Today, Feb. 1, marks the first day of Black History Month. Throughout the month, various Rhode Island organizations will hold events to celebrate the Ocean State’s Black community, highlight their achievements and offer opportunities for further advocacy. Below are various online and in-person events happening this month.
Feb. 1: Black History Month Celebration at the State House
The Black Lives Matter Rhode Island Political Action Committee and R.I. Legislature will collaborate to host a Black History Month celebration in the State House from 3 to 8 p.m. This event will include food, hair braiding, vendors and tours of the building. There, BLM RI PAC members will also spread awareness of the CROWN Act, a bill focused on preventing discrimination based on protective and textured hairstyles in the workplace and public schools.
Feb. 2: “Becoming Frederick Douglass” screening
Stages of Freedom, a heritage museum that promotes African American history, is hosting a screening and discussion of “Becoming Frederick Douglass” with Rhode Island PBS at Congdon Street Baptist Church. The event starts at 6 p.m. and will also be streamed with advance registration.
Feb. 4: Cultural Connections with Rhode Island Black Storytellers
The Rhode Island Black Storytellers and Providence Children’s Museum will hold an interactive storytelling experience from 12:30 to 2 p.m. RIBS is an organization that promotes the “awareness, appreciation and application of Black storytelling,” according to the non-profit organization’s website.
Feb. 5: Frederick Douglass and Harriet Tubman Documentary Viewings
If you miss the screening at Congdon Street Baptist Church, Rhode Island PBS will rebroadcast “Becoming Frederick Douglass” Feb. 5 and screen “Harriet Tubman: Visions of Freedom” Feb. 12. Both documentaries shed new light on two monumental figures in the fight to end slavery. Both broadcasts will begin at 9 p.m. on Rhode Island PBS Passport.
Feb. 5: Black History Month Lecture Series
Lectures about the legacy of slavery, a history of civil rights and African artisans in Colonial Newport will come to the Providence Community Library in a free lecture series in partnership with the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society. The Feb. 5 lecture at Olneyville Library will be followed by additional lectures at three other libraries on Feb. 6, 10 and 11.
Feb. 19: Creative Survival Walking Tour
Discover the history of people of color in Newport through a walking tour led by the Newport Historical Society. Starting at 11 a.m., the tour will engage with the history of slavery in Newport, visiting living spaces and the places where enslaved people labored. The tour will also go where free Black people built businesses and helped create the foundation of local industry. Weather permitting, the tour will conclude at “God’s Little Acre,” possibly the oldest intact African American graveyard in the U.S. Tickets are required for the tour and can be purchased online.
Feb. 21: “Sarah Parker Remond: A Black Abolitionist in Ireland, 1859”
Sarah Parker Remond, a free-born Black woman in Massachusetts in 1815, earned an international reputation as a lecturer who spoke about abolitionism and women’s rights. Her travels took her to Europe — and her time in Ireland will feature in the Museum of Newport Irish History’s 21st annual lecture series. Guest speaker and Irish historian Maureen D. Brady will discuss Redmond’s life and work as a devoted abolitionist and “international champion of justice.” Advanced registration for the 6 p.m. Zoom is required.
Feb 22: Still, I Rise: African Heritage Medical Pioneers in R.I.
The 1696 Heritage Group is hosting a special exhibit and lecture focused on Black medical history co-sponsored by the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, Neighborhood Health Plan and Providence Community Health Centers. The event will run from 5:30 to 7 p.m. RSVPs and questions can be directed to Diversity and Inclusion Committee Member Lucy Rivas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feb 23: How to Achieve Racial Justice Through Organizational Transformation
Hear from community leaders in a discussion moderated by former NAACP Providence President Jim Vincent. The event will take place from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the Rochambeau Library on Hope Street. Event organizers ask that participants arrive at 5:30 p.m.
Feb. 24: Disrupt the Disparity: Economic Equity for Black Businesses Now
The Rhode Island Black Business Association will host their first annual legislative breakfast from 8 to 10 a.m. at 166 Valley St in the Sprout CoWorking space. The conversation will surround the state of Black businesses in Rhode Island and actions to promote economic equity for Black businesses. Those interested can reserve a spot online.
Feb. 27: Lecture and Book Signing with Author Ashley Brown
Long before Coco Gauff, Serena Williams and Venus Williams, there was Althea Gibson, the first Black woman to win the U.S. Open, French Open and Wimbledon. The International Tennis Hall of Fame will host Ashley Brown, assistant professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, to discuss her new book “Serving Herself: The Life and Times of Althea Gibson,” which details Gibson’s triumphs and struggles. The event will take place from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Hall of Fame and ticket sales begin Feb. 1.
Additional online resources
In addition to its events this month, Stages of Freedom provides continued access to On the Road to Freedom, a guide to landmarks in Rhode Island that highlights historical sites and the work of Black people.
The Rhode Island Black Heritage Society, which preserves the work of the African diaspora in the Ocean State, has an online exhibit about Black entrepreneurs available this month. The site showcases a timeline of Black entrepreneurial work in Rhode Island dating back to 1739, and another collection features a series of articles featuring Black voices in state history.
Beyond these events and online resources, there are many Black-owned businesses that Rhode Islanders can support throughout the Ocean State this month and beyond.