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Black History Month Family Events in Southeast Michigan

Activities where parents and kids can learn about African-American art, history and culture in Macomb, Oakland, Washtenaw and Wayne counties

Dynamic stage shows, moving museum exhibits, fun library programs and celebrations of music, art and even animals native to Africa's savannah: Our region is teeming with ways families can celebrate Black History Month in 2014. These events are perfect gateways to introduce your children to the historic and cultural touchstones of the African-American experience. Discover what's happening in the metro Detroit and Ann Arbor areas.

Point of View: African American Masters Exhibit at the Wright

Jan. 20-April 20, 2014

  • Address: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-494-5800
  • Schedule: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Mondays (Jan. 20, Feb. 3, 10, 17 and 24 only), 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesdays-Saturdays, 1-5 p.m. Sundays
  • Cost: Free with museum admission: $8/ages 13-61, $5/ages 3-12, free/under age 3

An impressive collection of African-American and African-Diaspora art, all collected by Elliot and Kimberly Perry, are on display in this special exhibit. Check out the work of art masters including Henry Ossawa Tanner, Eldzier Cortor, Elizabeth Catlett, James Van Der Zee and much more.

Black History Month Art Celebration at The Art Experience

Jan. 28-Feb. 6, 2014 (must register in advance)

  • Address: The Art Experience, 175 S. Sagniaw St., Suite 109, Pontiac
  • Phone: 248-706-3304
  • Times: 6:30-8 p.m.
  • Cost: $15/session, $50/four sessions

Geared at kids ages 7-11, this art series focuses on famed artists Bearden Basquiat, Lois Mailou Jones and Betye Saar. Kids used found-object assemblage, collage and graphic design to explore these pivotal African-American artists' impact. Be sure you call or email (address in link above) ahead of time; these classes are by registration only and might fill up!

African-American History Day at Detroit Historical Museum

Feb. 1, 2014

  • Address: Detroit Historical Museum, 5401 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-833-1262
  • Times: 11 a.m.-4 p.m.
  • Cost: Free

Kick-start February with free family fun! This annual event features lots for kids, including storyteller Ivory D. Williams (noon), a caricature artist and other activities. You'll also get to chat with reps from a variety of black history-related local groups, including the famed WWII Tuskegee Airmen pilots. Plus, there are plenty of commemorative artisanal gifts and also refreshments for sale. Be sure to also visit the permanent Doorway to Freedom: Detroit and the Underground Railroad exhibit, which chronicles Detroit's key role in this part of history.

Saturday Black History Month Children's Fun at the Wright

Feb. 1-22, 2014 (Saturdays)

  • Address: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-494-5800
  • Schedule: noon-2 p.m. Saturdays (Feb. 1, 8, 15 and 22); also 2-3:30 p.m. Feb. 8 and 15
  • Cost: Free with museum admission: $8/ages 13-61, $5/ages 3-12, free/under 3

The Wright hosts workshops, performances and interactive fun every Saturday afternoon throughout February. Following the fun, two Saturdays (Feb. 8 and 15) also have "Meet the Scientist Saturday" featuring David Head and Dr. Terrance Dillard, who lead kids in discovering and exploring science with activities centered on the permanent exhibit Inspiring Minds: African Americans in Science and Technology.

Oh Ananse! at PuppetART Detroit Puppet Theater

Feb. 1-22, 2014 (select dates)

  • Address: Detroit Puppet Theater, 25 E. Grand River Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-961-7777
  • Times: 2 p.m. Saturdays (Feb. 1, 8, 15 and 22); 10 a.m. Thursday Feb. 20; 2 p.m. Sunday Feb. 23
  • Cost: $10/adults, $5/kids; $8/puppet-making after show

A West-African folktale comes to life in this annual favorite show, focused on a spider character that must earn his right to tell "all the stories in the world." This original Detroit spin mixes up rap music and real-life actors in hip-hop attire with the puppets, making for a unique presentation. Stick around after and make a puppet yourself!

