February is Black History Month, a time to honor and celebrate the contributions Black people have made to the world while also examining the ways in which racial injustices are still left unaddressed. From attending concerts to supporting Black-led organizations, here are 14 ways to honor Black History Month around Chicago.
Feb. 5-7, 12-14: Visions and Voices, a Black Playwrights’ Reading Series
Cost: general public $10, full-time, non-NU students $5
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As a part of its Black Playwrights’ Reading Series, the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts at Northwestern University will showcase the work of its Black MFA directing students. “Wine in the Wilderness” will be shown the first weekend and “The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World AKA the Negro Book of the Dead” will be shown the second weekend. Tickets for the on demand performances are available here.
This collection of six short films features stories from Black artists trying to make sense of their worlds. The films will be available on demand through the Gene Siskel Film Center and will cost approximately the price of a regular movie ticket. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit Siskel Film Center.
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Michelle Duster, great granddaughter of Ida B. Wells and Columbia College Chicago faculty member, will give a presentation about Wells’ legacy and her book “Ida B. the Queen.” The virtual event is open to the public. Register here.
Time: 12:30-1:30 p.m.
Cost: $10, Members $8
Glessner House will host a presentation about Bishop Henry Ford, a pastor who worked in the Chicago community and ensured that Chicago’s oldest house, Clarke House, remained preserved over the years. Register here.
Time: 6-7:30 p.m.
Cost: Pay what you can
Artists and performers David Neumann, Marcella Murray and Tei Blow for Advanced Beginner Group will weave together imagery, dance and dialogue to represent conversations around race and how to close the gaps. The event, presented by the Museum of Contemporary Art, will also include a conversation with Chicago writer, Mikki Kendall. For more details and to buy tickets, visit MCA.
Time: 7 p.m.
“Preserving and Persevering” will explore music’s role in preserving African traditions in the U.S. and its role in helping Black Americans maintain a sense of community. The concert, featuring CCC singers and Grammy Award-winning guest artists Lisa Fischer and Ranky Tanky, will be streamed on CCC’s Facebook and YouTube with a behind-the-scenes pre-show beginning at 6:45 p.m.
Feb 25: Films of the African Diaspora Experience (F.A.D.E.) Seminar Series: “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”
Time: 6:30 p.m.
Cost: Seminar package $25, members free
As a part of Chicago Filmmakers’ ongoing series of films and discussions that reflect the Black Lives Matter movement, this month’s live discussion will focus on the story of legendary blues artist Ma Rainey played by Viola Davis. Registration includes a viewing guide with supplementary materials to help you understand each film’s significance, access to each of the seminars and the opportunity to participate in a meaningful conversation about race. Purchase tickets here.
Support Black Businesses and Organizations
Feb. 7-21: Chicago Black Restaurant Week
Celebrate Black History Month and support small businesses by dining at Chicago’s Black-owned restaurants during the two-week event. The 60 restaurants participating and the partners will be announced on Instagram leading up to the event.
This all-natural skincare company was created by a Black woman named Terri and all of the products are handmade by her in Chicago. The products include fragrance oils, candles, body oils and more, and they are plant-based and designed to be environmentally friendly. Shop online.
Brave Space Alliance is a Black-led, trans-led LGBTQ+ center. Located on the South Side of Chicago, it provides many affirming resources and programs for LGBTQ+ Chicagoans. To donate food to the crisis food pantry or to make a monetary donation, visit Brave Space Alliance for more information.
I Grow Chicago aims to grow the Englewood community from surviving to thriving. They provide community members with several programs including Mentorship & Supportive Services, Restorative Justice & Community Building, Urban Farming & Food Access and more. During the pandemic, they are providing families and students with the supplies they need for virtual learning. To donate to this program or assist in another way, visit their website.
Founded by Danielle Martin in 2012, this Black woman-owned brand makes cocktail-themed body and skin care products. Their production process focuses on sustainability and all of their products are plant based. To shop, visit their website.
2019 marked the four hundredth anniversary of the first African presence in the Americas, prompting the launch of the Four Hundred Souls project, led by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha Blain. This book gives the history of Black people in America as told by 80 historians, novelists, journalists and artists, and edited by Kendi and Blain. Consider purchasing the book from Semicolon, a Black woman-owned bookstore in Chicago.
Michelle Alexander’s book focuses on how the criminal justice system functions as a way of controlling African Americans because they are overrepresented in it. She argues that “we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it.” This book is an essential read for people looking to learn more about mass incarceration and the need to center it in discussions of racial justice. Order “The New Jim Crow” at Semicolon.
More from Better:
- 28 of the Best Things to Do This February Around Chicago and the Suburbs
- Political Strategist, Organizer, and Author Alicia Garza on What it Takes to Create Change
- ‘Mandela: Struggle for Freedom’ at the Illinois Holocaust Museum Honors a Hero’s Fight for Justice and Inspires a New Generation
Aliyah Armstrong is an intern at Better with a passion for arts and entertainment reporting. A senior in Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, she is also minoring in Sociological Studies. Aliyah supports the Greater Chicago Food Depository and Black Youth Project 100, an organization that aims to create justice and freedom for all Black people.