Each year, Black History Month shines a light on the generations of Black people who have persevered throughout history, trailblazers and pioneers who made contributions to our city and nation with resilience and strength, often in the face of incredible hardship and bigotry.
This month and throughout the year, we encourage you to visit San Diego museums (in-person and virtually) to listen and learn about Black history, culture and art. In this issue, we highlight current and upcoming exhibitions and share the voices of Black leaders within San Diego’s arts and culture community.
It’s also Museum Month, so enjoy 50% off tickets at more than 45 San Diego museums. Just pick up your free pass at a local Macy’s or at 80+ public libraries throughout San Diego County.
San Diego History Center
Step inside Balboa Park’s San Diego History Center and learn the story of legendary African American San Diego homesteader Nathan Harrison, a freed slave originally from Kentucky who lived in a small cabin on Palomar Mountain from the 1850s to 1920. Harrison survived the horrors of slavery in the Antebellum South, endured the mania of the California Gold Rush, and prospered in the rugged chaos of the Wild West. You may also experience his life through the interactive virtual exhibition.
While you’re online, check out the Center’s detailed historical timeline shown here which highlights Black history on a national and regional level, all set alongside the life of Nathan Harrison. You can even offer a suggestion to add to the timeline.
The Center also celebrates local Black heroes and is welcoming nominations to add to the distinguished list which currently includes (from top, left to right): Dr. Suzanne Afflalo, Sylura Barron, Dr. Harold K. Brown, Judge Earl Gilliam, Dr. Rodney Hood, Verna King, Cecil Lytle, Dr. Annjennette McFarlin, Charles McPherson, Pamela Gray Payton, Dr. Bertha Pendleton, Bishop George Dallas McKinney, Lady Shaunte’, Lynne Ray Smith, John Henry (Dick) Turpin, Dr. John Warren and Leon Williams. Click on their names and be inspired by their stories!
Visions Art Museum
See a wide array of beautiful fabrics and quilting techniques featuring Black artists and icons at Visions Art Museum, located in the Arts District Liberty Station. Of special note is the current “Celebrating Black History Month” exhibition featuring the San Diego People of Color Quilt Guild and A Better World: Heroes Working for the Greater Good, both featuring themes about Black history, culture and music.
Shown below from A Better World: Through Her Voice (Portrait of Nina Simone) by Maggie Dillon, Harriet Tubman by Leni Levenson Wiener, Sojourner Truth and Charles White by Denny Webster, and Aretha Franklin by Lola Jones.
Women’s Museum of California
“This exhibit is a celebration and a validation of the Beautiful, Brilliant, Brave, Black Woman,” states curator Starla Lewis about this virtual exhibition from the Women’s Museum of California. “Embrace this opportunity to transcend myths, lies and stereotypes and learn about the authenticity of Black Women.”
You may view the virtual exhibition here featuring the images, stories and experiences of Black women from all walks of life.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
You may have heard about the Tuskegee Airmen, whose bravery during WWII lead the way to the desegregation of the armed forces in 1948. But do you also know the inspiring stories of Bessie Coleman, the first Black woman to earn a pilot’s license; Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, the first Black Thunderbird pilot and commander of three air wings; or West Point graduate Benjamin Davis, a member of the first Black pilots training class and commander of two all-Black flying units in WWII?
Learn more about these aviation heroes now on exhibit at the San Diego Air & Space Museum‘s prestigious International Air & Space Hall of Fame. Make sure to catch the P-51 Mustang Red Tail and corresponding Tuskegee Airmen exhibit which are the best and most extensive on the West Coast.
Bonita Museum and Cultural Center
Now through March 18, see the National Sculpture Society (NSS) California exhibition at Bonita Museum & Cultural Center. The exhibition features 38 artworks by master sculptors from San Diego and throughout California. Works include a portrait of the first female and Black U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris by San Marcos artist Marsha Brook.
Shown below, Manuelita Brown displays her bronze pieces “America’s Son” and “It’s Hard Work.” The “America’s Son” piece is based off her son, Vincent Brown, who was leaving for graduate school and is now a professor at Harvard. “It’s Hard Work,” which depicts a man with beads of sweat, was created to show respect for manual labor.
Please enjoy complimentary access to The History of Joy: Social Justice by Vanguard Culture. This is the first segment of a 4-part film series inspired by the Eight Pillars of Joy outlined in The Book of Joy by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Watch it here.
Upcoming Exhibitions and Events
San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art
Save the date for Friday, June 17 as one of the most anticipated exhibitions of the year, Freedom Riders, is presented by the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. The installation tells the story of civil rights activists who were attacked and arrested in 1961 while riding buses into the segregated South. Set to open at the Quartyard in San Diego’s East Village, the exhibit will feature music from Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical by San Diego creative team of Richard Allen and Taran Gray.
Mingei International Museum
Get your tickets here for the first-ever San Diego performance by SK Kakraba, who is possibly “the world’s greatest xylophone player” (La Weekly). The event is presented by the Center for World Music at the Mingei International Museum‘s La Atalaya Foundation Theater on Friday, Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m.
New Americans Museum
New Americans Museum combats intolerance and racism by educating, celebrating and honoring America’s diversity and immigrant contributions. Watch for their new exhibition AfroMexicans opening soon at their Arts District Liberty Station location.
See Black Panther this Saturday, Feb. 19 at 2 p.m. at the Comic-Con Museum (free with admission). Marvel’s first movie with a Black director and predominantly Black cast, the 2018 film broke numerous box office records, becoming the highest-grossing film directed by a Black filmmaker and the 13th highest-grossing film of all time.