February is Black History Month, created to focus attention on the numerous untold contributions of African Americans to the United States. Also known as African American History Month, it honors Black people from the enslaved humans brought from Africa to African Americans living in the United States today.
This year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” explores how “African Americans have resisted historic and ongoing oppression, in all forms, especially the racial terrorism of lynching, racial pogroms, and police killings” since the country’s earliest days.
When you think of the oppression of Black people, you might not realize the part our state played in that shameful past, but unfortunately, it happened here, as well.
For example, on June 11, 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was charged with violating Florida’s “unwanted guest law” when he tried to dine at an upscale St. Augustine restaurant. And Jacksonville was the site of “Ax Handle Saturday” in 1960, when members of the Youth Council were attacked with ax handles and baseball bats for holding sit-ins at lunch counters there.
For decades, Florida’s stunning beaches were off limits to African Americans. One feature of Black History Month in Miami is a free eco-history tour at Historic Virginia Key Beach Park through February 28, one of the few beaches that were open to Miami’s African American community during segregation.
Exploring Black culture
Despite such unfortunate history, other events planned in Miami to celebrate Black History Month are designed to commemorate, uplift, and celebrate the cultural contributions of Black Americans.
One don’t-miss event is the Melton Mustafa Jazz Festival Weekend at the Black Archives Historic Lyric Theater in Historic Overtown, which blossomed during the same period as the Harlem Renaissance in the 1930s. In those days, Historic Overtown was known as Little Broadway, welcoming such stars as Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, and Louis Armstrong.
This year’s festival is dedicated to the late jazz trumpet player and educator Melton Mustafa, Sr. and his wife, the late Zakiyyah Mustafa, and is set for February 23-26.
You can also check out the “AfriKin Art: The Gaze Africana” exhibition at the Scott Galvin Community Center in North Miami, which runs throughout the month of February.
And if you’re planning a party during Black History Month, why not have it at the Historic Alfred I. duPont Building in downtown Miami? With its stunning architecture and dramatic interiors, it is the setting for a host of varied events, from weddings and meetings to performances and music videos.