Black History Month: Celebrating creativity and the arts

Arts organizations across the Miami Valley are offering numerous ways to commemorate Black History Month.

Films, art exhibits, dance and storytelling are a sampling of ways to celebrate the Miami Valley’s rich African American history.

Here are some ways to get involved and celebrate this month:

"The Color Purple" is such an iconic American story, it's hard to believe Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was first published in 1982. It was adapted into an Oscar-nominated film in 1985 and a Tony-nominated stage musical in 2005. The Broadway revival won two Tony Awards in 2016.

Victoria Theatre Association's Projects Unlimited Star Attraction Series presents "The Color Purple" at the Schuster Center, Second and Main streets, Dayton, on Friday and Saturday, Feb. 14 and 15. Show times are 8 p.m. Friday and 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Cost: $26 to $99. Call 937-228-3630 or visit

"We Shall Overcome: A Celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr." commemorates the legacy of the late civil rights icon with a night of music. Damien Sneed is producer and musical director for a program featuring music by Duke Ellington, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone and others. Victoria Theatre Association's Projects Unlimited Attraction Series presents "We Shall Overcome" at Victoria Theatre, 138 N. Main St., Dayton, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19. Cost: $22 to $32. Call 937-228-3630 or visit


The Ebonnia Gallery, in collaboration with the Dayton Public Schools and the Victoria Theatre Association, present the Dayton Skyscrapers 2020 Art Exhibit.

The Visual Voices of 13 African American artists have created works of art that identify and celebrate 15 high achieving African Americans from the Dayton and Miami Valley Region who have excelled and given back to our community and nation.

The exhibition will be on display from Feb. 8 to April 5 in the Schuster Performing Arts Center, 138 N. Main St.

A reception for the artists will be held Sunday, Feb. 16 from 2 p.m. – 5 p.m. It is free and open to the public.

The 2020 Dayton Skyscrapers reflect a wide range of professional fields including community activists Mary Lou Tucker, Dr. Thomas Webb, Sylvia Pate, Nozipo Glenn, and Edythe Lewis. Strong workers in the legal field and government, like Attorney Michael L. Wright, Jeffery Mims, Jr., and Julia Green. Excellence in sports always is a part of Dayton’s history, such as international and two-time NBA Champion Norris Cole. The entertainment field is represented by the legendary Dorian Harewood, John Legend and Dave Chappelle. Watching over all is a lady known by all who loved her as “Mother Dunbar”, Matilda Dunbar.

The participating artists include Abner Cope, Shon Curtis, Dwayne Daniel, Clifford Darrett, Gregg DeGroat, Horace Dozier, Sr., Al Harden, Lois Fortson-Kirk, Morris Howard, James Pate, Frances Turner, Yvette Walker-Dalton, and Andrea Walker-Cummings.

National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center 

There are plenty of activities to take part in at the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce.

Behind the Mask: Black Power in Comics

The exhibit “explores the painful and triumphant history of African Americans in comic books.” according to the museum’s website. “The exhibit delves into the history of black comic book characters who, in the past, were rarely featured as heroes.”

Also on display at the museum, African Americans Fighting for a Double Victory, is an exhibit that explores the role of African Americans serving in the military and on the home front during World War II.

View the 2019 Art of SOUL! Juried Art Show at the museum. This year, 45 artists from across the United States and the world will exhibit their work in the following categories: Social Justice; Identity; and Surroundings. The 85 works of art represent themes and perspectives related to the African diaspora and/or African American culture, history or experience.

The third annual Black History Matters Film Series will begin Feb. 8 at 1 p.m. with a special program on elections and voting. The acclaimed 2019 documentary “Rigged: The Voter Suppression Playbook” will start the series.

The film explores these questions: What would happen if political operatives tried to subvert the sacred American

principle of “one person, one vote? What if they hatched and pursued that plan for years before anyone noticed what they were doing?

The documentary is narrated by Jeffrey Wright and shot during the chaotic 2016 election.

“Tell Them We Are Rising: Historically Black Colleges and Universities” will be screened Feb. 15 at 1 p.m. and “Jubilee Singers” will be shown Feb. 22 at 1 p.m.

Film screenings are included with paid museum admission: $6/adult, $5/senior, $3/ages 6–17, Free for Ohio History

Connection & NAAMCC members.

