Things to Do

5 Things to Do in DC to Celebrate Black History Month

Looking to immerse yourself in the culture? Here are a few events to help with that.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. Photograph by Nan Melville.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater

The legendary black dance troupe is celebrating its 60th anniversary in DC at just the right time. Between Wednesday, February 5, and Sunday, February 10, they’ll perform three different programs—including an Alvin Ailey highlight reel, of sorts—at the Kennedy Center, featuring choreography by renowned hip-hop dance instructor Rennie Harris and Afro-Caribbean instructor Ronald K. Brown.

Cotton Field to Concert Hall

The Kennedy Center just so happens to be hosting several black-led events, and this one is free! On February 16, the Coalition for African Americans in the Performing Arts will premiere Cotton Field to Concert Hall, a musical about an enslaved woman and an opera singer. The tale interweaves themes of hope, lineage, and destiny, as one woman’s dream becomes another’s reality.

Black History Month Film Series, Revising the Canon: Black Art Liberation

We’ve seen a lot of amazing new black cinema over the past few years; from Barry Jenkins to Ava Duvernay, it feels like we’re in another Harlem-like renaissance. Now, Brentwood Arts Exchange wants us to revisit black film of the past with free film series throughout February. Each Wednesday of the month (except for the last) Brentwood will screen old movies about black people and culture to help expand the audience’s canon. The series kicks off on Wednesday, February 6, with Bronx Gothic, a one-woman show in which writer-choreographer Okwui Okpokwasili tells the story of two tween girls coming of age in the ’80s.

African American Passages: Black Lives in 19th Century America

In 1831, an enslaved Muslim named Omar ibn Said published his autobiography—the first of its kind. Today the text is sitting in the Library of Congress, and it’ll be just one of the cultural touchstones explored in this panel discussion on February 21. Adam Rothman, distinguished scholar at the Kluge Center, and Jesse Holland, the award-winning novelist of Black Panther and Star Wars novels, will talk about significant documents in black history that happen to sit within the library’s walls.

Hip-Hop’s Great Day: Gordon Parks and a Legacy of Photographic Inspiration

In 1998, XXL Magazine published a now-famous photograph by Gordon Parks: a three-page spread featuring hip-hop heavyweights like Phife Dawg, Da Brat, and Cam’Ron. The photo’s gone on to become one of the most important images in hip-hop history. On February 17, the National Gallery of Art is hosting an audiovisual presentation and panel discussion on this photo’s—and Park’s—legacy in the culture.