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Black History Month in Grand Rapids

Each February, Grand Rapids celebrates Black History Month with a series of special activities and events exploring the local African American experience. It’s a great opportunity to learn more about the ways African Americans have helped shape the past and present of Grand Rapids – and how African American culture is helping move the city forward in exciting new ways.

History Comes Alive

Visit the Grand Rapids African American Museum & Archives to explore material honoring the lives, history, culture and art of local African Americans. February programs include the West Michigan Minstrel Show, which examines the “art” of using theatrical makeup to caricaturize and mock black people.

Stroll downtown to see bronze sculptures commemorating former Grand Rapids Mayor Lyman Parks, civil rights icon Rosa Parks and Helen Claytor, the first African American president of both the Grand Rapids YWCA and national YWCA.

Embark on a free, self-guided tour of significant local sites – download informational podcasts to accompany you on the Black History Tour of Downtown and the Grand Rapids Civil Rights Tour.

Take the Honoring Diversity 5K Running or Walking Tour of downtown Grand Rapids – you’ll learn about the city’s cultural influences while you burn calories.


Learn, Take Action, Celebrate

Check out the lineup of Black History Month presentations at Grand Valley State University:

  • Taste of Soul, Feb. 1
  • Grand Rapids Riots, Feb. 6
  • Film & Discussion: School Daze, Feb. 8
  • Talk Back Tuesday, Feb. 12
  • Positive Black Women Valentines Celebration, Feb. 14
  • Film & Discussion: Lean on Me, Feb. 15
  • Celebration of Gospel, Feb. 17
  • Get Yo Mind Right, Feb. 19
  • Conversations of Color, Feb. 20
  • Black Islam in the United States, Feb. 21
  • Building Your Brand, Feb. 22
  • Film & Discussion: Moonlight, Feb. 22
  • Black Girls Rock!, Feb. 26

Attend the 12th Annual Grand Rapids Legacy Luncheon, featuring author and media personality Shannon Lanier, and president of the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Vera Bumpers. Feb. 5.

Visit Grand Rapids Public Library for information and entertainment:

  • The Library’s Black Family History Series Workshop (Feb. 9 & 23) teaches you how to investigate and document your family history.
  • The Hustle/Step Soul Line Dance Party (Feb. 12) leads you through both simple and complicated hustle soul line dances.
  • Riot, Race and Reconciliation (Feb. 14) explores the origins and results of the uprising of African Americans during the summer of 1967.
  • Taste of Soul Sunday (Feb. 17) invites you to sample African American art, music, literature, history and food.

Observe National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day at Creston Brewery, where the Grand Rapids Red Project is hosting a dinner, film and open discussion about HIV’s impact on the black community. Feb. 7.

See CNN political analyst, lawyer and activist Bakari Sellers speak as part of the Diversity Lecture Series at Grand Rapids Community College. Feb. 13.

Let the Music Move You

JRob brings his lyrical emcee wizardry to the Grand Rapids Public Library Music in the Stacks Series. Feb. 7.

Grand Rapids Symphony teams with hip-hop sensation Black Violin for the 18th Annual Symphony with Soul. Feb. 16.

Billy’s Lounge hosts blues- and soul-infused Serita’s Black Rose on Feb. 15 and the Bob Marley Birthday Bash 2019 on Feb. 22.

The Live African American Museum brings the narratives of African American legends to life through drama, dance and music. At Woodland Mall Feb. 23.

See Yourself in Art

Visit the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts to view Warm Water: New Works by Charles Edwards – a collection of re-narrated visual works based on the event that sparked the Chicago Race Riot of 1919.

See how random acts of racism rock a fictional campus community in the Calvin College Theatre Company production of Spinning into Butter. Jan. 30 - Feb. 2.

See “Sorry To Bother You,” a satirical and psychedelic skewering of race, capitalism, media and modern-day society, on the big screen at Wealthy Theatre. Feb. 5.

Capture your unique hair story by having a free professional photo taken during “I Rock My Own: Natural Hair Portraits” at DeVos Place. Feb. 24.

Take part in Black History Night – The Drunken Retort at Stella’s Lounge. There will be 14 open mic slots for poets, musicians, singers and comedians celebrating blackness. Feb. 25.

Fantastic Food

Try the made-from-scratch soul food at Forty Acres Soul Kitchen and The Candied Yam.

Enjoy traditional African dishes at Little Africa Ethiopian Cuisine and GoJo Ethiopian Cuisine.

Get a taste of the Caribbean at The Chez Olga, Jamaican Dave’s and IRIE Kitchen.

Check Out These Black-Owned Restaurants in Grand Rapids

Celebrating history means celebrating the people, traditions, cultures, and of course, food! We are commemorating Black History Month by featuring Grand Rapids’ black food culture and by shining a…

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Explore our complete list of Black History Month Events

    Please note that while every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the events listed, we recommend contacting the event and/or location directly to confirm the details. Special events may require tickets that need to be purchased in advance. Please direct questions to event organizers.
    Did we miss an event? Please submit it to our Calendar of Events to be included!