By Meryl Pearlstein
Black History Month is a time to celebrate the African diaspora and the contributions and achievements of African Americans. Also known as African American History Month, each February gives us a starting point during which we can recognize the importance of the community in U.S. history. Here are some ways to commemorate in New York City and New York State.
Honor the Path to Freedom
New York State’s Path through History initiative offers an opportunity to learn about and visit the hundreds of museums, parks, galleries and other destinations that tell the important story of African-Americans in New York and the role they played in US history. Within its interactive website, the Underground Railroad shares information about abolitionists who aided thousands of enslaved people to freedom and includes key locations from Brooklyn to Buffalo where history was made. Suggested stops are New York’s newest state park Sojourner Truth State Park in Kingston, the Travel with Tubman Trail or the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center where historic struggles and achievements come to life.
For more information about New York’s Black history, visit the Path through History website from I Love NY.
Celebrate the Artistic Achievements of the Community
Will Liverman credit Jaclyn Simpson
Presented in collaboration with the Metropolitan Opera at Alice Tully House at Lincoln Center, operatic baritone Will Liverman will perform selected songs from his Grammy-nominated album Drams of a New Day showcasing renowned Black composers across generations. The performance is on February 15 with tickets starting at $30. Liverman will be accompanied by pianist Paul Sánchez with a special performance by Lady Jess on violin. The concert is part of the acclaimed “Lincoln Center Presents” program.
For a different kind of immersive musical experience, music lovers should visit The Colored Musicians Club & Jazz Museum in Buffalo. Slated to get a multi-million dollar facelift this spring, the museum will add rooms for music lessons and visiting musicians. Created in 1918, the club is a designated national preservation site and is the only remaining African American Musicians Club in the country.
Join Grammy Award-winning rock star Lenny Kravitz and photographer David Hindley with GQ’s Mark Anthony Green in a conversation about the legendary early years of Kravitz’s life in music and his new book, Lenny Kravitz: The Formative Years 1989-1993. As Kravitz recorded and toured for his first three albums — Let Love Rule, Mama Said, and Are You Gonna Go My Way — Hindley was charged with capturing the international star as he was coming into his own. The program is online through the 92nd Street Y on February 16.
Or, take in a show at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, the home of Black cultural performance in New York City.
Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS) will celebrate its 15th year of being the largest traveling arts show featuring artists from the African Diaspora. The 15th Anniversary Celebration: Celebrating Art and Culture in America will show the works of more than 60 artists of African, Caribbean, and Black descent over a three-day cultural experience and festival from February 24-26 in New York City. Curator for the show is Debra Vanderburg Spencer, the award-winning and museum-trained curator and art historian who has worked with the National Endowment for the Arts, the William J. Clinton Foundation and institutions such as Harlem’s 125th Street Improvement District, New York Foundation for the Arts and the Harlem Arts Alliance.
Dine at a Black-Owned Restaurant
Opened during the pandemic and still going strong, Jasmine’s Caribbean Cuisine on Restaurant Row is a tropical-themed oasis co-owned by Jasmine Gerald. The restaurant honors a variety of Caribbean cultures and serves a menu inspired by the cuisines of Dominica, Antigua, St. Thomas, Trinidad and Jamaica with recipes that have been handed down from generations. The restaurant was awarded the Black Plate Award for the best in Black culinary excellence. The restaurant serves two of my favorite Jamaican dishes, ackee and saltfish, and Jerk chicken.
Chef Marcus Samuelsson and the Hav & Mar team will offer a distinctive prix fixe menu every Monday in February. Ingredients from the menu at the Chelsea, NYC restaurant will be sourced from Black-owned or managed companies. Purveyors and their resulting dishes include appetizers Beef Tartare with top round from Prince Abou’s Butchery, Queens, NY and Swediopian, a salmon dish cured with spices from Workinesh Spice’s from Burnsville, Minnesota. Mains are Addis York with purveyor Café’s, Queens, NY, an exciting dish with injero, fried chicken and soft boiled egg; and Umi’s Udon with ingredients from Workinesh Spice’s. For dessert, diners will be treated to the unusual combinations found in Corn Husk Chocolate Pudding or Apple Persimmon Crisp, both thanks to Striped Lion Rum’s from Woodbury, New Jersey. The cocktail menu continues the theme using Uncle Nearest Premium Whiskey’s 1884 Tennessee Whiskey, Jack From Brooklyn’s Sorel Liqueur, Uncle Waithley’s Ginger Beer and a float of Equiano Rum, the world’s first African and Caribbean rum..
To add to the festivities, the restaurant will invite guest hosts for each dinner including Klancy Miller, author of For the Culture: Phenomenal Black Women and Femmes in Food (February 6); Thelma Golden, Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem (February 13); Harlem fashion icon Dapper Dan (February 20); and visual artist and creator of the restaurant’s We Are From the Water installation, Derrick Adams (February 27).
Indulge in a Sweet Tradition
Aliyyah Baylor has set the baking world on fire, growing Make My Cake into a global sensation which draws tens of thousands of worldwide visitors. Her third- generation family-owned business is celebrating 27 years with a thriving shop at the flagship West 139th Street and Upper West Side locations in Manhattan. She is also a generous philanthropist who is committed to improving the lives of New York City’s seniors and children. Ms. Baylor sits on the board of City Meals-on-Wheels and Black Women for Black Girls Giving Circle. She also received a Distinguished Business Woman of the Year Award from The Harlem Arts Council for her dedication to community service across New York City. Make My Cake bases its creations on the recipes of family matriarch Josephine Smith, combining traditions of Mississippi and Alabama with “Harlem soul.” Make My Cake serves pies, cobblers, cakes, cupcakes and cookies with the ability to customize everything. Signature creations include German Chocolate Cake, Red Velvet Cake, and local favorite, the Sweet Potato Cheesecake.
Support Black Entrepreneurs
From hoteliers and restaurant owners to artists and artisan spirit makers, Black entrepreneurs are charting new paths.
Book a stay for an unusual vacation at The Lorca a collection of contemporary mountain retreats in the Catskills and Adirondacks from sisters Corianna and Brianna Dotson.
Hudson Valley’s Seasoned Delicious Foods in Lake Katrine is a line of Caribbean-inflected seasonings to create Caribbean island dishes using gluten free, vegan, and non-GMO food products. Their café utilizes these products as well as ingredients sourced locally.
Founded by Phylicia Dove, Buffalo-based BLACK MONARCHY is a boutique that curates the vividness of globally cultural clothing and jewelry made of raw authentic materials and authentic fabrics. Their pieces, largely African-inspired, have diverse origins that also include India, America, Mexico, Indonesia and Thailand and are designed to be one-of-a-kind.
Harlem Hops is Manhattan’s first 100% African-American owned NYC local craft beer bar. The bar has been nominated for a James Beard Award for Outstanding Bar.