In honor of Black History Month, we’ve rounded up all the ways to celebrate African-American culture and heritage in and round Los Angeles. From a visit the African American Firefighters Museum to a bike ride along Central Ave.’s historic jazz corridor, here’s how to educate and inspire kids during Black History Month.
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. 22 and 23, 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. Event details.
1000 Aquarium Way
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. This month, the museum's the exhibitions include Cross Colours: Black Fashion in the 20th Century and Making Mammy: A Caricature of Black Womanhood.
600 State Dr.
CicLAvia South LA
Still haven't been to the spectacular Watts Towers? This is the perfect opportunity to check out the iconic sculpture, constructed from broken dishes, bottles, tiles, pottery, rocks, seashells and more, items salvaged from the area by Simon Rodia in the early part of the 20th century. See the Towers and more of South Central's landmarks with CicLAvia's closed-street bike fest that takes you thought the historic Central Ave. Jazz District. Go by bike, skate or stroller and enjoy kid-friendly activities along the way. Event details.
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.
1401 South Central Ave.
South Central LA
Museum of African American Art
Founded in 1976 by artist and art historian Dr. Samella Lewis, this 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.
Macy’s 3rd Floor
4005 Crenshaw Blvd.
The Inkwell in Santa Monica
Make your next beach trip a history lesson and visit what was once known as The Inkwell, located on the western end of Pico Blvd. and extending to Bicknell St. The name comes from a derogatory label used by white Angelenos during the Jim Crow era, when African-Americans came to this beach to avoid bigotry and create a space of their own. Today, the name and its origins represent a time in LA's history that should not be forgotten. 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 St. and Oceanfront Walk.
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.
4130 Overland Dr.
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.
–LeTania Kirkland Smith