Things to Do

Your Short Guide to Black History Month Around DC

Book talks, exhibits, pop-up shops, and more.

Photograph by Dan Swartz.

Today is the first day of Black History Month, and there are several ways to celebrate around DC. From lectures on Black history to pop-up shops, here are a few ideas for how you should spend your time this month.

On history:

History lesson: Learn about Nathaniel “The Bush Doctor” Mathis, the Maryland-based barber-stylist and inventor who popularized Afros and cornrows, in the first installment of “Innovative Lives,” an online lecture series from the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation. Wednesday, February 9, at 4 PM; Free, register here.

A musical genius: Hear from American History Museum music curator John Edward Hasse as he reflects on the life of legendary soul musician Ray Charles and his contributions to American pop culture and music industry. Tuesday, February 15, at 6:30 PM; $30-$35, buy tickets here.

Keep on rollin’: Explore more than 50 images, documents, and artifacts that highlight roller skating culture through the lens of the African-American community in an installation curated by the National African African American Roller Skating Archive. Saturday, February 19, from 11 AM-4:45 PM; Free, register here.

Different perspectives: Check out Gallery O on H’s new photo exhibit, “Attacks on Democracy: Through the Lens of a Black Photojournalist.” As DC-based photographer Shedrick Pelt re-examines the January 6 insurrection and its aftermath through the perspective of Black photojournalism, he also sheds light on his experiences navigating the white-dominated photography business. Friday, February 25, at 7 PM; $20, buy tickets here.

Book talks:

Changing the narrative: Poet and Atlantic staff writer Clint Smith will discuss his book How the Word is Passed in a virtual conversation with Planet Word. The book examines the false narratives told about American slavery through nine landmarks linked to the legacy of slavery. Tuesday, February 1, at 8 PM; Free, register here.

Black girl magic: Hear from novelist Jayne Allen as she talks about the second installment of her Black Girls Must Die Exhausted series, Black Girls Must Be Magic, in an online conversation from Politics & Prose. Allen will speak with Emmy-nominated journalist Nancy Johnson. Thursday, February 10, at 8 PM; Free, register here.

Keeping go-go alive: Join Politics and Prose for a behind the scenes look at DC’s go-go scene as Chuck Brown’s former photographer Chip Py discusses his upcoming photo book, DC Go-Go: Ten Years Backstage. With more than 20 years of shooting DC bands under his belt, Py’s work is now a part of the People’s Archive at the DC Public Library and the Chuck Brown Memorial Park. Saturday, February 26, at 3 PM; Free (you can buy a signed copy of the book for $21.99), register here.

Watch a performance:

Soulful movements: The legendary Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater will perform its annual program at the Kennedy Center’s Opera House this week. The performance series will feature a variety of signature Ailey classics and new works. Tuesday, February 1, through Sunday, February 6, showtimes vary; Tickets start at $49, buy tickets here.

Family drama: DC playwright Psalmayene 24 will perform his autobiographical solo show Dear Mapel at Mosaic Theater Company. The play, which explores the effect that his father’s absence had on Psalmayene’s life, will also be available for streaming on-demand until February 27. Thursday, February 3, through Sunday, February 13, showtimes vary; $20-$70, buy tickets here.

Music for the soul: Join Busboys and Poets for DC-based singer Jackson Caesar’s lecture on African-American concert artist Roland Hayes and his contributions toward introducing Black spirituals into American popular music. Caesar will also perform a selection of Hayes’ arrangements. Saturday, February 12, at 7 PM; $10, buy tickets here.

A well-deserved tribute: The National Symphony Orchestra will honor George Walker, the native Washingtonian who became the first Black composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, with a performance at Howard University’s Crampon Auditorium. The group will perform compositions from Walker and Beethoven, with a special appearance from the DC composer’s son and violinist Gregory Walker. Tuesday, February 15, at 7:30 PM; Free, register here.

The gospel truth: Arts non-profit DC Legendary Musicians (DCLM) will host a virtual discussion with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library about the history and significance of gospel music within Black culture. The DCLM Gospel Quartet and Band will also perform gospel classics after the panel. Saturday, February 26, at 3:30 PM; Free, register here.

All that jazz: The Pan American Symphony Orchestra will pay tribute to Duke Ellington and other American jazz composers by performing a selection of Ellington works and popular American jazz compositions. Saturday, February 26, at 7:30 PM; Tickets start at $55, buy tickets here.

Buy Black:

For the culture: Show your support for the Black community by supporting Black-owned businesses. Multimedia event production company Chocolate City Rocks is hosting the Black Rock Super Hero Marketplace at 3 Stars Brewing Company later this month. The pop-up shop will feature vintage and antique collectibles, craft incense and oils, and more. Sunday, February 20, from  1 PM-6 PM; learn more here.

Shop spices, accessories, soaps, and more from the Melanade Market, hosted by social justice organizations the Outrage DC and the Melanade Stand. Saturday, February 26, from 12 PM-5 PM; Free, register here.

Bottoms up: Latin cocktail bar Serenata will host tastings from Black-owned liquor, wine, and beer brands every Tuesday, such as Sankofa Bottling Company Gin and Life Gives You Lemons. There will also be virtual cocktail-mixing classes led by Black creatives throughout month. Every Tuesday through February 22 from 6 PM-9PM; learn more here.

Damare Baker
Research Editor

Before becoming Research Editor, Damare Baker was an Editorial Fellow and Assistant Editor for Washingtonian. She has previously written for Voice of America and The Hill. She is a graduate of Georgetown University, where she studied international relations, Korean, and journalism.

Jade Womack is an energy economist by day, and an events blogger by night. She started her blog, Clockout DC, when she was moonlighting as a bartender in 2019. She grew up in Arlington, and currently lives in Adams Morgan with her dog.