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Celebrate Black History in the Chicago Southland

By published February 09, 2021

February is Black History Month, a time to reflect on and celebrate the achievements of African-Americans throughout history. There are plenty of ways to commemorate Black History Month, right here in the Chicago Southland.

Artist Ken Ellis

On display now at Thornton Distilling Co. is the “So & Sew” art exhibit by Ken Ellis. Ellis uses quilted images that “embrace an impressive swath of cultural history – from African-American and Native-American experience to nursery rhymes, the history of crime and the Chicago punk rock scene.” Ellis is both a painter and a quilter. His work is influenced by popular illustrations and comics, African-American crafts, Haitian voodoo and Asian art. Plus, several of his pieces can be found in books, films, television and on the cover of Dr. Dog’s 2008 album, Fate. The “So & Sew” exhibit will have an official reception, with the date to be announced soon. Visit Thornton Distilling on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the latest updates, and visit Kenquilts for more information on artist Ken Ellis.

Celebrate Black History Month virtually with the Blue Island Public Library. On February 18, the library will be hosting a free event titled “Emancipation to Inauguration: Chicago’s Black Experience.” This engaging and informational performance will be hosted by musician, actor and historian Clarence Goodman. Join along as Goodman explores Chicago’s vast, rich and inspiring Black experience. Registration is required. Please click here for more information and to register.

The Park Forest Public Library will also be hosting a virtual event. On February 19, visit the library’s YouTube channel for “Essence of Design: Black History Month Edition.” This family-friendly event is a fun virtual art experience that features an instructional painting workshop, themed for Black History Month. All of the supplies needed will be listed in the video’s description, making it easy to follow along at home. Click here for more information.

Underground Railroad Walks

Head over to Sand Ridge Nature Center in South Holland for Black History Month: Underground Railroad Walks on February 27. This event is a self-guided journey that follows the Underground Railroad route connected to the Calumet Region during the mid-1800s. This free event is an excellent learning opportunity for the entire family! No registration is required, but all attendees must wear face masks and practice social distancing. If you have any questions, please call 708-868-0606 or click here for more information.

Enjoy food and games at Culture’s All Black Everything Brunch on February 28. Brunch will take place from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. This event is an intimate, soul-searching, confidence-boosting event that highlights and celebrates some of the most outstanding African-Americans in the community. Tickets are $29.95 each and can be purchased here. Plus, use Culture’s Restaurant Week promo code “RW2021” during check-out and receive a free signature drink with your food purchase at the All Black Everything Brunch.

Bring the whole family to Story Time with Mama Edie, sponsored by the Village of Flossmoor. On Saturday, February 20, join Edith Armstrong, aka Mama Edie, live on Zoom for a bilingual story time. This presentation is for both children and adults and will focus on voting rights and social justice. Participants are encouraged to bring along musical instruments to use during this 45-minute interactive experience. For more information or to register for this event, please click here.

Learn about some local history at the Robbins History Museum. Robbins is the sixth oldest African-American community in the United States. It was founded in 1892 by former slaves and descendants of slaves. Several famous faces hail from Robbins, including basketball great Dwayne Wade and actress Nichelle Nichols, just to name a few. Although the museum is currently closed due to COVID-19 restrictions, you can still learn more on the Robbins History Museum’s website. Be sure to check back frequently for re-opening information.

Robbins Airport, 1931 (Courtesy of the Robbins History Museum)

Whether you’re a resident or a visitor to the Chicago Southland, you can enjoy the African-American Heritage Tour, a three-day itinerary that takes you to some historical locations throughout the region that have ties to Black history. Just a few spots on the tour include Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park, the Pullman National Monument and the DuSable Museum of African-American History. Plus, you’ll stop at some Black-owned businesses and restaurants along the way. Don’t forget to share all of your Chicago Southland adventures with us on social media using #ChicagoSouthland!


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