February is Black History Month and the perfect time to dive into African-American culture and history, which has made an incredible contribution to our beautiful City of Angels. Take in a parade, a day at a museum or an entire festival and explore the past, present and future of African-American history in this city and beyond.
photo: Aquarium of the Pacific
Aquarium of the Pacific’s African-American Festival
Make an entire day of your experience at the Aquarium of the Pacific’s 15th Annual African-American Festival. February 25 & 26 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: LeTania Kirkland Smith
California African American Museum
If you haven’t been to the California African American Museum, this month gives you a reason to finally 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 race, politics and propaganda during the 1936 Olympics to the contemporary works of young artist, Genevieve Gaignard there will be plenty that is of interest to little museum goers. The museum has a few special activities planned for the month: February 5 they will host Larger than Life, where kids can learn about the artists on the Museum’s courtyard banners, including Ella Fitzgerald, Langston Hughes and John Outterbridge. February 12 the museum will host two art workshops. And February 19 will be Clues You Can Use, where your little sleuths can search the galleries for a themed scavenger hunt.
600 State Dr.
Pan African Film Festival
Every year, the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Mall hosts a number of events to celebrate this great month. This also happens to be the home of the annual Pan-African Film Festival, running from February 9-20. Be sure to check out the festival and its listing of films for the family the will ignite your young cinephiles imagination and world sense. Also, in the mall, Kids Club will be hosting a free art activity to celebrate the month. The Club is free and all materials will be provide to create wearable art in celebration. Check their website for more details.
Bones & Blues
This is the perfect 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 & 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: Dan DeLuca via Flickr
African American Firefighter Museum
The African-American Firefighter Museum is fascinating for the entire family. The museum is an ode to pioneering African-American firefighters. The museum opened in 1997 as a dedication to the first 100 years of African-American firefighters in LA. The museum 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. Upstairs contained more memorabilia and artifacts to commemorate this special history. This is a hidden gem that is not to be missed. The museum is open Tuesdays & Thursday 10 a.m.-2p.m. and Sunday 1-4 p.m.
1401 South Central Ave.
South Central LA
Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum
The Mayme A. Clayton Library & Museum was created to highlight African-American contributions to the world in all forms: history, sports, medicine, arts & 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.
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 in LA we like 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 Thursday-Sunday noon-5 p.m.
Macy’s 3rd Floor
4005 Crenshaw Blvd.
photo: Kim Orchen Cooper
Watts Towers Art Center
We know, we can’t get enough of the Watts Towers, but the Watts Towers Art Center has played a pivotal role in the history of African-Americans in LA. Now is the perfect moment to check out the entire campus. Following their previous show, “We Still Can’t Breath,” which explored the Watts Rebellion of 1965, the center is now hosting two artists who ask the questions “What is Next?” Artist Carlos Spivey offers a collection of work under the title “The Power of Love” and Sammy Davis’ “It’s All About the Bass” explores the power of art and music in creating unity. Let the entire family soak up this work. Tours of the Watts Towers are held Thursday-Saturday 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. and Sunday noon-3 p.m.
1727 East 107th St.
photo: LeTania Kirkland Smith
Soak in the Greats at Dodgers Stadium Pop Up Museum
We have baseball crazed kids in Dodger country, and there are also some great lessons on the history of African-Americans in the game. This year, Dodger Stadium is hosting a brand new pop-up museum at the stadium, which highlights the history of the organization and there is a great portion dedicated to the first African-Americans in the game. Come in to show the kids amazing photos and memorabilia including a ticket stub from Jackie Robinson’s debut game. This is also the perfect opportunity to expand your African-Americans in baseball knowledge beyond Number 42. Learn about the other greats like Roy Campanella, who sacrificed and contributed so much to the great game of baseball. The museum is open Friday-Sunday 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Admission is $10 per guest or included if you take in a Dodger Stadium tour.
1000 Vin Scully Ave.
Black History Parade in Anaheim
Kids love to commemorate special events with a parade. The Orange County Heritage Council in Anaheim is hosting its 37th Annual Parade and Cultural Faire in the heart of Historic Downtown Anaheim to celebrate this special month. Make that Orange County move and see local schools, singing and dancing troops, local officials and more. 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 February 4, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. rain or shine. The route is centrally located in the Center Street Promenade. Check their website for route details.
Orange County Heritage Council
photo: Lula Washing Dance Company
Los Angeles Public Library
The library never fails us. The Los Angeles Public Library always make a point to commemorate Heritage Months and February is full of events and learning opportunities. There will be an author discussion (7 & up) with Gretchen Woelfle, author of Answering the Cry for Freedom: Stories of African Americans and the American Revolution. But it’s not just books. Check the calendar for a performance by the Lula Washington Dance Company, Kente Cloth making and 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.
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. On their black history month resource page you and your young historians can get into the details. For example, find out why this month was celebrated in February. In February 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 lives made an indelible mark on African-American lives. 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 The Crisis in Black Education. 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