February is all about remembering and celebrating black history, and Miami has a ton of options to choose from. Chill historic tours? Check. Intellectual conversation? Yep. Moving and grooving? Always. Whether you’re a kid, an adult, or someone in between, there's an event for every person and budget.
1. The Great Debaters and a Special Debate on Gentrification. Black Lounge Film Series is known for presenting quality cinema, thought-provoking analysis, and fun performances, and February’s offering is no different. The organization will show the 2007 film The Great Debaters, directed by and starring Denzel Washington and based on a true story about debate coach Melvin B. Tolson at Wiley College, a historically black college, during the 1930s Jim Crow era. As an extra treat, after the film, the Miami-Dade Urban Debate League will host a live debate on the issue of gentrification. The students, ranging in age from 14 to 18 and residing all over Miami-Dade, participate in tournaments across the nation. 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Friday, February 8, at Overtown Performing Arts Center, 1074 NW Third Ave., Miami; blackloungefilms.com. Admission is free with RSVP.
2. Jazz Roots All-Star Tribute to Musical Life of Iconic Writer Ralph Ellison. Now in its 11th season, the Adrienne Arsht Center’s Jazz Roots concert will have an extra-special, extra-literary offer this February. Artists include acclaimed R&B and jazz vocalist Will Downing, Grammy-winning jazz trumpeter/composer Nicholas Payton, the Andy Farber Jazz Orchestra, and others. The musicians will perform songs from the likes of Count Basie, Nina Simone, Thelonious Monk, and Ray Charles, and best-selling author, feminist, and influencer Roxane Gay will host and narrate the event. 8 p.m. Friday, February 8, in the Knight Concert Hall of the Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $45 to $125.
3. "AfriCOBRA: Messages to the People." If you don't know your Black Arts Movement history, you’ll want to make it out to this exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami. Founded in 1968 by Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu, and Gerald Williams, AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) made huge contributions to the visual aesthetic of the Black Arts Movement. "Messages to the People” will feature some of the original members looking back at their influence on art and culture, and also present their current work. Now through April 7 at Museum of Contemporary Art North Miami, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami; mocanomi.org. Tickets cost $10; MOCA members and North Miami residents with valid ID get in free.
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4. Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. You probably know the name, but you might not know that Alvin Ailey started as a small group of African-American modern dancers who first performed at the 92nd Street YMCA in 1958. It was supposed to be for one night only — but they’re still here, 60 years strong. The company returns to the Arsht Center February 14 through 17 with world premieres, such as Lazarus, inspired by the life and legacy of Ailey himself. Audiences can expect company premieres, new productions, and more. There is also a family matinee option that will include highlights from the body of work, and a free
5. Black History Month Cultural Tours. Historic Virginia Key Beach Park is taking the month to show visitors the cultural impact that people of color have had on Miami. You can see “the first colored beach in Miami-Dade County,” photographs, and other items. Tours start at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through February 28 at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park, 4020 Virginia Beach Dr., Miami; virginiakeybeachpark.net. Admission is free.