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Black History Month events around Arlington to kick off this weekend

Black History Month event at Arlington Public Library in 2023 (Courtesy of Daniel Rosenbaum)

(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) Black History Month starts today and events are planned throughout the month in Arlington to honor the history and achievements of African Americans past and the present.

As Black History Month, February pays “tribute to the generations of African Americans who struggled with adversity to achieve full citizenship in American society,” according to the Library of Congress.

Arlington Public Library will kick off a month of programming this Saturday (Feb. 3) at 1:30 p.m. with a presentation by Maryland-based oyster farmer Imani Black on the Black history of Chesapeake Bay aquaculture. The event is taking place at the Aurora Hills Library (735 18th Street S.).

Black comes from a 200-year lineage of watermen and today runs a nonprofit called Minorities In Aquaculture that supports underrepresented populations in aquaculture.

On Monday (Feb. 5), local nonprofit Coalition for Empowerment and Opportunity (CEO) will host a panel discussion about the College Board’s Advanced Placement African American Studies curriculum course. The new course is set to launch this year after coming under scrutiny from conservative critics, including former GOP presidential candidate Ron DeSantis.

“African-American history is one of struggle and triumph, and its impact and importance to how it has shaped this country presently has a rightful place to be taught in this nation, as Black History is American History,” said CEO founder and board member Zakiya Worthey, in a press release. “Therefore, history must always be protected for our children and future generations.”

Attendees can register online for the discussion, to be held at Wakefield High School (1325 S. Dinwiddie Street) from 6-8 p.m.

Later this month, the Charles Drew Community Center will host the county’s annual “Feel the Heritage” festival. Held from 12-5 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 24, the festival showcases Arlington’s historical African American neighborhoods and will have live entertainment, food and tables and digital art displays from local vendors and artists.

The Dept. of Parks and Recreation has also organized a month-long Black History Month-themed scavenger hunt featuring “Sam Sandiego,” “a fun-loving spy who wants to help you discover the hidden gems in Arlington,” per a county webpage. Clues will be posted on Facebook and YouTube.

Throughout the month, meanwhile, library branches will host film screenings paired with either discussions or refreshments. Among them:

  • I Am Not Your Negro” (Feb. 15, 6 p.m.) at the Shirlington Library: Based on James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript of “Remember this House,” the tribute to Baldwin examines race in America and connects past civil rights movements to today’s movements, such as #BlackLivesMatter. The library recommends only adults attend this event.
  • Queen of Katwe” (Feb. 23, 1:30-4 p.m.) at the Aurora Hills Library: Adapted from an ESPN article, the movie follows Phiona Mutesi, a young girl from Katwe, Uganda, whose life was changed when she learned how to play chess. The event also features an afternoon tea with light treats.
  • CURRENT: A Descendant’s Journey For Truth” (Feb. 24, 2:30-4:30 p.m.) at Central Library: Directed and produced by descendents of Thomas Jefferson and his sister, and partly filmed in Arlington, the documentary tells the history of Virginia and explores the legacy of slavery. A Q&A will follow between library director Diane Kresh — who was interviewed for the film — and producer Pam Smith.
  • Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin” (Feb. 26, 6:30-7:45 p.m.) at Central Library: An abbreviated screening of a film about Rustin, a Civil Rights leader who was one of Martin Luther King Jr.’s closest advisors on nonviolent resistance. It will be followed by a panel discussion with Rustin’s life partner, Walter Naegle, and the director of the film, Bennett Singer.

The National Landing Business Improvement District is also hosting a screening this month at the Alamo Drafthouse in Crystal City. There will be a free showing of “Origin” (Feb. 22 from 6-9 p.m.), which discusses racism as an aspect of a caste system and is based on the book “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents,” by Isabel Wilkerson.

Arlington Public Library will conclude its series by celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of James Baldwin, whose essays, novels, plays and speeches “speak on the pain and struggle of Black Americans and the saving power of brotherhood,” the library website says. A reading from one of Baldwin’s best-known works, “The Fire Next Time,” — on Feb. 29 from 6:30-7:30 p.m. — will be followed by a community discussion with George Mason University Professor Keith Clark.

Arlington Public Library Communications Intern Shaun Howard told ARLnow that he hopes that the community comes to the scheduled programs, “gains knowledge” and leave with an “expanded mindset.”

Starting Feb. 22, the Museum of Contemporary Art Arlington will put on “the Solace and Sisterhood Exhibit” bringing together the work of three artists of African descent, Lavett Ballard, Amber Robles-Gordon and Evita Tezeno, who call themselves friends and “sisters.”

Honoring African Americans making a name for themselves now, the Hyatt Regency hotel in Crystal City (2799 Richmond Hwy) is hosting a Minority Vendor Showcase from Feb. 27-28 to showcase Black-owned businesses on the theme of “food, fuel, fitness and fun.”

“The goal is to feature 100 Black-owned businesses that can supply products to a robust hospitality and business community, providing exposure to a diverse range of companies,” said Alyssa Bonk, a spokeswoman for the event.

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