From the pioneer days of the early 1800s to San Diego’s identity in the 21st century as a thriving, world-class city, the region’s Black community has played a significant and continuously vibrant role in shaping the region’s culture, local businesses, and much more.
As Black History Month is celebrated in February, a review of local events, exhibits, and educational institutions commemorating the rich heritage and critical contributions of San Diego’s Black community is underway. With a plethora of happenings available, it represents an opportune moment for individuals to visit and immerse themselves in San Diego’s fascinating Black history, along with everything else the city, known as America’s Brightest City, has to offer.
Black History Month Events
When: Through Feb. 18, 2024
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill recounts Billie Holiday’s life story through the songs that made her famous. 1959, in a small, intimate bar in Philadelphia, Holiday puts on a show that unbeknownst to the audience, will leave them witnesses to one of the last performances of her lifetime. Through her poignant voice and moving songs, one of the greatest jazz singers of all-time shares her loves and her losses.
When: Feb. 3-4, 2024
Black Artists in the comic book industry have been around for decades. They have contributed to the creations of some of the most famous characters in the world such as Black Panther, Spider-man, Batman, and Blade. Black Comix Day has a special focus on Black Owned Creations such as Power Knights, Is’Nana The Were-Spider, Menthu, Agent Wild and More! This event is designed to inspire the entrepreneurial spirit in communities of color to forge their own futures.
When: Feb. 16, 2024
Join the WorldBeat Cultural Center to watch Global Assignment: The Life and Times of Dr. Runoko Rashidi documented the life of an intrepid chronicler of African people around the world. Dr. Rashidi traveled to 126 countries in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe. He visited more than 85 museums documenting African cultural contributions before during and after enslavement.
When: Feb. 18, 2024
Experience the first-ever Daygo Eatz, a free community celebration organized by The Mental Bar, Black San Diego, and Pillars of the Community with nine blocks of exciting local businesses, art, performances and engaging conversations covering one mile of Encanto’s neighborhood.
When: Feb. 18, 2024
Celebrate Black History Month at The Mr. Black Culture Art and Talent San Diego Contest 2024 with an black art silent auction, black love fashion show, dinner by Herm & Herm and music by DJ Gil and The Groove Squad.
When: Feb. 24, 2024
The San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art will honor its 2024 Keepers of the Culture recipients. We are pleased to collaborate with the San Diego History Center as we honor true cultural icons.
When: Feb. 25, 2024
A Youth-Led Black History Month event in North San Diego County will be held to highlight Black inventors and trailblazers in STEM, Robotics, and Art. They will have a student art gallery, student performers, a student-led Black History STEM program, STEM activity booths, a Fun Zone with Jump Houses, face paintings, balloon activities, student vendors, and a puppet show.
When: Thru February
As it does each February, the San Diego Public Library is offering an extensive slate of Black History Month programming, both at the Central Library in Downtown San Diego and at branch libraries across the city. Among the highlights are the Black History Celebration and Author Talk at the Logan Heights Library on Feb. 17, 2024, and the Fearing the Black Body Author Talk with Sabrina Strings at the Central Library on Feb. 25, 2024.
Black History Month Exhibits
San Diego History Center
The San Diego History Center, located in Balboa Park — San Diego’s cultural heart — has two exhibitions exploring Black history here, with both virtual and in-person components. “Nathan Harrison: Born Enslaved, Died a San Diego Legend” documents the amazing story of a freed slave and homesteader who staked out a life in a small cabin on rural Palomar Mountain from the 1850s to 1920, persevering in the face of major obstacles.
And “Celebrate San Diego: Black History and Heritage” offers a detailed timeline of the Black experience here, as well as spotlighting heroes of the local Black community. It also invites nominations for more heroes and pivotal events to be added.
Kehinde Wiley is one of the most celebrated artists working today. The Timken is proud to share his dazzling painting Equestrian Portrait of Prince Tommaso of Savoy-Carignan(2015) for the first time with the public in San Diego. Wiley employs “street-casting” to identify youthful, contemporary models for his large-scale works, posing them in the manner of famous “Grand Manner” European portraits. In the case of Wiley’s recent image from his Rumours of War series, both horse and model replicate Anthony van Dyck’s Baroque portrait of Prince Tommaso Francesco of Savoy-Carignan (1634), which is today at the Galleria Saubada, Turin. While on loan to the Timken from a prominent New York collection, the painting will hang in the Dutch-Flemish Gallery, next to Anothny van Dyck’s portrait of Mary Villers, Lady Herbert of Shurland which was painted about the same time as the work that served as Wiley’s model.
Black History Month at SD Universities
Following this year’s national Black History Month theme, “African Americans and the Arts,” the Sally T. WongAvery Library Breezeway features a display of materials from our circulating collection representative of the scholarship and activities from their extensive UC San Diego family. Heavily-circulated books and postings of brief campus biographies are the bulk of the exhibit, but special objects are also on view, such as Jimmy Cheatham’s trombone (Cheatham was the founder of the university’s jazz program).
Each year, the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) provides a theme for Black History Month. The annual themes are not designed to restrict or proscribe one’s exploration of the Black experience, rather to focus our attention on important developments in the Black community.
The 2024 theme focuses on the importance of African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression the African American influence has been paramount. African American artists have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment. Artistic and cultural movements such as the New Negro, Black Arts, Black Reniassance, hip-hop, and Afrofuturism, have been led by people of African descent and set the standard for popular trends around the world. In 2024, we examine the varied history and life of African American arts and artisans.
The University of San Diego will be celebrating Black History Month throughout the month of February with events that delve into issues and celebrate and recognize greatness, excellence and legacies within the Black community.