Black History Month is a time for reflection on the history of black people in the U.S. and beyond, and an important part of that reflection is recognizing the accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in the sciences and arts. As it turns out, there are plenty of ways to get into the spirit of the month within the Phoenix metro area.
For this guide, we chose to focus on events that are particularly related to arts and culture such as dramas, art exhibitions and other artistic performances. We also chose not to include any religious events or events that do not focus on the artistic or cultural aspects of African-American history.
We hope to encourage everyone to make it a daily practice to engage in conversations with others about Black history and the history of people of color in this country, not just during February, but year round. Everyone would do service to their communities by actively engaging in those conversations.
Black History Comedy: Wakanda Jokin' Around at Stand Up Live
Thursday, February 7
In our always-on, always-connected way of contemporary life, it can be easy to surround ourselves with a constant stream of negative headlines. Sometimes a little laughter can go a long way in maintaining your sanity. Mellow B Entertainment and Stand Up Live host a night of "hood jokes for good folks" featuring a mix of local and national comics, including Tara Shakespeare, Marlon Taylor, and Karl A. Young. Black History Comedy moves to Stand Up Live for its third year on Thursday, February 7, starting at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $15.
Talking to Action: Art, Pedagogy, and Activism in the Americas at ASU Art Museum
Saturday, February 9 through July
A significant part of Black History Month is about reflecting and examining how communities can organize in order to promote the interests, and fight for the rights, of their people. "Talking to Action" examines the way community-based social art practices in Latin America and the Caribbean have used activism and community organization to address social and political issues in their countries. The traveling exhibition arrives at the ASU Art Museum on Saturday, February 9, and runs through July, so make sure to visit before it leaves Tempe. Admission to the museum is free.
Blade: Black History Month at FilmBar
Tuesday, February 12
Before Marvel Studios began churning out hit after hit in the late 2000s, the team behind Blade figured out how to adapt a comic book character into a critically and commercially successful film. FilmBar and the ASU Center for Science and Imagination are hosting a screening of the 1998 vampire thriller, staring Wesley Snipes as the titular slayer, on Tuesday, February 12, at 7 p.m. There will be a special introduction from researcher and professor Michael G. Bennett, who has written extensively on Afrofuturism, to discuss the legacy and impact of the sci-fi/fantasy superhero film. Tickets are $9.95 each.
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Detroit '67 at Tempe Center for the Arts
Friday, February 22 through March
Set against the backdrop of the 1967 summer riot in Detroit, award-winning playwright Dominque Morisseau explores the struggles shared by two siblings as they operate an underground business as the city around them begins to erupt into chaos. The Tempe Center for the Arts kicks off the play's monthlong residency on Friday, February 22, with two nights of music and several events planned throughout the following weeks. The play starts at 7:30 on opening night; See the Tempe Center for the Arts' website for more showtimes and a full schedule of events. Tickets range from $35 to $45.
Celebrate Jazz at the Musical Instrument Museum
Saturday, February 23, and Sunday, February 24
The Musical Instrument Museum hosts this weekendlong event on Saturday February 23,and Sunday, February 24, exploring the culture and history behind America’s greatest musical movement, jazz. Spend two days with the museum as they connect the links between the origins of jazz and the major popular music creations of the last century, as well as the the stories behind the genre's greatest contributors. While you're there, make sure to visit temporary exhibition "The Electric Guitar: Inventing an American Icon" to learn about black guitar icons like Bo Diddley and Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Admission to Celebrate Jazz is included with museum admission, which is $20.