Arts celebrating Black History Month with vibrant virtual events

Eva Phillips, Staff writer

Throughout February, institutions around the country will be celebrating Black History Month by honoring the achievements of black people in America.

There is no shortage of opportunities within the Erie community and beyond which highlight the arts and culture of Black Americans. With events ranging from film series to choral performances and more, everybody can find a way to take part in the celebrations.

To recognize the achievements of Black poets, Erie’s own Hagen History Center held a poetry hour on Feb. 6, 2021. The tribute, titled “The Beauty of a Colorful Mind: Honoring the Past While Inspiring a Brilliant Future,” recognized famous Black poets and artists while providing up-and-coming local poets with the opportunity to share their works.

A recording of the live streamed event is available on YouTube.

Locally, the Erie Public Library and the other public libraries of Erie County are holding a Black History Month Reading Challenge. The challenge, open to all ages, runs through Feb. 28.

Many events around the country will also be in a live-stream format, making them widely available to viewers from near and far.

For those with a love of musical theatre, famed Black theater Karamu House is presenting a free musical documentary on the iconic jazz musical “Shuffle Along.” The documentary, titled “The Impact of ‘Shuffle Along,’” examines the musical’s creation and legacy just in time for the 100th anniversary of its debut.

It is available online throughout the month of February.

Film aficionados can take advantage of the Flint annual African American film series, presented in partnership with Communities First. February’s film is “Fast Color,” a supernatural drama focused on empowerment and family. Viewers can access the film for streaming from Feb. 18 through 21.

For a whole month of film celebrations, Milwaukee Film has partnered with Black Lens MKE to offer a program of 30 films by Black creators and various corresponding cultural events and discussions.

Viewers can purchase an all-access pass for $25 or individual tickets to separate films.

The musically-inclined can also take part in tuneful celebrations of Black History Month.

The Chicago Children’s Choir will stream a virtual concert on Feb. 25 at 8 PM EST, continuing its annual tradition of holding a Black History Month concert.

This year’s theme is “Preserving and Persevering.” The concert will feature musical arrangements from a variety of genres, all chosen to celebrate Black culture and heritage.

In addition, the city of Pittsburgh is recognizing Black History Month by honoring local jazz legends through social media posts and virtual tributes.

The jazz genre, which was pioneered by Black artists and which is a vibrant part of Black culture, continues to be exceptionally popular, and Pittsburgh’s Black History Month program aims to capture its significance. The program includes historical information, interviews, biographies and performances, all of which are accessible online.

Many art museums have taken advantage of virtual spaces to share exhibits in honor of Black History Month. For example, the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., is sharing its “Portraits of African Americans” exhibit online, featuring a vast collection of portraits of Black history-makers alongside biographical information.

The Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, has created a virtual tour of “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle.” The collection holds paintings by Black artist Jacob Lawrence honoring the contributions of Black Americans throughout America’s history.

The contributions of Black artists and creators to the artistic landscape of America are breathtaking and undeniably worthy of celebration, particularly throughout Black History Month. Luckily, it is easy to take part in the celebrations through immersion in these virtual programs and in many others in cities across the country.