February ushers in Black History Month, and African American organizations throughout Philadelphia are hosting happenings and celebrations of black culture and heritage. From film to dance to museum exhibits, there are many ways to appreciate the vibrant history of black America.
Take self-guided tours that look at African American milestones, or check out the Breaking Barriers exhibit, where icons such as Thurgood Marshall, Bessie Coleman, and Jackie Robinson come to life. Don't miss out on the center's rare printing of the Emancipation Proclamation, and test your wits during February at the Giant Board Game that is all about African American history.
Through Feb. 28, National Constitution Center, 525 Arch St. Free with museum admission, 215-409-6600, constitutioncenter.org/.
Ousmane Sembène's stirring 1966 feature film Black Girl chronicles the life of a young Senegalese woman who moves to France to work for a wealthy white couple and finds that life in their small apartment becomes a figurative and literal prison. Philadelphia filmmaker Sosena Solomon's documentary Merkato is a spirited tribute to the living testimonies of four merchants as they journey through the largest open-air market in Africa. The African American Museum in Philadelphia screens the two films along with a discussion, featuring Solomon and photographer Shawn Theodore, about Black Girl, Merkato, and the films' intersection with AAMP Winter 2017 exhibitions "Shawn Theodore: Church of Broken Pieces" and "Dawoud Bey: Harlem, USA."
Each year, the spotlight shines on African American children's authors and illustrators at the annual African American Children's Book Fair in Philadelphia. Founded by literary publicist and advocate Vanesse Lloyd-Sgambati, it is known as "one of the oldest and largest single-day events for children's books in the country." Thousands of parents, children, teachers, librarians, and literature fans will gather to hear panelists and to participate in promotional giveaways and games, or to simply spend a comfortable afternoon perusing books.
1 p.m. Saturday, Community College of Philadelphia, 1700 Spring Garden St., 215-878-2665, theafricanamericanchildrensbookproject.org.
Two talented dance troupes known for their celebration of traditional African American dance will take center stage in February. The events start this weekend when the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater fills the Merriam Theater for a show of African-inspired modern dance. Just a few days later, on Wednesday, PHILADANCO will present Mix, Jazz, and Dance, a free event intended for school groups.
Alvin Ailey, 8 p.m. Friday and 3 and 8 p.m. Saturday at the Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. $26-$130, 215-893-1999.
PHILADANCO, 11 a.m. Wednesday, Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, 300 S. Broad St. Free. 215-670-2300, kimmelcenter.org.
Trace the history of African American music from its beginnings to what you hear on the radio. Musician Ali Richardson leads the way through this teen-geared event.
6:30 p.m. Feb. 15, Greater Olney Library, 5501 N. Fifth St., 215-685-2846.
The Annenberg Center for the Arts at the University of Pennsylvania will continue its African Roots, American Voices series all month long. I Go on Singing: Paul Robeson's Life in Song features the titular athlete, singer, actor, and civil rights champion in a multimedia performance Feb. 18. Led by baritone Anthony Brown, a pianist and a narrator, I Go on Singing celebrates Robeson with archival video and musical selections ranging from Broadway to spirituals, including favorites such as "Wade in the Water" and "Ol' Man River." Former New Orleans street performer Corey Harris will take the stage Feb. 26 for an evening of music and conversation.
8 p.m. Feb. 18 & 26, the Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 3680 Walnut St. $30-$35, 215-898-3900, annenbergcenter.org.