From the heady days of the Fillmore’s “Harlem of the West” to the rise of the Black Panther Party in Oakland, the Bay Area is rich with Black history and culture that has shaped and defined the American experience.
From fascinating art exhibitions to programs dedicated to local activists and sports legends, Bay Area museums and cultural centers are packed with opportunities to immerse yourself in music, fashion, film and more, paying homage to Black leaders and luminaries. Here are some highlights of the month ahead.
📍 City Hall
🗓️ Feb. 3
The San Francisco African American Historical and Cultural Society leads a celebratory second line procession from the steps of City Hall to the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch at noon on Feb. 3. MJ Brass Boppers, a New Orleans-style brass band, bring the beats.
📍 Various locations & times
Big+Black+Brunch partners with Black-owned restaurants, bars, chefs and wineries to bring pop-up brunches to these venues and build Black economic power and community.
The group is organizing and hosting events for the entire month of February. Pick up the pace with speed dating or slow it down with a supper club—there is something for everyone. Check its Instagram and website for more details.
📍 855 Battery St., SF
🗓️ Feb. 1
Mix and mingle with local reporters, news anchors and media influencers at this networking event featuring small bites, a beer tasting and a performance by San Francisco’s poet laureate Tongo Eisen-Martin.
📍 Oakland Asian Cultural Center
🗓️ Feb. 4
Two communities of the Bay Area come together to show the importance of unity against hate. With Lunar New Year in late January leading right into Black History Month, you can celebrate both with the Oakland Asian Cultural Center. The event will feature live performances honoring the intersections of both cultures.
If you’re the type of person who likes to immerse yourself in history and actually experience it firsthand, grab your comfy walking shoes because here’s a quick map of two tours recommended by Conde Nast Traveler.
📍 Black Panther Alumni Legacy Network
🗓️ All February & year-round
The Black Panther Party was founded in 1966 in Oakland. A political organization dedicated to the wellness of Black communities in America, the Black Panther Party’s presence was pivotal to Black history. Learn more about the Black Panther Party with a guided tour from an original Black Panther member, Saturu Ned. After touring Downtown Oakland, catch BART and hop off at West Oakland station to see the "Women of the Black Panther Party" mural at the intersection of Center and Ninth streets.
📍 West Oakland Cultural Action Network
🗓️ Feb. 18 & year-round
If you’re still feeling up for it while in West Oakland, you can go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour. The tour is led by locals and natives of the neighborhoods and showcases Oakland’s rich Black history and culture, taking you back 100 years from the origins of the West Coast civil rights movement to the Black Lives Matter movement of today.
📍 Freight & Salvage
🗓️ Feb. 12
Through Black spiritual musical traditions, the award-winning Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir aims to spread unity and joy. The group performs its eighth annual Black History Month Celebration concert in mid-February.
🗓️ Feb. 4
Socialize and sip at this gathering honoring the spirit of Black luminaries such as James Baldwin, Langston Hughes and Bayard Rustin. Meet like-minded folks from across the Bay Area and learn more about how to support and volunteer with this new social group. Reach out to Andrew Rayner via Instagram @imakeitrayner if you have questions.
🗓️ Feb. 10
RuPaul Drag Race’s Latrice Royale headlines Nicki Jizz’s all-Black drag show “Reparations." The show, which began as an online streaming revue in response to the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, has become a monthly performance showcase at Oasis and centers Black artists. Stop in for an extra-awesome Black History Month edition.
📍 Children’s Fairyland
🗓️ Through Feb. 12
For over 100 years, Oakland’s Black community has made indelible contributions to the city. Fairyland, the oldest storybook theme park in the U.S., celebrates these achievements with a series of programs, including an electrifying stage show featuring rapper-poet Jamey Williams on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. Bay Area storytelling legend Kirk Waller brings a mix of music, spoken word and movement to his performances on Feb. 11 and 12.
📍The Great Star Theater
🗓️ Feb. 19
The Chinese Historical Society of America celebrates Chinese and Black American unity with a special documentary film screening and kung fu demonstration honoring African American martial arts masters. “The Black Kung Fu Experience” follows how a group of Black martial artists became pioneers in a field dominated by Chinese and white men. Veteran martial arts athletes and coaches Sifu Donald Hamby and Troy Dunwood lead a Q&A and demonstration following the screening.