Celebrate Black History! at Henry Ford Museum

Feb. 1-23, 2014 (select dates)

  • Address: Henry Ford Museum, 20900 Oakwood Blvd., Dearborn
  • Phone: 313-982-6001
  • Times: Event times vary; Feb. 1-2, 5-9, 12-23 and 26-28
  • Cost: Free with admission: $17/ages 13-61, $12.50/ages 5-12

"Journey and Legacy" is the theme of this year's popular program at Ford's museum, centered on history, music and drama. At select times, find gospel and choir performances, along with theatrical presentations. Each Saturday and Sunday has a special theme: Pre-Emancipation (Feb. 1-2), Northern Migration (Feb. 8-9), Civil Rights Movement (Feb. 15-16) and Contemporary Times (Feb. 22-23).

Black History Month at the Detroit Institute of Arts

Feb. 1-28, 2014

  • Address: Detroit Institute of Arts, 5200 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-833-7900
  • Times: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday (closed Monday-Tuesday)
  • Cost: Free/tri-county residents; otherwise, $8/adults, $4/kids

The DIA's renowned African art collection is yours to explore during all open hours. But take advantage of family-friendly events this month, too, like making a banner out of Adinkra-style cloth (6-9 p.m. Fridays), creating Inuit snow snakes (noon-4 p.m. Saturdays) or just enjoying "doodle art" time (noon-4 p.m. Sundays). Also, kids ages 4-8 can enjoy the stories, songs and rhythm of African/African-American oral traditions on Feb. 16 – or try an all-ages African folktale presentation Feb. 23 (both are on Sundays at 2 p.m.).

 

Black Boy Stage Show at Macomb Center for the Performing Arts

Feb. 4-5, 2014

Address: Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township
Time: 10 a.m.
Phone: 586-286-2222
Cost: $10/adults and seniors, $5/students

Great for teen audiences, this one-man show is adapted from Richard Wright's classic American autobiography of the same name. It focuses on Wright's "claim to his basic human rights in a racist society." The show is about an hour long and includes a pre-and post-show interactive discussion.

Wild Winter African Adventure at Detroit Zoo

Feb. 8-9, 2014

  • Address: Detroit Zoo, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak
  • Phone: 248-541-5717
  • Times: 11 a.m.-3 p.m.
  • Cost: Free with admission: $14/ages 15-plus, $9/ages 2-14

The second of the zoo's annual Wild Winter Weekends series focuses on African culture and, of course, critters! Visit with the kids to try out an African drum lesson and hear stories about African animals. There's also entertainment, crafts, games and more fun in store for families. Note: The final Wild Winter Weekends event is March 8-9.

Free Family Second Sunday at the Wright

Feb. 9, 2014

  • Address: Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, 315 E. Warren Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-494-5800
  • Times: 1-5 p.m.
  • Cost: Free

Thanks to Charter One, admission is waived for Detroit's epicenter for African-American culture year round. The theme this time is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation. Be sure to catch the related Voices of Civil War film series at 2, 3 and 4 p.m. Roam around the various fun and powerful exhibits, too.

The Gratitude Steel Band at Ann Arbor District Library

Feb. 10, 2014

  • Address: Ann Arbor District Library, downtown branch, 343 S. Fifth Ave., Ann Arbor
  • Phone: 734-327-4200
  • Time: 7-8 p.m.
  • Cost: Free

This all-ages concert features tribute to African, jazz, classical, calypso, reggae and 80s music to capture the "joyful contributions from the African-American experiences." The band, in its 25th year, promises an energetic and engaging show for parents and kids.

Black History Month Movie Features at Farmington Community Library

Feb. 10 and 17, 2014

  • Address: Farmington Community Library, 32737 W. 12 Mile Road, Farmington Hills
  • Phone: 248-848-4315
  • Time: 6:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Free

Two separate Monday movie nights feature films that focus on a powerful African-American stories. On Feb. 10, see PG-rated The Long Walk Home, which captures the Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott. Then, on Feb. 17, it's The True Story of an American Legend, rated PG-13 (ages 10-plus welcome), which focuses on the biopic of Jackie Robinson.

