Celebrate Black History Month in Philadelphia With These Virtual Events, Tours, Exhibits and More
Here are some highlights to add to your calendar this February.
Get our weekly picks of what to do this weekend and the latest on Philly's arts and entertainment scene.
During the pandemic, many Philly organizations are honoring and celebrating Black History Month by hosting virtual or socially-distanced events. Here’s a selection to check out this February.
Black History Month Mural Tours from Mural Arts Philadelphia
Mural Arts Philadelphia is offering a foot tour this month. Visitors can explore murals focused on social justice and iconic Black figures and civic heroes, as well as the stories behind them. Masks are required, and tour groups are limited to 10 people or less.
$24, February 7th and 23rd, 2 p.m., starts at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA), Lenfest Plaza Paint Torch Sculpture, 128 N. Broad Street, 215-685-0750
Black History Month Virtual Mural Tour
As an alternative to a physical tour, Mural Arts Philadelphia is offering a one-hour virtual tour over Zoom. A live tour guide will take you, from the comfort of your home, through Philadelphia neighborhoods to explore the murals and to learn about the artists and their work.
$15, February 24th, 6 p.m., online, 215-685-0750
Stories of Freedom & Justice
The Choir School of Delaware will be hosting a virtual event featuring poetry written by authors of color, including Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Gwendolyn Brooks Langston Hughes, and Delaware’s twin poet laureates, Nnamdi Chukwuocha and Al Mills. In honor of the 60th anniversary of the Freedom Rides, a new work will also be premiering at this event.
$25, Sunday, February 28th, 4 p.m., streamed from Grace Episcopal Church, Wilmington, DE
Virtual Film Discussion of “Marshall”
Participate in a Zoom discussion of the film that features a case Thurgood Marshall, the nation’s first Black Supreme Court justice, litigated for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. A former Pennsylvania prosecutor, A. Nicole Phillips, will be offering her insights into the film. It’s recommended participants watch the film prior to the event, and the Abington Township Public Library is offering online copies.
Free, Tuesday, February, 7 to 8 p.m., streamed from Abington Township Public Library
Black History Walking Tour
This walking tour will explore some of the contributions Black Americans have made to the USA via a look at 20 of the plaques in Philadelphia that feature achievements by Black Americans, starting with the St. Peter Claver Church, the first Roman Catholic church for Black citizens in Philadelphia. Warm clothes and comfortable shoes are recommended.
$8, Sunday, February 7th, 2 to 4 p.m., St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Historical Marker, 1200 Lombard Street, 215-758-5536
MAKING MARKS: Figural Identity, Transfiguration, and Receptive Tactility
An opportunity to meet four artists — Alanna Airitam, Helina Metaferia, Alisa Silelianos-Carter, and Nastassja E. Swift — and to view their works. These works focus on the representation of Black bodies across a variety of materials and visual styles. The gallery is live and in person, but social-distancing protocols will be enforced.
Free, February 13th through April 3rd, Pentimenti Gallery, 145 S 2nd St, 215-625-9990
African-American History Month at the National Constitution Center
The National Constitution Center will be hosting a variety of events in honor of Black History Month. Highlights include:
- Attend a live online class focused on First Amendment rights and civil liberties, and their use in the fight for civil rights, every Friday in February at 1 p.m.
- Book a virtual tour of the museum’s Civil War and Reconstruction: The Battle for Freedom and Equality
- Stream FOURTEEN: A Theatrical Performance online
African American Children’s Book Fair
This popular event has transitioned to an online platform and will be featuring readings and appearances from authors of children’s books. This year’s participants include Bryan Collier, Carole Boston Weatherford, Derrick Barnes, and Gloria Jean Pinkey.
Free, February 6th, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., (215) 878-2665
Leaders and Legends of North Philadelphia Exhibition
This exhibition will celebrate the achievements of Black individuals and organizations in the North Philadelphia community. Families are encouraged to visit and learn about the movers and shakers who have “become a part of North Philadelphia’s history.” This is an outdoor event with social distancing.
Free, Saturday, February 6th, noon to 3 p.m., Smith Memorial Playground & Playhouse, 3500 Reservoir Dr.
Art of Activism: History Doesn’t Have to Repeat Itself
Mural Arts Philadelphia is hosting this virtual discussion on the history of art and activism within the Black community, as well as the impact art can have on empowering Black youth. The event will feature artists Danny Simmons and Noah Kane-Smalls, and it will be moderated by Ginger Rudolph.
Free, Thursday, February 18th, 5:30 to 6:30 p.m.
The Philadelphia Orchestra: Michelle Cann Plays Florence Price
The Philadelphia Orchestra will be performing Florence Price’s Piano Concerto in One Movement, marking the first North American performance of the original orchestration since 1953. Price, the first Black woman to garner national attention as a classical composer, has had her worked overlooked (and almost lost) in the span of music history, but this concert provides an exciting opportunity to hear her composition live, performed by concert pianist and “sparkling virtuoso” Michelle Cann. This will be streamed online as a Digital Stage event.
$17, Thursday, February 18th through Thursday, February 25th, online, 215-893-1999
The Cooking Gene: Tracing My African American Story Through Food with Michael Twitty
Michael W. Twitty, a culinary historian and James Beard Award-winning food writer, will be discussing his book, The Cooking Gene, over webinar. His book serves as an “illuminating memoir of Southern cuisine and food culture that traces his ancestry — both Black and white — through food, from Africa to America and slavery to freedom.”
Free, Wednesday, February 3rd, 5:30 p.m., online
Events at the Penn Museum
There’s a lot of virtual events that will be held by the Penn Museum this month. Highlights include:
- Slave Dwellings, Monuments, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy, which will look at history through the lens of “the buildings we preserve and the monuments we raise.” Wednesday, February 3rd, 6 to 7 p.m.
- REVOLUTION: A Programmatic Collaboration between Black History Untold and the Penn Museum will be hosted by award-winning journalist and Black History Untold founder Sofiya Ballin and will examine “the vitality of oral history and the power human stories hold.” Wednesday, February 10th, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
- LIVING ROOM LECTURE: Black Dance and the Politics of Movement, led by Africana Studies professor Jasmine Johnson, will highlight the “politics of Black movement, including dance, diasporic travel, and gentrification.” Thursday, February 11th, 5:30 to 6:15 p.m.
- HONORING BLACK STORIES IN WHITE INSTITUTIONS: A Programmatic Collaboration between Black History Untold and the Penn Museum, also hosted by Ballin, will include a panel discussion about how cultural institutions can “make space for authentic Black stories beyond their collections and exhibitions.” Wednesday, February 17th, 6 to 7:30 p.m.
Free Library Black History Month Events
The Free Library of Philadelphia will host a number of Black History Month virtual events through their various branches. Highlights include:
- Author Nadia Owusu will discuss her 2019 Whiting Award-winning book Aftershocks: A Memoir, February 3rd
- Learn About Phillis Wheatley: The First Published African American Poet, February 8th
- Radical Self-care in an Era of Activism: A Virtual Salon with chef Jena Harris and professor Pysche Williams-Forson, through February 11th
- Black History Month Dinner Series with Chef Elijah Milligan, February 19th and 26th
- Read-Along With Misty Copeland and Chat-Along with Your Librarian, February 22nd