9 places in Phoenix to honor Black History Month through the arts

9 Places In Phoenix To Honor Black History Month Through The Arts

Photo courtesy of The Nash via Facebook

By Trinity Murchie

February 7, 2024

February is Black History Month. This is all thanks to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), an association and movement founded by Carter G. Woodson.

“Negro History Week,” as it was originally called, was established in 1926 as a means of bringing awareness to the people who had a profound impact on American history yet had little to no mention in the history books. Woodson fought to offer voice and recognition to the African American community — and was successful. It was the first step of many that would grant inclusion and pave the road for equality.

It would take 50 years before it was signed into law and established (with a needed name change) as Black History Month in 1976, partially thanks to educators sneakily adding Black history to their curriculum when their superiors weren’t looking, and largely thanks to the Civil Rights Movement that ultimately ended segregation.

As a modern-day educator, I am happy to share that key figures such as Langston Hughes, Maya Angelo, MLK, and Sojourner Truth are all included in Arizona-mandated curriculum, a feat that may not have been possible if it weren’t for the efforts of Woodson and ASALH 98 years ago. This curriculum is not restricted to February, either.

But—why February? It’s the shortest month of the year and hardly seems fit to encompass such a grand lesson of inclusion.

Well, according to the ASALH website, Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who are both celebrated for spearheading campaigns of equality, were also both born during the second month of the year. Woodson ultimately decided to shift the celebration away from two leaders and toward a whole group of people who used their power to make great change, because “Woodson believed that history was made by the people, not simply or primarily by great men.”

Nowadays, each Black History Month includes a theme, and this year’s theme is “African Americans and the Arts.” Read below for the places to view art in Phoenix that emphasize giving voice to African American history.

From galleries to theaters, studios, and clubs, celebrating Black History Month this year is a surefire way to indulge the senses while examining the rich history of America.

Onyx Art and Events

Located off West Roosevelt Avenue is Onyx Art and Events, the first (and currently only) Black-owned Phoenix gallery. It was launched in 2016 by owners Vernon and Kathi Williams after they moved from Chicago to retire in the Grand Canyon State.

9 places in Phoenix to honor Black History Month through the arts
Video courtesy of Onyx Art and Events via Instagram

Named after the gemstone that is believed to foster peace and comfort, this all-inclusive gallery hosts art from all different backgrounds and forms, offering important representation. In February alone, there is a gallery; a collection that examines music, fashion, and storytelling; and even a karaoke night.

Black History Mural Project

Gizette Knight and The Shining Light Foundation are important names to know when driving around Phoenix. In 2022, the foundation cultivated the call for artists to create the 30 murals around our state capital that display powerful Black figures throughout history—both historical and contemporary.

9 places in Phoenix to honor Black History Month through the arts
Photo courtesy of Councilwoman Yassamin Ansari via Instagram

This is worth the drive to complete an intentional self-tour of the nearly 30 murals which include portraits of musicians, athletes, activists, and politicians. Check this link out to learn about where the murals are and who is displayed in each of the murals.

George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center

Located on Grant Street in Phoenix, the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center has celebrated Black history and art since 1996.

Their mission centers on education, and the current exhibit, “The Monarch Exhibit,” explores the history of segregation in Phoenix between the years 1863 to 1954 through the Phoenix Union Colored High School and Carver High School. It was the only school in Phoenix specifically built for Black segregation and has been preserved and explored by this museum and cultural center to maintain an important history America should not soon forget.

Black Theatre Troupe Inc.

On Washington Street in historic Eastlake Park, you can find The Black Theatre Troupe Inc., which hosts performances specific to African American heritage. This troupe boasts the “oldest African American theater in the entire Southwestern United States” and is currently running for its 53rd season. Until Feb. 18, you can catch “The Piano Lesson,” which is set in 1930s Pittsburgh and runs $50 per ticket. New shows open monthly.

9 places in Phoenix to honor Black History Month through the arts
Photo courtesy of The Black Theatre Troupe via Facebook

The Nash

A list of art celebrating Black history would simply be incomplete without jazz. The Nash is a concert club off of Roosevelt Street that launched in 2012 to keep the spirit of the jazz club alive. Named after the Phoenix local Lewis Nash, a renowned jazz drummer, this club not only honors music important to Black history but also seeks to help the next generation of musicians learn this smooth music form.

Performances are inclusive to performers of all races; this inclusion is a true display of multicultural immersion that honors the voices of the musicians throughout history and celebrates equality. Best yet, this club also offers music lessons and community outreach.

Archwood Exchange

Located in the historical Roosevelt Row Arts District in downtown Phoenix is the Archwood Exchange, run by the non-profit ACRES, which seeks to help create “support for local small black-owned businesses to reach immediate goals of financial independence and a long-term mark of generational wealth.”

While not an art display itself, this nonprofit hosts events monthly at Phoenix’s First Fridays and runs the brick-and-mortar Buy Black Marketplace, which is home to 30 Black-owned businesses. While exploring art in the Roosevelt Row Art district this month, the Buy Black Marketplace is the place to go if you wish to show support while buying crafted wares.

Eastlake Park Community Center

For a taste of history, visit the Eastlake Park Community Center. This community center is located in what was once called Phoenix Park in the 1890s and has been the focal point for Civil Rights in Arizona. This park has been home to rallies, and celebrations, and is still “home to the Annual Juneteenth Celebration and the Phoenix Arts Commission Civil Rights Memorial.”

This community center offers low-cost classes for dance, arts and crafts, pottery, and various sports. After observing and admiring art around town, stop in here to get more physical and celebrate history through making your own artistic movements while the history of Civil Rights is kept at the center.

The Arizona Informant

Let’s not forget that writing is an art form (especially as you are reading this article).

The Arizona Informant is a weekly newspaper that shines a spotlight on the Black community of Maricopa County. Family run, released on Wednesdays, and created in 1971, this newspaper remains “the only African-American owned weekly newspaper in the state.” Distributed to Circle K stores and college campuses, you may purchase this paper for a nominal fee or read important headlines on their website for free.

Revolving galleries across Phoenix

Lastly, Modified Arts, EyeLounge Collective, and Mesa Arts Center are three revolving galleries that celebrate cultural inclusion and have hosted some amazing artists of all races. While they don’t have any Black History Month-specific displays, they have been involved in celebrating multicultural voices and have art of all racial backgrounds, including Black art.

This sort of inclusion seems to be a step towards true equality and is worth viewing as another way to celebrate the equality that Black History Month encompasses. Much like the state-mandated curriculum that includes powerful Black voices and history, having inclusive art is one way to view the success that Black History Month has realized in our modern world.

This article first appeared on Good Info News Wire and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

READ MORE: 52 Black actors who made entertainment history

Author

  • Trinity Murchie

    Teacher, writer, and traveler, Trinity lives in a small town and enjoys gardening, cooking, and exploring all things bizarre. Catch her at local ruins exploring haunted histories, in quaint towns with creatives, or at the farmers markets hunting for unique ingredients. Wherever you catch her, be sure to say hi; she’ll want to hear your story, too.

CATEGORIES: COMMUNITY | THINGS TO DO

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