Black History Month was established to recognize and celebrate the contributions of African Americans, and to remember profound African American leaders who have left behind a legacy that has inspired many. The Central neighborhood has often been at the center, forgive the pun, of African American history in Cleveland and beyond. History-makers such as Louis and Carl Stokes grew up in Central. Jesse Owens, the winner of 4 gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, attended Central’s East Technical High School and his likeness can be seen on a mural at Lonnie Burten Recreation Center. While African American history should be celebrated every month, use February as an opportunity to get out and explore your historic community.
Here are five things to do right here in Central during Black History Month:
- Visit the Louis Stokes Museum. Open Mondays and Wednesdays, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. or by appointment. Outhwaite Homes Estates 4302 Quincy Avenue. The Louis Stokes Museum chronicles the story of how the former Ohio Congressman Stokes rose from humble beginnings at Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Outhwaite Homes. The museum opened in 2007 and houses Stokes memorabilia. Louis Stokes and his brother, Carl Stokes, former mayor of Cleveland and first African American mayor of a big city in the U.S., are also being honored by the city of Cleveland and other organizations with a year-long event series. Find out more about the commemoration of the Stokes brothers here.
- Attend the Ward 5 Club Meeting. February 11, 2017, 12 – 3 p.m. Vocational Guidance Services, 2235 East 55th Street. Ward 5 Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland meets with Central residents and community stakeholders every month. Black History Month is a time to look back on the civic achievements and progress of African Americans and what better way to celebrate and honor that legacy than to get involved in the community’s future. Make February the month you become an engaged citizen. Already engaged? Attend the meeting and bring a friend.
- Attend the Brick City Theatre production of “Reflecting on the Stokes Brother’s Legacy”. February 24, 2017, 5 – 7 p.m. Outhwaite Homes Community Center, 2452 East 46th Street. A special Black History Month showcase exhibiting the original artwork and performance material created by the youth participants of Cleveland Public Theatre’s Brick City Theatre program, in partnership with Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority. During this session, Brick City Theatre participants engaged in performance activities such as drama, dance, singing and creative writing with a special focus on the legacy of the Stokes brothers. When exploring this topic, Brick City Theatre participants wrote original rewrites of the Stokes brothers’ story and explored their own life stories. These final performances are a culmination of our extended learning process at Brick City Theatre. A community meal follows each presentation. For more information, click here.
- Read a book at the Sterling Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. 2200 East 30th Street. Click here for hours. In honor of Black History Month, the Sterling Branch of ClevelandPublic Library has an array of music, books, magazines and audiobooks featuring the stories of African-Americans on display. After picking up a book or movie, visit the branch’s Black History Month “Words Have Power” bulletin board that displays inspiring quotes meant to uplift, empower and encourage change. The branch’s webpage also boasts that the library is home to a large Black World section of both fiction and non-fiction.
- Take an art class at Lonnie Burten Rec Center. 2511 East 46th Street. History.com notes that amid the harsh repression of slavery, Americans of African descent, and particularly black women, managed–sometimes at their own peril–to preserve the culture of their ancestry and articulate both their struggles and hopes in their own words and images. A growing number of black female artists and writers emerged throughout the Civil War and Reconstruction eras before finally bursting into the mainstream of American culture in the 1920s, with the dawn of the Harlem Renaissance. After playing a significant role in both the civil rights movement and the women’s movement of the 1960s, the rich body of creative work produced by black women has found even wider audiences in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Promise Ambassador Gwen Garth is hoping to re-create the Harlem Renaissance here in Central, so she led the effort to reestablish the art room at Lonnie Burten. All art classes are free and open to the public. Find out more here.