Museums and cultural institutions play a vital role in Black History Month by connecting individuals and communities with educational, informative and celebratory programs. With most physical venues in California currently closed due to the pandemic, Black History Month exhibits for 2021 have gone virtual. Here are 10 remarkable virtual exhibits, tours, discussions and other presentations to explore this month, all accessible from the comfort and safety of your own home.
The Women’s Museum of California
The San Diego-based Women’s Museum of California is honoring Black History Month and Women’s History Month through February and March with its Beautiful, Brilliant, Brave, Black Woman virtual exhibit. Curated by Starla Lewis, it’s a celebration of the authenticity of Black Women through the words and stories of more than 20 inspiring individuals.
Another Black History Month event organized by the Women’s Museum is Lorde, Help Us, on February 24th at 6 p.m. The free interactive presentation via Zoom seeks to help you understand the teachings of poet Audre Lorde through a lens of self-care, self-love and self-determination.
Oakland Museum of California
The Oakland Museum of California offers an online tour of its ongoing Black Power exhibition. The new installation focuses on the example of the Black Panther Party in a wider exploration of the Black Power movements in California. See historic photographs, iconic posters, objects and interactive prompts that teach you about the Bay Area’s role in the national movement. It also explores the tensions between California’s progressive and oppressive elements.
Asian Art Museum
For Black History Month, San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum invites you to revisit its August 2020 event, Poetics of Solidarity, a poetry reading by local writers. The event was inspired by Nina Simone’s assertion that “an artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” Access the video of the event to see performances by Bay Area poets ASHA, Chinaka Hodge, Genny Lim, Michael Warr and Chun Yu.
The Museum of Tolerance
The Museum of Tolerance, a Simon Wiesenthal Center Museum in Los Angeles, presents the virtual exhibit, Freedom’s Sisters. Originally presented in commemoration of the 155th anniversary of Juneteenth, the traveling exhibition was a tribute to the women who forged freedom. When it visited the Los Angeles museum in 2011, local Southern California Freedom’s Sisters were celebrated. You can read about all 23 of these inspiring women as part of the online exhibit available now.
Crocker Art Museum
Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum, one of the most comprehensive fine art museums in the state, is offering several virtual events for Black History Month. First is a teacher workshop, Betye, Lezley, and Alison Saar on February 16 from 4 to 5:30 p.m., an exploration of the works of Black Arts Movement figurehead Betye Saar and her daughters, the artists Lezley Saar and Alison Saar.
On February 25 at 6 p.m., the museum’s Official Rogue Book Club will discuss “Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance” by Zora Neale Hurston along with illustrations of those short stories by Betye Saar.
Artists You Should Know: Richard Mayhew via Zoom on February 21 from 10 to 11: 30 a.m. will explore the life, legacy and work of Richard Mayhew, an African-American art icon and activist.
California African American Museum
The California African American Museum has a full schedule of virtual events throughout February. Talks and workshops include Talib Kweli: Vibrate Higher on February 22 from 4 to 5:30 p.m. in which the hip-hop artist discusses his memoir, and the interactive Men of Change: A Healing Circle on February 27 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Also check out the museum’s online exhibitions.
de Young Museum
From November 2019 to March 2020, the de Young Museum in San Francisco hosted the internationally acclaimed exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983. The exhibition explores art created around the rise of the Black Power movement and the impact of the 1965 Watts Rebellion in Los Angeles. Go online any time to explore the exhibition, read in-depth analysis and see depictions of art made by Black artists during those pivotal decades.
UCI Contemporary Arts Center & The Getty Center
The Black Index is an online exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center at the University of California Irvine, available through March 20, 2021. Six featured artists build upon the tradition of Black self-representation as an antidote to colonialist images using drawing, performance, printmaking, sculpture and digital technology. The exhibition is curated by Bridget R. Cooks, associate professor in the Department of African American Studies and the Department of Art History at the University of California, Irvine.
The Getty Center’s virtual programming for Black History Month includes a free online talk via Zoom, The Black Index: Archiving Black Creativity and Resistance, on February 19 from 12 to 1 p.m. Join curator Krystal Tribbett and bibliographer Simone Fujita for a conversation about the role of libraries and archives in indexing Black creative thought and resistance.
African-American Museum and Library at Oakland
From February 26 at 5 p.m. through to March 1, the African-American Museum and Library at Oakland (AAMLO) will offer a free screening of the indie film “Black Men in White Coats.” The film project explores the systemic barriers preventing Black men from the medical profession, resulting in only 2% of American doctors being Black men.
On Saturday, February 20 from 1 to 2:30 p.m., AAMLO Online will host Revolution or Death: The Life of Eldridge Cleaver as part of its Meet the Authors series. Justin D. Gifford, Professor of English at the University of Nevada-Reno, will discuss his new book that examines the complex life of a Black revolutionary, writer and activist and the context of changing times.
San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
SFMOMA is presenting Assembly of Images: On Histories of Race and Representation, a three-month series of films exploring race and representation of Black Americans in cinema and photography. Filmmakers represented include Edward Owens, Garrett Bradley, Crystal Z Campbell and Christopher Harris. The online streaming series is available through February 28, 2021.