Under the African Sky by Wild Swan Theater

Feb. 12, 2014

  • Address: Towsley Auditorium, Morris Lawrence Building, Washtenaw Community College, 4800 E. Huron River Drive, Ann Arbor
  • Time: 1 p.m.
  • Phone: 734-995-0530
  • Cost: $15/adults, $10/ages 12 and under

Hurry – this is the only 2014 show date that isn't sold out! This popular annual show for kids features a collection of African tales performed through storytelling, acting, dancing and drumming. Offers plenty of audience interaction and participation. Suitable for kids ages 4 through third grade.

Dance Theatre of Harlem at Detroit Opera House

Feb. 14-16, 2014

  • Address: Detroit Opera House, 1526 Broadway St., Detroit
  • Times: 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
  • Phone: 313-237-3426
  • Cost: $25-$65

Arriving in time for Valentine's Day, this program by African-American ballet company from New York arrives in Detroit for three dates. Numbers include "Pas de Dix," "When Love," "Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven" and, after intermission, "Return" – set to the tunes of Aretha Franklin and James Brown.

Ain't Misbehavin' Musical by Stagecrafters

Feb. 14-March 2, 2014 (select dates)

  • Address: Baldwin Theatre, 415 S. Lafayette Ave., Royal Oak
  • Times: 8 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
  • Phone: 248-541-6430
  • Costs: $20-$22/advance, add $2 at door

This stage show is a musical tribute to talented black musicians of the '40s – specifically, the legendary Harlem composer/entertainer Fats Waller. This jazz-age toe-tapper is set to transform the popular local theater into a "1940s Detroit nightclub."

Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Macomb Center

Feb. 21, 2014

  • Address: Macomb Center for the Performing Arts, 44575 Garfield Road, Clinton Township
  • Time: 7:30 p.m.
  • Phone: 586-286-2222
  • Cost: $33-$38/adults, $20/students, $15/children ages 12 and under, $48/pit seating

Catch the dynamic show by this three-time Grammy Award-winning group, featuring South African dance and a capella harmony. They've won acclaim for teaming up with well-known artists – including Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton and many more – for a variety of albums (and they have their own, too!). Guaranteed to get you tapping along.

African Drumming and Storytelling at Inkster's Public Library

Feb. 22 and 26, 2014

  • Address: Leanna Hicks Public Library, 2005 Inkster Road, Inkster
  • Phone: 313-563-2822
  • Times: 1:30-3:30 p.m. Feb. 22, 6-7 p.m. Feb. 26
  • Cost: Free

Visit this library for a few cultural experiences. First, on Wednesday (Feb. 22), check out the African drumming of Jeffrey Nzoma and enjoy refreshments. Then, come back that Saturday (Feb. 22) and hear African folktales told by professional storyteller Gwen Lewis in a family show.

Sphinx Competition at Orchestra Hall in Detroit

Feb. 23, 2014

  • Address: Orchestra Hall, 3711 Woodward Ave., Detroit
  • Phone: 313-877-9100
  • Time: 2 p.m.
  • Cost: $10-$25

This 17th annual finals concert displays the talents of some very gifted young black and Latino class string players. Experience some music sure to lift your spirit.

Miz Rosie Storytelling at Romulus Public Library

Feb. 24, 2014 (must register in advance)

  • Address: Romulus Public Library, 1121 Wayne Road, Romulus
  • Phone: 734-942-7589
  • Time: 6:30 p.m.
  • Cost: Free

Storyteller Miz Rosie will be at this local library with African musical instruments, which she'll use to teach attendees about fantastic African and African-American folktales. It's open to kids and families ages 4 and older. Bear in mind that space is limited, though, so definitely call in advance to reserve your spot!

 

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