Black History Month Activities: 6 Ways to Celebrate in Florida
By Jodi Mailander Farrell
Florida’s rich black history can be explored year-round, but if Black History Month has you wanting more, here are some stellar exhibits, shows and events throughout Florida in February.
- TALLAHASSEE: A Bible of the Rev. Theodore Gibson, who was a leader of the civil rights movements in Miami, and a stool from Woolworths Department Store in Jacksonville, which was the site of a famous sit-in demonstration in 1960, are among the artifacts at “Civil Rights in the Sunshine State,” an exhibit that explores the significant contributions Florida made to the state and national civil rights movement. The Museum of Florida History, 500 S. Bronough, in downtown Tallahassee will feature belongings, videos, interactive elements and narratives through April 5, 2015.
- SARASOTA: The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe, celebrating its 15th anniversary, is the only professional black theater company on Florida’s west coast. The award-winning troupe has a reputation for high quality, original, thought-provoking and entertaining performances. Through Feb. 9 at its theater at 1646 10th Way in Sarasota, it presents “Knock Me a Kiss,” a fascinating fictional account of the 1928 marriage of W.E.B. DuBois' daughter to one of Harlem's most talented poets. From Feb. 25 to April 4, catch “Jazz Hot Mamas,” the world premiere of a musical review by Nate Jacobs that celebrates great women performers of the jazz era, such as Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy Wilson, Etta Jones, and Peggy Lee.
- ST. PETERSBURG: In 1900, sociologist and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois created an exhibition of photographs entitled “The American Negro” for that year’s World’s Fair in Paris. He selected images that showed a refined, educated and prosperous population of African Americans, confirming and projecting to a wider world the image of African American achievement and aspiration. “African American Life and Family,” a photo exhibit at the Museum of Fine Arts in St. Petersburg through May 3, brings that story into our time. Dating from the 1880s to the 1960s, many of the works are portraits by noted photographers such as James Van Der Zee and Addison Scurlock.
- JACKSONVILLE: Grammy-winning Rebirth Brass Band, a New Orleans institution, plays at 8 p.m. on Feb. 28 at the Ritz Theatre and Museum in Jacksonville’s historic African American community of La Villa, once known as the “Harlem of the South.”
- ST. AUGUSTINE: For “Flight to Freedom” Public Day on Feb. 14, re-enactors bring the southbound 18th century Underground Railroad to life every 15 minutes between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. with guided tours of Fort Mose, site of the first legally sanctioned free African settlement in what is now the United States.
- EUSTIS (Near Orlando): Thousands are expected to attend the Eustis African-American Heritage Festival on Feb. 21, with festivities including a 10 a.m. parade through downtown ending at Eustis High Curtright Campus, 1801 Bates Ave., where the festival continues with live gospel, rap, R&B, jazz and blues music, as well as soul food, African art, crafts and cultural exhibits.
- MIAMI: Virginia Key Beach Park, opened as a “colored-only” beach in 1945, is the site of the GrassRoots Festival of music, art and dance Feb. 19-22. Artists include lap steel guitar player AJ Ghent, African griot and Master Kora musician Morikeba Kouyate, Keith Frank & the Solieau Zydeco Band and the Afro-Cuban six-man group Nag Champayons, among others.