In February, people around the world honor the achievements and influence of African Americans. Diversity has long stood as a cornerstone of America’s allure, and this month we celebrate a resilient and dynamic culture that has made numerous contributions to our nation’s history. Detroit’s black legacy endures with an estimated 713,777 African American residents, which accounts for approximately 85% of the city’s population making it the largest and most culturally influential black city in the Nation with Jackson, Mississippi following second. It’s time to celebrate this special month our top picks happening throughout the Metro Detroit area from contributing editor Hailey Dukes.
DIA Detroit Film Theater (through February)
Located in the heart of Detroit’s Cultural Center, the Detroit Institute of Arts is the perfect place to immerse oneself in the African American Experience. This month, the Detroit Institute of Arts is celebrating with a series of film screenings titled, “Pioneers of African American Cinema”. Throughout the entire month films featuring African Americans will screen, highlighting a variety of engaging narratives while simultaneously showcasing some of America’s African American film innovators, actors, storytellers, directors and writers.
The DIA describes the series as a “festival of newly restored, rare African American independent feature films and shorts made between 1915 and 1940…” Admission for the screenings is free of charge, creating an accessible and exciting way to observe the achievements of African Americans, the racial climate of the times, African American impact on history, and ultimately some amazing films. Screenings will take place on the third, fourth, fifth and eighteenth of this month so view the full film schedule to choose your cinematic adventure.
AFROFUTURIST CINEMA SERIES (Extends through April) Saturday, January 2017– April 15, 2017 9:30PM
The DFT has invited AFROTOPIA founder Ingrid LaFleur to guest curate a series of films exploring the art of Afrofuturism. African Diaspora writers, musicians and visual artists began exploring black futures through the lens of techno-culture and science fiction in the 1990s, and in recent decades filmmakers have contributed important works to this aesthetic movement. LaFleur will introduce screenings and moderate conversations afterwards with the audience, film artists and community-based guest speakers.
J Dilla Youth Day (Sunday February 8 1PM-8PM)
Naturally the Charles H Wright Museum of African American History is a great place to celebrate Black History Month. It is also obvious that we’ve got a ton of J Dilla fans in the D, who hold sublime adoration for James Dewitt Yancey’s prolific catalog as well as his influence on generations of music makers around the globe. Detroit’s annual Dilla Youth Day is an event that many young artists look forward to all year. Presented by the Foundation of Women in Hip Hop, this immersive event “provides a fun & compelling , hands-on opportunity for young people to become makers & learn practical skills that can be applied to their own creative process…” as the event page explains. Event organizers, sponsors and volunteers hope that engagement with music technology can play a critical role in exposing local youth to explore the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math.”
A multidisciplinary lineup of community leaders will be doing their part to help facilitate J Dilla Youth Day. Well-known personalities like Nick Speed, Nolan the Ninja, DJ Lynda Carter, Joey Aasim, DJ Head and many more will facilitate instructional workshops, giving kids first-hand experience with technology and artistry. Groups such as the Urban Stringz Youth Orchestra, Motor City Rockerz, Hardcore Detroit B- Boy Crew and The Raiz Up Youth will also make their mark on the event, giving performances that will show the community the power of its local youth.
The day encompasses so many activities and includes something for everyone providing lessons on Ableton, stencil- making, robotics, printmaking, Scratch 101, product design, Detroit history, 3D printing, B-Boying, Emcee-ing and writing workshops are available. Attendees can also enjoy film screenings, an art exhibition, information booths and a special guest presentation by Detroit-based and world renowned musician AMP Fiddler. A plethora of local and national community organizations have works tirelessly to make this event something that Metro Detroit area youth can get excited about. J Dilla Youth day takes place on February 12, 2017 so mobilize Metro Detroit’s youth for the upcoming day to remember.
KaCeyKal! Wallflower Exhibit (Opening Reception) at Detroit is the New Black (Thursday February 9, 7-9PM)
Detroit is The New Black has secured itself as a staple retailer in downtown Detroit with its elegant and buzzing flagship sitting pretty on Woodward Avenue. Aside from supplying us with some of the freshest threads in the city, DITNB uses its powerful community presence as a platform to introduce a diverse collection of artists, entrepreneurs and designers to its monstrous following. From the art on the walls to the Lip Bar Lipsticks to the profound and cerebral words spoken from a poetry night’s participant, Detroit is the New Black goes the extra mile to promote diversity, discuss society, stimulate entrepreneurship and add to contemporary culture.
On Thursday, February 9, Detroit is The New Black will host an opening reception and first solo exhibition for Detroit/NYC artist KaCeyKal. With a distinguishable style and vibrant perspective, KaCeKal uses a wealth of art knowledge and a mastery of digital design to craft brilliant and colorful works inspired by floral imagery as well as some of art’s greats. KaCeyKal shares that “Detroit is my home. I want to be what Andy Warhol, Basquiat and Keith Haring were to New York. My goal is to be one of the leaders of the New Art Renaissance of Detroit. I can feel the new wave of fine and contemporary artists rising here and I want to be a part of that history.”
