Five places to celebrate Black History Month in NYC

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Sheila Rafizadeh, Contributor

Celebrating Black History during the month of February has been an American tradition for nearly a century. February was a purposeful choice for Black History Month, as the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Fredrick Douglass occur in the second week. This tradition began in 1926 when historian Carter G. Woodsen announced this second week as a celebration for Black Americans. During Black History Month, exhibits, showcases and galleries across America highlight Black art and voices. 

Over the course of a century, the way we celebrate Black history has gradually changed. The purpose of the month, however, hasn’t. Whether you’re looking for something informative or entertaining, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Here are some events students can attend this month.

Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room (The Metropolitan Museum of Art)

Located on the first floor in Gallery 508, this exhibit incorporates the past with visions of the future, creating a hypnotic walkthrough experience. The entire exhibit highlights art from Seneca Village, a vibrant Black neighborhood that was eventually uprooted during the construction of Central Park. The piece fabricates a residential setting and arranges furnishings to give the impression that it is real. This installation replicates what Seneca Village could have been if it was still intact today, tying in closely to the mission of Afrofuturism.

The Schomburg Shop (Harlem, Manhattan)

Founded in 1925, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is an old and important cultural institution. Located in the Research Center is a shop that contains various books and merchandise pertaining to Black culture, containing books written by notable Black authors like Michelle Obama and even by researchers and staff at the Schomburg. The shop also carries a series of merchandise ranging from Malcolm X mugs to tote bags that say “Where every month is Black History Month.”

Give Us Our Flowers: Guy Stanley (Midtown, Manhattan)

The Cavalier Galleries are a series of contemporary art galleries with locations across the East Coast. The New York City location’s current exhibit, “The Inaugural Group Show,” holds a series of artwork by local artists. The exhibit showcases a series of paintings by artist Guy Stanley that are part of his collection “Give Us Our Flowers,” which depicts major Black figures surrounded by colorful flowers, paying homage to his mother. Another painting by Stanley highlights reproductive rights and bodily autonomy on a shirt with the words “My Body, My Choice, My Rights.” Stanley’s work is on display until Feb. 25.

Cafe Con Libros (Crown Heights, Brooklyn)

“Cafe Con Libros” is an Afro-Latina-owned bookstore in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, a neighborhood that has become heavily gentrified over the years. This bookstore carries a wide selection of books written by Black and Latinx authors and strives to preserve the Caribbean culture of the neighborhood. While they do carry popular “BookTok” works, they also have a wide array of literature by marginalized authors that makes the store, along with the shopping experience, unique. While browsing and reading, you can order a drink from the café. For introverted students, this might be the perfect place to support and visit.  

Heritage: Exploring the Past, Present, and Future in Black Art (Upper East Side, Manhattan)

Opening on Feb. 2 at the Arsenal Gallery, “Heritage” consists of artwork created by New York City park employees. It portrays Black heritage by covering diverse aspects of Black culture, including not just history, but hip-hop culture and Black idols, too. Admission is free, and the exhibit is available until March 9.