Black History Month in Portland

Celebrate African American excellence with music, art, festivals and more.

they-will-have-to-kill-us-first-01The Cascade Film Festival is the longest-running nonprofit African film festival in America.
Cascade Film Festival

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 2017 festival celebrated the centennials of three all-time all-stars, Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonious Monk and Buddy Rich. This year’s Portland Jazz Master, renowned Motown drummer and Portland native Mel Brown, teamed up with Gillepsie mentee Jon Faddis to debut his own big band, and T.S. Monk (son of Thelonious) performed in a double feature with Grammy-nominated conductor John Beasely and his “MONK’estra.” The festival kicked off on Feb. 16 with a concert from the acclaimed Branford Marsalis Quintet. 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 sold-out Q&A with Blaxploitation star Pam Grier, the 2017 festival featured movies ranging from early African American silent films (Within Our Gates) to documentaries about black ice hockey players (Soul on Ice), Soul Train performances (Soul Train Express) and civil rights leaders (I Am Not Your Negro).

Black Mozart

This special Black History Month event celebrates the life and work of Joseph Boulogne, Chevalier de Saint-Georges. Known as one of the greatest composers and performers of the late 1700s — an era that also included Mozart and Haydn — Boulogne rose from humble beginnings as the child of a slave to become a virtuoso violinist and conductor of the leading symphony orchestra in Paris. Attendees celebrated the life of this remarkable man at Black Mozart, a special performance and documentary screening hosted by Portland Baroque Orchestra at Reed College’s Kaul Auditorium.

Solae’s Lounge

Get in the mood to celebrate great African American musicians every day and spend an evening at lively Solae’s Lounge. Tucked inside a humble yellow building in the Alberta Arts District, the club is modeled after the jazz bars of New Orleans and features a nightly rotation of jazz, blues and hip-hop. Open every evening from 4 p.m. –2 a.m., Solae’s is an important hub for music that has been enriched by decades of African American innovation, all year-round.


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