What do you get when you cross a free community dinner, a fundraising gala, The Wiz, art shows, mural tours, puzzle parties, kids events, organizations and people walking from Port Ewen to the Ulster County Courthouse, plus luminaries, non-profits and people of all ages? Black History Month Kingston.
Thirty-eight events (not including repeats) just from Feb. 1 to 28. It’s a monumental feat brought together with the work and cooperation of people all over this city, most all of them volunteering their time, their spaces and their services to make it happen.
While these events are in honor of Black History Month, they are not “geared towards” or “meant for” only black people, or only people of color, or only “allies” — they are meant for everyone and there’s an excellent chance that anyone attending these varied events will find themselves laughing, sighing, singing, drumming or enjoying the fare.
It seems just a couple weeks ago that Frank Waters, one of the lead organizers, mentioned he would love it if UPAC would play The Wiz — the Afrocentric cinematic take on The Wizard of Oz starring Michael Jackson and Diana Ross — for Black History Month, and there it is on the calendar, for Feb. 15.
A little-known but very strong supporter of all things Kingston and all things kids happens to be Texas Roadhouse. They will host a Kids’ Night on Feb. 4, where kids eat free and learn about the African-American cowboys of the Wild West and their important contribution to history.
“Black History Month Kingston offers an open invitation across various venues and activities for everyone to embrace, acknowledge and celebrate the African-American legacy and culture as a community,” said Waters. He considers the jewel in the crown of the month-long event to be the Sojourner Truth Life Walk, set for Saturday, Feb. 9. Described as reliving the highlights of the great abolitionist’s life and walk to freedom, participants will park at Dietz Stadium, take a trolley to Tugg Tavern in Port Ewen, and walk (with “pitstops” along the way) to the Ulster County Courthouse. Deborah Zull, in character as Truth, will then recite the famous “Ain’t I a Woman?” speech at the Old Dutch Church in Uptown. (Registration is requested; visit blackhistorymonthkingston.org to do so.)
A free talk called “Sweet Abolition — Maple vs. Sugar Cane in the Fight Against Slavery,” will be offered Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6 at the African Roots Library on Gill Street. Another form of sweetness will be Bring Your Dude Valentine’s Day Dance at the Kingston High School on, yes, Valentine’s Day, from 6-9 p.m.
In the mood for some jazz? How does Bob Shaut’s Sax Life — Sunday, Feb. 10, 4-6 p.m. at Artbar at 674 Broadway; $15 admission – grab you? I bet it will be fun and funky and memorable. Also plan to attend the free Community Dinner at the YMCA — that’s this Friday, Feb. 1 at the YMCA at 507 Broadway. Don’t miss the Comedy Slams hosted by comedian EJ Bell at the Kingston Artist’s Collective at 63 Broadway — there are two of these, with different lineups on Monday the 18th and Monday the 25th. A $5 donation is requested and the fun goes from 6:30-9:30 p.m.
If you are in the mood to donate to this excellent cause while also being wined and dined, then you are to love the Gala on Saturday, Feb. 23, at La Mirage in Ulster Park. This event is hosted by Harambee Coalition, a local non-profit whose founder, Tyrone Wilson, said, “But this team is so great, so motivated, so hard-working, that we have built something we all want to not just support, but to nurture and grow.” Be sure to get your tickets ($75) early!
That’s just barely scratching the surface — there are readings and talks and more events will be added throughout the month. To keep on top of it all, like the event Facebook page — www.facebook.com/pg/blackhistorymonthkingston/events/