Every February, Americans of all races and backgrounds celebrate Black History Month by commemorating iconic civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, and Black History Month’s founder, Carter G. Woodson. An early African American history scholar, Woodson created the first “Negro History Week” in 1926, intending to spark a revolution in academia by including African American studies in the curriculum. Celebrate this important holiday with these Portland events:
PDX Jazz Festival
Jumptown, Portland’s raucous jazz scene of the 1940s, is sadly lost, but over the course of 10 days in February, visitors can dive into today’s sea of jazz greats at the PDX Jazz Festival.The 2018 festival will focus on the theme “Soulfully Vocal” — specifically, the language of vocalese. Made prominent by living legend Jon Hendricks and the incomparable Eddie Jefferson, vocalese is when a vocalist sings words note for note to a melody created by a soloist’s improvisation. The lineup for 2018 promises “serious fun” while renowned singers utilize their vocal talents to “emulate and improvise,” showcasing this audible art form throughout the festival. PDX Jazz Fest performances — including many free shows — are held at multiple venues across the city every year.
Cascade Festival of African Films
Billed as the longest-running nonprofit African film festival in America, Portland’s free Cascade Festival of African Films has celebrated African achievements and hopes for the future since 1991. Through its roster of films, the month-long festival aims to share stories of Africa as told by actual Africans, rather than the Western-made narratives that Americans typically see. Hosted by the Hollywood Theatre and Portland Community College’s Cascade Campus, the festival also includes staged theatrical readings, talkbacks with the films’ creators, an African marketplace and a social hour with food and live music every Saturday.
The Portland Black Film Festival
Curated by Portland filmmaker David F. Walker, the Portland Black Film Festival takes up residency at the Hollywood Theatre for one weekend every February, presenting a handful of events that showcase the cinematic achievements of African-American actors and directors. In addition to a Q&A with Emmy Award- and NAACP Image Award-winning film, television, and stage veteran Joe Morton, the 2018 festival features movies ranging from 1980’s African American sci-fi (Brother From Another Planet) to rare, controversial films (The Spook Who Sat By The Door), and a selection of short films produced by local black filmmakers.