‘Black History in the making:’ Where to celebrate Black History Month in Kansas City

Roy Inman/Special to The Star

Black History Month started on Feb. 1, and events are slated across Kansas City to celebrate and honor the rich history of the metro’s Black community.

From educational programs at museums and libraries to dance recitals and musical theater, you will have plenty of opportunities to learn and have fun throughout February.

You can also directly support Kansas City’s Black community throughout the month’s events. For instance, Kansas City G.I.F.T., a local nonprofit providing grants to Black-owned businesses in low-income areas, is hosting its monthly Black Business Market on Feb. 25 for local vendors to sell their items.

Jordan Alford, the business development manager at Kansas City G.I.F.T., said events like theirs continue to show that the community is creating Black History.

“We are Black History in the making,” Alford said. “This opportunity to provide Black business owners a chance to generate revenue really means a lot to us, especially during Black History Month to see how this is contributing to their lasting legacies.”

Alford said she didn’t have the opportunity to learn about her history growing up in St. Joseph. Since graduating from Missouri Western State University in 2020, she’s learned a lot about the contributions Black people have made to the country and is happy to add to those contributions in Kansas City.

Kansas City G.I.F.T.’s Black Business Market is just one of many events where you can celebrate Black History Month in Kansas City.

Check out what other Black History Month celebrations are happening around the city:

Black History Month Challenge

When: Now through Feb. 19

Where: Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library on 625 Minnesota Ave.

Cost: Free

The KCK Public Library will host its Black History Month challenge. Answer questions about famous African American History, and you can win prizes.

The answers to each question can be found inside the library, so participants will be on the hunt for knowledge.

Jammin’ at the Gem with Eric Roberson

When: 8 p.m. on Feb. 11

Where: The Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St.

Cost: Tickets start at $65. Buy yours here.

It’s the 25th anniversary of the American Jazz Museum in the 18th and Vine District. To celebrate the silver anniversary, the museum brought back its “Jammin’ at the Gem” series, featuring musical guests.

Eric Roberson, an independent R&B artist and Grammy nominee, will be February’s performer.

Black Love Day

When: 6-8 p.m. on Feb. 13

Where: Hillcrest Community Center, 10401 Hillcrest Road

Cost: $10 per person

The Hillcrest Community Center is celebrating Black Love Day, a day created in 1993 to promote and celebrate people of African descent by showing love to one another. Damone Cox, the youth coordinator at Hillcrest, said it’s not a substitute for Valentine’s Day, but another way to celebrate the Black community.

The event will have skits, dancing, musical performances and much more. Cox said some of the events will shine a light on some of the lesser-known, but just as important figures in Black history, such as Lewis Latimer and Ralph Bunche.

Deep Greenwood: The Hidden Truth of Black Wall Street

When: 7 p.m. on Feb. 18

Where: Kansas City Music Hall, 301 W. 13th Street

Cost: $88-550. Buy tickets here.

The play, written and directed by Michaela Walter, is a fact-based story about people coming together to form a Black business district in the Greenwood district of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

UMKC Dance Celebration: Black History Month

When: 2:30 p.m. on Feb. 19

Where: White Recital Hall on University of Missouri-Kansas City campus

Cost: Free

Members of UMKC’s dance team will put on a performance to celebrate Black History Month. It’s free for everyone to attend, even if you aren’t a current UMKC student.

Queer in the Archive: Black LGBTQIA Stories

When: 1-3 p.m. on Feb. 20

Where: UMKC campus, Miller Nichols Library room, 800 E. 51st St.

Cost: Free

The Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America will host an educational series, connecting students with items preserved by the organization and telling stories of Kansas City’s LGBTQIA community.

This is the first of four sessions this year by GLAMA. These sessions will explore different areas of their archive and share important pieces of the LGBTQIA’s shared history with Kansas City.

The Unfinished Business of Democracy: Lincoln, Wilson and the Issue of Race

When: 6 p.m. on Feb. 21

Where: National WWI Museum or YouTube

Cost: Free with RSVP

Dr. Randal Jelks, professor of American Studies and African and African-American Studies at the University of Kansas, moderates a conversation about Abraham Lincoln and Woodrow Wilson and the complicated racial legacy they left in their wake.

Dr. Chris Capozzola, professor of history senior associate dean for open learning at MIT, and Dr. Kate Masur, professor of history and Board of Visitors professor at Northwestern University, are joining Jelks as speakers during the program.

An Evening with NPR’s Juana Summers

When: 7-8:15 p.m. on Feb. 21

Where: The Dole Institute of Politics, 2350 Petefish Drive in Lawrence and online here

Cost: Free

NPR’s All Things Considered host Juana Summers will discuss her career and experiences covering race and politics in today’s climate.

Summers was most recently NPR’s political correspondent, covering race, justice and politics throughout the last three presidential elections.

Setting the Stage: The Moving Story of African American Dance

When: 7 p.m. on Feb. 22

Where: The Gem Theater, 1615 E. 18th St.

Cost: Free

Friends of Alvin Ailey take visitors on a journey through African American dance history. The performance combines live dance performances with visuals and narrations in the background.

“Setting the Stage” is performed by talented local and national artists. The choreography dives into the history of African American pioneers in minstrels, jazz dance, ballet, Afro-Caribbean and Modern dance.

Black Business Market by Kansas City G.I.F.T.

When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Feb. 25

Where: 5008 Prospect Ave.

Cost: Free to attend, vendors have items for sale

G.I.F.T. will be hosting its monthly Black Business Market, featuring over 40 local Black businesses, vendors, food trucks and more. You can buy anything from clothing and candles to jewelry and wellness products.

G.I.F.T.’s mission is to grow and provide resources for Black businesses, and Alford said the market is one way the organization does that.

Learning From Gordon Parks

When: 2 p.m. on Feb. 26

Where: Helzberg Auditorium at Kansas City’s Central Public Library at 14 W. 10th St.

Cost: Free

Local photographer Ann Dean discusses Black author, photographer, and filmmaker Gordon Parks’ legacy as he established himself as one of the most renowned documentarians of American life in the 20th century.

Parks was born in Fort Scott, Kansas, and would later become a well-known photographer, capturing segregation, poverty and urban life through his lens.

Dean will talk about the impact and inspiration found in three of Parks’ books: “The Learning Tree,” “A Choice of Weapons” and “Half Past Autumn.” She will discuss how the lessons of love, dignity and hard work found in these books are still relevant today.

Are we missing any Black History Month events in Kansas City? Let us know at kcq@kcstar.com