February is Black History Month and a great time to honor African-American culture and history in our country and city. In Feb. 1926 Dr. Carter G. Woodson proposed two weeks to honor black history and contributions. He chose February because it commemorated the birthdays of Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln—two men whose contributions made an indelible mark on the lives of African-Americans. African-American history is deeply woven into the culture of our city and there are lots of great ways to begin to uncover it. Whether you take in a day at the museum or celebrate with a parade be sure to take this opportunity to celebrate this special month.
photo: via Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific’s African-American Festival
Make an entire day at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 15th Annual African-American Festival. Feb. 24 and 25 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., the Aquarium will host an array of live performances, arts and crafts and great food. Performances will include Mardi Gras line dancer, break dancers, jazz musicians, West African dancers, drum circles and storytellers. General admission tickets also get you into the festival. Adults are $29.95, kids 3-11 are $17.95.
1000 Aquarium Way
photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith
California African American Museum
If you haven’t been to the California African American Museum, this month gives you all the more reason to go. Located in the heart of Exposition Park, CAAM is a hub of resources to explore the African-American diaspora in Los Angeles and beyond. And this year, the museum has some especially amazing exhibitions. From exploring identity with Lezley Saar’s Salon Des Refuses to the Chinese Cuban diaspora in Circles and Circuits I, there is lots of material for the family to absorb. Plus, the museum has two special family workshops planned: Saturday, Feb. 3 learn Placemaking Portraits with artist Adler Guerrier; and Sun., Feb. 25 learn Symbols in Copper taught by artist Albert Chong, inspired by his piece Throne for the Gorilla Spirits.
600 State Dr.
Bones and Blues
Take a moment to expose your young ones to one of the city’s best kept secrets. Every last Friday of the month, the Watts Labor Community Action Committee hosts Bones and Blues, where some of the city’s greatest musicians come to do their thing. If the music wasn’t enough there is also dominoes, great food and good company. Be sure to check out the incredible skate park and the Kaboom Play space.
10950 S. Central Ave.
photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith
African American Firefighter Museum
The African-American Firefighter Museum, an ode to pioneering African-American firefighters, is a fascinating plaace for the entire family. It opened in 1997 as a dedication to the first 100 years of African-American firefighters in LA. AAFM is housed in the historic Fire Station 30 in South LA and boasts vintage firefighting gear and photos to get your fire engine fanatics excited. There are enthusiastic docents on hand who also happen to be Fire Department veterans who will provide the family with amazing info and a junior firefighter hat to boot. Upstairs contains more memorabilia and artifacts to commemorate this special history. This is a hidden gem that is not to be missed. It’s open Tues. and Thurs. from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. and Sun. from 1-4 p.m.
1401 South Central Ave.
South Central LA
photo: via LeTania Kirkland Smith
A Day at the Beach: The Inkwell in Santa Monica
It’s L.A. and that means that a beach trip is in your near future. Why not make your next trip to the beach a history lesson and visit what was once known as the “Inkwell” from 1905-1964? This beach, located on the western end of Pico Boulevard and extended to Bicknell Street. The name was a derogatory label by white Angelenos but became a name of pride among African-Americans in the city who came to this beach to avoid hostile conditions and created a space of their own. In 2008 the City of Santa Monica officially recognized the “Inkwell” and Nick Gabaldon, the first documented African/Mexican-American surfer, with a landmark plaque at Bay Street and Oceanfront Walk. Take a walk on the beach and reflect with your littles. History is right at our fingertips.
Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum
The Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum was created to highlight African-American contributions to the world in all forms: history, sports, medicine, arts and entertainment, architecture and more. Clayton’s mission was simple and essential; she believed that “children should know that black people have done great things.” For over 40 years Clayton, a library and historian, collected manuscripts, films, and memorabilia that was eventually recovered by her eldest son Avery Clayton and relocated to its current location in Culver City. Bring the family to soak in the incredible story of Dr. Clayton and the stories that she dedicated her life to telling. The museum is open Tues.-Fri. 11 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sat. from 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.
4130 Overland Dr.
Museum of African American Art
The Museum of African American Art was founded in 1976 by artist and art historian Dr. Samella Lewis. The museum was opened to highlight and create awareness about African-American art. Since LA likes to mix high and low culture, this museum is tucked into the 3rd floor of the Macy’s at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza Mall. The museum has rotating exhibits in addition to the Palmer C. Hayden Collection that highlights the life of this leading artist of the Harlem Renaissance and the rest of the permanent collection that features work from the U.S., Africa, the Caribbean, South America and the South Pacific. The museum is open Thurs.-Sun. noon-5 p.m.
Macy’s 3rd Floor
4005 Crenshaw Blvd.
photo: via Orange County Heritage Council
Black History Parade in Anaheim
Kids love to commemorate special events with a parade. The Orange County Heritage Council in Anaheim is hosting its 38th Annual Parade and Cultural Faire in the heart of Historic Downtown Anaheim to celebrate this special month. The parade is followed by a Cultural Faire with food, music and local vendors to complete the day and wear out your little celebrants (an added bonus). The Parade is held this year on Sat., Feb. 4 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. rain or shine. The route is centrally located in the Center Street Promenade. Check out their website for route details.
Orange County Heritage Council
Los Angeles Public Library
The library never fails us. The Los Angeles Public Library always make a point to commemorate Heritage Months and Feb. is full of events and learning opportunities. There will be a number of programs to celebrate the month including pre-school story times dedicated to African-American History, jazz and even learning about and playing drums. Yes, you can play drums in the library! The LAPL also has a great list of children’s non-fiction book about African-American history. Check their website for a full list of the month’s activities.
County of Los Angeles Public Library
If the family would like to dig into another great resource on African-American History Month, the Los Angeles County Library is another wonderful library system. Black History Month is sponsored by the Association for the Study of African-American Life and History, founded by Dr. Woodson. This year’s theme is “African Americans in Times of War”. This year there will be special story times, Black History month celebrations and even art workshops like African Tribal Mask making at various branches. Get the family together and learn more about the cause. Also, check the library website for more information and details about local events.
How will you celebrate Black History Month? And can you tell us about any other wonderful museums or activities we’ve left out?
—LeTania Kirkland Smith