📍 440 Civic Center Plaza, Richmond
🗓️ Feb. 23
The Richmond Public Library holds a video tribute and program in honor of the city’s greatest athletes and local sports legends like Charlie Reid, who was director of Richmond’s Shields Park. Reid’s athletic programs helped launch the professional sports careers of Major League Baseball players Pumpsie Green and Les Cain, Green Bay Packers football player Travis Williams and more.
📍 8200 International Blvd., Oakland
🗓️ Feb. 23
The East Oakland Youth Development Center holds a community event with dance and spoken-word performances, a youth art exhibition, hands-on activities, free food, music and giveaways.
📍STEM Kitchen + Garden
🗓️ Feb. 23
Sample wines from across the Bay Area at this free tasting event highlighting Black vintners.
📍 Angel Island State Park
🗓️ Feb. 25
Poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr come together for a unique cultural exchange honoring Black History Month and Chinese New Year in a historic destination at the Angel Island Detention Barracks museum. Yu and Warr will read their poems in Chinese and English accompanied by projected images and text.
📍 14th & Franklin streets, Oakland
🗓️ Feb. 26
Celebrate Black culture and community at this family-friendly event featuring a jubilant procession, two stages dedicated to Black performers and highlighting over 200 Black-owned businesses, selling everything from yummy food and drinks to clothing and handmade items.
🗓️ Through Feb. 26
SFJAZZ continues its celebration of Black history, experiences and voices with a series of concerts honoring jazz as a singular American art form rooted in African American and Afro-Carribean sonic traditions. On Feb. 18, Marcus Shelby’s New Orchestra combines music, text and video in a musical suite reflecting on the impact of Covid. Then in late February, NEA Jazz Master, drummer/composer and SFJAZZ Resident Artistic Director Terri Lyne Carrington teams up with an all-star jazz septet and an Alonzo King Lines dancer for a two-night-only multimedia concert confronting the injustices Black women face throughout their lives.
📍 Sydney Goldstein Theater
🗓️ Feb. 28
Author, playwright and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga and legendary activist Angela Davis come together for a discussion presented by the Museum of the African Diaspora and City Arts & Lectures.
📍 Museum of the African Diaspora
🗓️ Through March 5
🎟️ $6 - $12
Highlighting images at the intersection race, gender, beauty and power, “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion” features over 100 works from a community of groundbreaking international Black photographers, including Tyler Mitchell, the first Black photographer to shoot a cover story for Vogue.
MoAD also hosts a series of engaging community events throughout the month, including in-depth talks about the exhibition, fashion, photography and music, discussions of 1970s Black “Soul Cinema,” film screenings, open mics and poetry readings. A conversation between MoAD’s inaugural chef-in-residence, Bryant Terry, and his successor, Jocelyn Jackson, dives into the intersection of artistry, politics and food accompanied by small bites and drinks from across the African diaspora on Feb. 11 at 2 p.m. Visit moadsf.org for the full calendar and to register for events.
🗓️ Richmond Art Center
🎟️ Through March 18
Originating from the 1989 African American artists salon known as “Colors of Black,” this exhibition highlights the work of over 120 artists of African descent and is accompanied by open studios and satellite exhibitions throughout the Bay.
📍 Oakland Museum of California
🗓️ Through June 11
Dive into the life, image and influence of activist Angela Davis at this exhibition examining the Oakland-based icon’s legacy through historical artworks, archival materials and rare manuscripts of Davis’s writings. A series of events throughout February activates the exhibition and honors Black History Month.
On Feb. 17, the museum hosts a dance battle and food truck celebration with Off the Grid and local performers. On a more serious note, strategist, consultant and housing advocate Ndidi Love and Cat Brooks, founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and executive director of the Justice Teams Network, discuss the case for reparations on Feb. 26.
📍 Chase Center
🗓️ Through Feb. 28
The Golden State Warriors and Chase Center team up to host a series of community events in honor of Black History Month. The monthlong celebration’s marquee event takes place on Feb. 25, when the plaza around the Chase Center comes to life with live entertainment, arts and craft stations, balloon artists, face painters and a pop-up book fair, featuring Oakland’s Marcus Books, the oldest Black-owned bookstore in the country. Visit chasecenter.com for the full roster of events.
Rosalie Tapavalu contributed additional reporting for this story.
Christina Campodonico can be reached at email@example.com