Dayton Metro Library 

The Dayton Metro Library will commemorate Black History Month with a series of history and arts productions geared to all ages.

The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Children’s Theater of Cincinnati and a performance by the Gospel Sounds are among the celebrations taking place in February and extending into March.

All events are free.

Forgotten Heroes of the Flood 

Friday, Feb. 7 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Trotwood branch, 651 E. Main St. 

Friday, Feb. 29 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Vandalia branch, 330 S. Dixie Dr. 

Friday, March 4 from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. at the Northwest branch, 333 W. National Rd. 

In March 1913, Dayton faced a flood that would forever change its landscape and its people. Many may not know that African Americans played a major role in the cleanup and rescue efforts after the flood. Johnnie Freeman, author of "The Forgotten: Hidden Heroes" will share the story of the 500 African Americans from Chicago who came to Dayton as a relief effort and later made it home. This book will also discuss the atmosphere of Dayton in the early 1900s, and how the flood unified Dayton citizens.

Early African Ohioans: Gist Settlers and Randolph Freedman 

Monday, Feb. 24 from 6 pm. – 8 p.m. at the Main Library, 215 E. Third St. 

Before the Great Migration North, before the Emancipation Proclamation, and before the Civil War there were already established populations of African Ohioans. Find out more about these communities from which some local residents descend.

Harriet Tubman: Straight Up Outta’ the Underground 

Saturday, Feb. 29, 2 p.m. – 3 p.m. at Main Library, 215 E. Third St. 

Bring the past to the present and change the future with this one-woman interactive storytelling experience presented by the Children's Theatre of Cincinnati. Uncover the truth about America’s 200-year-old struggle with slavery when you play a part in this historic retelling.

On this journey, you’ll follow Harriet Tubman, the most recognized conductor of the Underground Railroad. Nicknamed “Moses,” Harriet Tubman lived up to her name by gaining her own freedom, as well as traveling back and forth from North to South over 19 times and freeing over 300 slaves.

DCDC’s Women Behind King 

Tuesday, Feb. 4, 7 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. at the Main Library, 215 E. Third St. 

Many historical narratives minimize the contributions of women in the Civil Rights movement. In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.’s inclusiveness, Dayton Contemporary Dance Company interprets the role of women in support of Dr. King’s enduring legacy.

This performance is for audiences of all ages.

Diane Coble and the Gospel Sounds 

Saturday, Feb. 8, 1 p.m. – 2 p.m. at Madden Hills branch, 2542 Germantown St. 

Celebrate Black History Month through music with Diane Coble and the Gospel Sounds.

The Way Home Through Textile Art and Design 

Saturday, Feb. 8, 3 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Southeast branch, 21 Watervliet Ave. 

Tuesday, Feb. 18, 3 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.- 7:30 p.m. at the Northwest branch, 2410 Philadelphia Dr. 

Monday, March 30, 7p.m. – 8 p.m. at the Trotwood branch, 651 E. Main St. 

Yetunde Rodriguez’s Nigerian heritage inspires her joyful fabrics and accessories. Her work celebrates culture through pattern and color.

Dunbar High School Winter Art Show 

February in the Southeast branch Opportunity Space, 21 Watervliet Ave. 

Students showcase their creativity in Drawing & Painting, Art I, and Textiles, Fibers & Fashion, in an exhibit that celebrates the school’s namesake, Paul Laurence Dunbar, during Black History Month.

Atlas of Dayton: A City In Progress 

February in the Main Library, Opportunity Space @Patterson, 215 E. Third St. 

A travelling exhibit about equity, opportunity and resource access throughout Dayton. Digital interactive maps provide transparency and explore issues around income inequality, racial segregation and access to resources. Presented in partnership with MVRPC and sponsored by the University of Dayton, College of Arts & Sciences.

Note: This exhibit will also be on display at the Southeast Branch Library in March, the Vandalia Branch in April, the Wilmington-Stroop Branch in May and the Northwest Branch in June.

For more information about events at the Dayton Metro Library: WebsiteFacebook

The Dayton Metro Library will commemorate Black History Month with a series of history and arts productions geared to all ages.

The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, the Children’s Theater of Cincinnati and a performance by the Gospel Sounds are among the celebrations taking place in February and extending into March.

All events are free.

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