Church Of God In Christ. The show, which costs $25 per ticket, takes place 5-8:30 p.m. Feb. 20 at 3311 N. Powers Drive in Orlando. For more information, visit eventbrite.com.
- Diversitastic! Dining: Africa brings African culture to Central Floridians without the need for travel, inside Serengeti Restaurant at the Bronze Kingdom Museum. Presented by Fusion Fest, the event provides guests with a full-course menu and drinks, plus storytelling and chef talk. Tickets are $49.95 for the meal at 7 p.m. Feb. 24 at 6464 International Drive in Orlando. For more information, visit fusionfest.org.
- The Orange County Library System has a variety of book recommendations and events on topics from multicultural hairstyling to Motown music. Dates and hours of events vary throughout February. At 2 p.m. Feb. 20, Orlando Public Library downtown will host an African American Read-In event to celebrate with reading and performances from WMFE’s Talia Blake, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings, Nerd Nite host Ricardo Williams and more. For more information and registration, visit ocls.info.
- Orange County Regional History Center has a permanent exhibit about African American History in Central Florida, including paintings from the Florida Highwaymen. Additionally, the center will offer free film screenings of “Long Time Coming: A 1955 Baseball Story,” which details the first racially integrated Little League game played in the South, on Feb. 13 and 17. Visit the center 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5 p.m. Sunday at 65 E. Central Blvd. in Orlando. General admission costs $8 for adults, $7 for students, military and seniors (ages 55 and older), and $6 for children ages 5-12. Orange County employees, Florida educators and children ages 4 and younger enter for free. For more information, call 407-836-8500 or visit thehistorycenter.org.
- Wells’ Built Museum in downtown Orlando was originally built by Dr. William Monroe Wells, who made the hotel and a nearby entertainment venue for African Americans visiting Orlando. Now, the Parramore museum houses memorabilia of Orlando’s Black community and displays on the civil rights movement along with some African art and artifacts. Other museums to visit this month include DeLand’s African American Museum of the Arts and Eatonville’s Zora Neale Hurston Museum. The Wells’ Built is open with limited hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic, located at 511 W. South St. in Orlando. For more information, call 407-245-7535 or visit wellsbuilt.org.
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