I know what you're thinking. "We're well into Black History Month. How can you share a post touting the celebration of African American culture, achievements and general awesomeness with only 20 days left in the month?"
To you I say, dear reader:
1) What's a greater nod to the shortest month of the year than the grace of CP Time,
2) filling the next 8 to 20 calendar days with art, culture and diasporic delight will be more than many of you can handle, so stop fretting
Here is a special edition of "Did You Hear About?" where I share some of the most attention-grabbing events that came across my radar over the past few weeks that you can enjoy this month in honor of Black History Month here in the U.S. while supporting the arts. Some of the events are available online; some are available only in-person. But each one promises to be unforgettable as it sparks the imagination or leaves you with a lasting impression to move forward and make the world a better place than the world it was yesterday.
So you love dance and you've always wanted to take a class at the legendary Steps on Broadway, but you live in Topeka, Kansas, Adelaide, Australia, or Kinshasa, DRC. Well, you're in luck! Because despite New York City life returning to near pre-pandemic normalcy, the esteemed dance institution on NYC's Upper West Side has kept its virtual component so dancers from around the world can still take dance classes from the comfort of their home, school or wherever.
That means, you don't have to hop on a plane, train or bus to learn from some of the best pros in the business. And this month, you can take advantage of their focus on dance teachers and instructors from throughout the African Diaspora. The series, Black Voices in Dance, shines a spotlight on members of the dance community who keep it alive 365 days a year on the stage, screen or rehearsal studio.
Between now and the end of the month, you can sign up to take a course in Contemporary, Hip Hop, Modern Jazz, Ballet, Tap, Latin Jazz Fusion, Modern Horton, Afro-Brazilian, Theater Jazz, and Contemporary African Fusion, just to name a few. Not to mention Master Classes from terpsichorean superstars like Earl Mosley and Tiffany Rea-Fisher.
If you haven't heard about the month-long special dedicated to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop music airing throughout the month of February on PBS, allow me to relay the idea of the series in its own words: Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World is an incredible narrative of struggle, triumph and resistance that will be brought to life through the lens of an art form that has chronicled the emotions, experiences and expressions of Black and Brown communities: Hip Hop. In the aftermath of America's racial and political reckoning in 2020, the perspectives and stories shared in Hip Hop are key to understanding injustice in the U.S. over the last half-century.
Authored by Public Enemy's Chuck D, who famously labeled Hip Hop as "the Black CNN" for bringing the stories of the street to the mainstream, this story will include personal testimonies of the MCs, DJs, graffiti artists, filmmakers, politicians and opinion formers who created and shaped its direction as it grew from an underground movement in the Bronx to the most popular music genre in the U.S. and the fastest growing genre in the world today.
Featuring interviews from A-list talent like Killer Mike, Will.i.am, Monie Love, Ice-T, Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, and many more, the series will paint a portrait of the unique relationship between Hip Hop and the political history of the U.S. You can watch the series online (within the U.S. or outside the U.S. if you have a VPN <wink> simply by selecting your local PBS affiliate via the link above).
Maybe you're more interested in enjoying the magic of music and art in person instead of through a screen. Well, look no further than the grandeur of the one and only Lincoln Center to celebrate Black History Month at Black HERstory Live. This two-day festival (February 24-25) at David Geffen Hall and Alice Tully Hall puts the spotlight on Black women throughout history and features Black women artists from around the world.
Audiences can expect an immersive multidisciplinary experience that represents the razor's edge in music, art, poetry, dance, performance art, and much more. As AFROPUNK continues to redefine the multicultural experience, this world-renowned, Brooklyn-based festival has expanded its reach and its mission to include a wide variety of events, partnerships, documentaries and programs that aim to uplift, educate and create space for marginalized communities, particularly a safe space for Black alternative culture. This can't-miss, taste-making experience promises to represent the epitome of the AFROPUNK ethos.
Black HERstory kicks off both days with OPEN FAIR, a free afternoon of fun. First meet at Alice Tully Hall on Friday, February 24 and David Geffen Hall on Saturday, February 25 at 2pm-5pm to check out Spinthrift Market vendors, a wellness experience with sound baths and astrology readings by Summer Dion, a Sip & Read featuring books from Black women authors, special activations by Sephora, a poetry slam hosted by Anyrah Shavéh & Njambi Morgan, dance performances by Ladies of Hip-Hop & dancers from The Juilliard School, an all-women DJ takeover with Vonnie Mack, Kola Champagne, & Nikki Anticss, and an AfroFuturism performance by Nona Hendryx on Saturday. OPEN FAIR events are free and tickets not required. Concert performances begin at 5:30pm.
Let's say you reside a little closer to my neck of the woods, and you would like to try something a little different this time of year. Something you don't normally associate with Black History Month, but you realize actually taps into the long, complicated history of the African Diaspora throughout the Americas. That, and you also want to end the month on a high note and shake a tailfeather while embracing the glory of Carnaval. Then look no further than the Newark Museum of Art's Community Night: Brazilian Carnival.
Held on Saturday, February 25th from 7pm to 11pm, this special event offers enthusiastic patrons a chance to savor the sights and sounds of carnival without the added expense of hoping on a plane to the Southern Hemisphere. This free event will feature DJ Ligia spinning carnival favorites and Manhattan Samba School performing. Guests can purchase food and drinks, as well as shop local vendors, and create their own masquerade masks.
Hosted by the inimitable Edmara, The Baiana, this special celebration also includes Samba from Rio, Frevo from Recife, and axé music from Bahia.
So you know I couldn't share a "Did You Hear About?" without sharing news about one of my favorite loves of all-time: the theater. And boy have I learned of the perfect capstone for those looking to honor great luminaries in Black History, as well as spend an evening fawning over a fave of the music and stage -- the incomparable Jennifer Holliday.
Here are the details: Starting Tuesday, February 21st through Sunday, February 26th, Tony and Grammy Award winner Jennifer Holliday makes her highly anticipated return to 54 Below where fans of this multitalented chanteuse will enjoy a specially designed four-course dinner with a dazzling concert featuring Broadway’s love songs, jazz standards, and her signature torch song of unrequited love from Dreamgirls. She’ll also pay tribute to some of her favorite composers including George Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Rodgers and Hart, Cole Porter, and Duke Ellington accompanied by a sextet of New York’s most accomplished musicians.
All tickets comes with hors d'oeuvres, a complimentary welcome drink, and a three course dinner. Additional alcoholic drinks are not included. Ticket prices begin at $300, and Premium ticket ($475) buyers will be offered the opportunity for a meet and greet with Ms. Holliday after the performance.
Now personally, I can't say I'll be joining anyone for this event because it's a wee bit out of my budget at the moment, but if anyone reading this decides to splurge and attend, please share your story and spare us no details as we all want to live through you. I can't think of a better way to close out this special month than an event enjoying the work of this great and much beloved artist.