Picks of the Week: Celebrate Black History Month in Berkeley

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Here’s to another Monday, Berkeley.

February, the month we have dedicated to celebrating Black history, always calls into question the idea of recognition. While planning out the end of your month, explore the educational opportunities available to learn about Black history and celebrate the cultures that thrive year-round. This week, participate actively in Black History Month with these fun, important cultural events.

Start your week with “Hair Love,” which won an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film this year. Follow up the film by watching Matthew A. Cherry and Karen Rupert Toliver’s heartwarming Oscars acceptance speech, then read about the CROWN Act movement Cherry called on the audience to support. No matter what style you wear on your head, flaunt it. 

Come Tuesday, head to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive to hear famed architect Rodney Leon discuss Black public art, specifically his own works that pay homage to the transatlantic slave trade and the initial presence of Africans in New York City. Berkeley Arts + Design is also pairing up with professor Tyler Stovall, dean of the humanities division at UC Santa Cruz, for pre-talk remarks regarding how spaces communicate history and preserved emotion relating to the forced immigration of Africans to the United States.

If Leon’s work resonates, tune into some podcasts Wednesday that focus on modern marginalized identities and how they operate in society today. The Guardian’s “Token” tackles issues such as white fragility and cultural appropriation, whereas NPR’s “Code Switch” unpacks a wide array of topics ranging from racialized school districting to archaic race science.

The complex Black diaspora is explored and celebrated in Damien Sneed’s upcoming Cal Performances show, titled “We Shall Overcome.” Sneed, a composer and pianist who has worked with renowned artists such as Aretha Franklin and Wynton Marsalis, will be joined by the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir on Thursday at 8 p.m. in Zellerbach Hall for his intersectional multimedia production. Keep an eye out for my upcoming interview with Sneed, which will be publishing in conjunction with our special Black History Month impact issue.

On Friday, the ASUC’s SUPERB Productions and the African American Student Development center are partnering to present A24’s “Moonlight” in Hearst Field Annex at 5 p.m. As you might remember, “Moonlight” was the film that won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2017, when “La La Land” was accidentally announced. Regardless of the fumble by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, “Moonlight” pushes against tropes regarding Black masculinity to form a simply breathtaking film, both in terms of cinematography and plot.

After a week spent celebrating Black History Month in Berkeley, head to San Francisco on Saturday to the de Young Museum. As part of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco’s Free Saturdays initiative, Bay Area residents can enter the de Young for free on select days and see “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983” for only $10 every Saturday. This exhibition, organized by the Tate Modern in London, heralds both private and public demonstrations of Black identity during this turbulent period of time. The exhibition features Bay Area Black Power artists, performers, musicians and activists. 

Finally, finish out your week with some carefully curated playlists that celebrate Black artists, such as Spotify’s “Black History Salute” or “Phenomenal Women.” Between artists like Koffee, Lil Nas X, Solange, Nina Simone, Prince and Stevie Wonder, there’s a little something for everyone. 

During this month of celebration and reflection, remember that Black history is something to be celebrated every month of the year. Take February as your place to start or continue educating yourself on all of the rich cultures the Bay Area and beyond have to offer.

At a glance:

Feb. 18: Rodney Leon on Black public art, 12:00 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. BAMPFA, Berkeley

Feb. 20: Damien Sneed, “We Shall Overcome,” 8:00 p.m., Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley

Feb. 21: ASUC SUPERB x AASD presents “Moonlight,” 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Hearst Field Annex, UC Berkeley

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