KaCeyKal’s art features a variety of popular and contemporary black icons like Donald Glover, Dej Loaf, Willow Smith, Grace Jones and A$AP Rocky, while exuding KaCeyKal’s signature and imaginative point of view delivered via shape and color. KaCeyKal’s work celebrates blackness and diversity with panache and spirit. “The inspiration behind the figures (Naked Gals), that I create is based on the female paper cut outs by Henri Matisse. If you notice, they are thicker than what are considered the average woman. My piece, Bad Ass Black Gals (2016), was created as an empowerment for solidarity and strength of the black woman.”
“As a black male, I absolutely love, love, love black women and the culture of black people in general. I believe that we should continue to positively encourage each other to be greater as a people because it’s so great to see us win.” Absorbing contemporary art is a fantastic way to celebrate history and culture while simultaneously gaining understanding of the artist’s viewpoint. The Wallflower exhibition is on view from February 9th through the 23th.
Performance: “Into the Darkness” by Ingrid LaFleur (Wednesday February 15 6-7PM)
Crankbrook Art Museum is hosting a celebratory event that will employ eventgoers’ spiritual side. The museum will host an ethereal performance and meditation led by one of Detroit’s cultural and spiritual community leaders. Founder of Detroit’s AFROTOPIA project, Ingrid Le Fleur has worked to blend elements of black history, science fiction, social change and cosmic energy into a multidimensional project aimed at promoting mental and social change in the city of Detroit.
The project incorporates art, philosophy, film, politics, music, theology, education, spirituality, history and Black experiences in an effort to bring eventgoers and participants to a place of personal and social ascension. The project’s creator Ingrid La Fleur has steered development of the AFROTOPIA film screenings, youth classes, DJ – In Residence program, performance art festival and Afrofuturism Archive that AFROTOPIA offers.
La Fleur has partnered with Cranbrook Academy of Art student group MOVE (Made of Various Ethnicities) for this sublime and transcendent occasion. As the event page explains, “It is within the cosmic ocean we will be able to strengthen the mind, expand consciousness and let the spirit exhale in order to be able to effectively and with purpose work within the human plane.” Come tap into your mental and spiritual self by exploring blackness with historian, performance artist, curator and meditative leader Ingrid La Fleur.
Kumbuka II Reading (Thursday February 23, 7-9PM)
The oral history and tradition is a hallmark in African culture. For centuries native Africans have shared stories, songs, historical events and folklore through word of mouth. Upon adapting to European traditions in America, Africans adapted to methods of reading and written documentation although many were denied these literary privileges for hundreds of years during slavery. Since these times, African Americans have made amazing contributions to literature, becoming some of the world’s renowned poets, storytellers, writers and orators, showing resiliency and intelligence in the face of discrimination via literacy.
Fast forward to contemporary Detroit. Last year, activist and musician Kaylan Waterman put on the “Kumbuka” event, commemorating these cherished contributions. As the event explains, “’Kumbuka’ is an event designed to honor African Americans in history by the audible reading or their spoken and written words. So many of the sacrifices they endured were for the sake of the progress in which we now live. And, though that progress continues to be threatened, our beautiful people and complex history deserve, more than ever, to be remembered with honor.” Community members of all ages and races are encouraged to come listen and mingle to celebrate Black History Month together. The roster of brave and talented readers is soon to be released so stay tuned for an update on the Kumbuka II event page.
AA History Family Day at Detroit Historical Museum (Saturday February 25, 10AM-PM)
Midtown’s Detroit Historical Museum has put together a day for the whole family to enjoy. Saturday February 25, this free family event will celebrate black history with performance art, storytelling, dancing and more. The event runs from 10:00AM until 3:00PM and is running in congruence with a string of Black History Month programming at the Detroit Historical Museum.
If you have little ones, do not miss this family day at the Detroit Historical Museum and keep your eyes on the museum event schedule for more educational opportunities and events in Black History Month.
• 10 a.m. Madelyn Porter will invite everyone to participate in a Story Living presentation about the Underground Railroad.
• 12 p.m. Renowned storyteller Ivory D. Williams (pictured) will entertain with unforgettable tales.
• 1 p.m. The youth of the Alnur African Drum and Dance group will celebrate with traditional dance, poetry, song and rhythm.
Moonlight Film Screening (Tuesday March 7, 7-10PM)
Although this event takes place in March, it undoubtedly made the list as it has been commonly referred to as one of the best films of 2016. Directed by Barry Jenkins, Moonlight trails character Chiron through his formative years as he navigates life, race, and society. family and identity in the unforgiving streets of Miami, Florida. Last year’s captivating drama Moonlight drew in eight Oscar Nominations for the 2017 award ceremony taking place this month. The film will be screening in Ann Arbor at Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library courtesy of the University of Michigan Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) who has curated a string of screenings promoting Black History Month. Don’t miss your chance to view one of 2016’s greatest films while taking a deeper look at black identity and overcoming adversity.
–Words by Hailey Dukes. New kid on the block and sponge for all things Detroit. Student to this earth and the people, places, and things on it. Walking an unceasing journey to observe, feel, analyze, understand. Inspire me! Follow Hailey on IG @wolf___hailey // Twitter @heyygirllhai