By Sinegugu Gasa, Cleveland Foundation Public Service Fellow for Community Narrative and Engagement
Why do we celebrate Black History Month?
Did you know that each year, Black History Month focuses on a particular theme to accompany the month-long reflections and celebrations of our nation’s history? This year’s theme is “Black Health and Wellness,” a timely topic as we reckon with the reality of public health disparities and focus on preventive medicine and self-care. This year’s theme also invites us to reflect on Black scholars and medical professionals who have made significant contributions to the practice of western medicine.
Click here to read about the origins of Black History Month and why it is celebrated in February every year, and scroll down to find additional stories, resources and events as you celebrate Black History Month 2022!
Cleveland’s first interracial hospital
In light of this year’s Black History Month theme, we’re reflecting on the history of Forest City Hospital, the first interracial hospital in Cleveland. In 1939, a group of Black physicians formed the Forest City Hospital Association to raise support for a hospital in Cleveland that would be free of race restrictions. In 1957, the 100-bed hospital was opened as the city’s first interracial hospital. In 1958, the Cleveland Foundation made a $35,000 grant to help the hospital gain its financial footing in its first year. The hospital went on to serve Cleveland residents for nearly 20 years. Click here to learn more.
Ways to celebrate Black History Month in Cleveland
Are you looking to get out and about in the month of February to celebrate Black History Month in Cleveland? Or maybe you want to keep it virtual? We have you covered! Here are special events and destinations dedicated to honoring and celebrating Black experiences through education, sports, entertainment and the arts.
The Icabod Flewellen Collection at East Cleveland Public Library
East Cleveland Public Library is home to the Icabod Flewellen Collection, comprised of more than one-million artifacts related to the Black experience. The collection was compiled by Icabod Flewellen, a student, curator, activist, citizen, community servant and long-time resident of Hough. Learn more about the collection here.
Learn about the unique history of Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood – its various changes throughout the decades and how it has affected its residents. Follow the story of five individuals who lived in Glenville during the 1950s and 60s as they share their stories of the past and present. Click here to explore The Rise of Black Glenville, a digital storytelling project from Reframe Collective, curated by Shelli Reeves.
Stop by the African American Garden in Rockefeller Park any time to find a moment of reflection during Black History Month. The space showcases the past, present and future of the city’s African American community. One educational pavilion in the garden is complete, with two more under construction.
The Greater Cleveland Urban Film Festival is offering both virtual and in-person Black History Month experiences throughout the month. Find their full schedule of programs and events here.
Recognizing a local inventor
African Americans have made significant contributions to the United States. From slave labor that built and developed the country to advancements in science, the arts, politics, and law, African Americans have been integral to the development of the U.S as a prosperous nation. Do you know who Garrett A. Morgan is? Some have called him Cleveland’s very own “Black Edison,” and he has the honor of The Garrett A. Morgan Water Treatment Plant and the Garrett A. Morgan Cleveland School of Science being named after him.
He’s one of many inventors and luminaries whose story you may not have heard about. Learn more about Garrett A. Morgan here.
Throughout Cleveland’s neighborhoods and into the suburbs, works of art celebrating Black culture and commemorating moments and contributions of Black residents dot the landscape. Use this free passport to track your progress on a self-guided and self-paced tour of 35 works. Click here to learn more.
Cleveland Public Library
Cleveland Public Library is celebrating Black History Month with programming and events throughout the month of February. From social justice-themed scavenger hunts to weekly Black history book club gatherings and more, check out their full calendar of Black History Month events here.
If you visit the Cleveland Public Library this February, be sure to tour a powerful exhibit that spotlights Black philanthropic efforts across Northeast Ohio. The “Celebrate Those Who Give Black” exhibit includes documents and artifacts that tell a story of community generosity. There is also a 360-degree virtual tour of the exhibit available online. Click here to learn more.
Join the Cuyahoga County Public Library, WKYC and bestselling author Heather McGhee as they host a forward-moving conversation about the true cost of racism and how we can move past the challenges together.
Heather McGhee’s bestseller, “The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together,” is available now to borrow for free to all Cuyahoga County Public Library cardholders.
Click here to learn more, and sign up for the library’s weekly Discoverer newsletter to receive specific updates on the event date.
Playhouse Square is streaming “Turning 15 on the Road to Freedom,” the true story of Lynda Blackmon Lowery, the youngest person to walk all the way from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., on the Voting Rights March in 1965. These streaming performances are offered for local schools and classrooms. Learn more here.
Part of the 2022 Courageous Conversations series, this virtual event will dive into the phenomenon of organizations hiring Black and brown people for public relations points, then consigning them to “diversity” positions instead of preparing them for leadership. Moderator Phillip “Flapp” Cockrell, Ph.D., Cleveland State University’s vice president for campus engagement, diversity, equity, and inclusion, will lead the Zoom discussion. Click here to learn more.
In conjunction with the Cleveland State University (CSU) Galleries exhibition, Blaque Cleveland: Thursday Night Art Talk will feature artist Isiah Williams. Learn about the artist’s approach to his artform and the many stories and cultural significances behind Williams’ works on view now at CSU. The exhibition runs now through mid-March.
Taking place at CSU’s Wolstein Center, the NBA x HBCU Classic will feature the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference matchup of Howard University vs. Morgan State University men’s basketball teams. This event is part of the NBA All-Star Weekend 2022. Click here to learn more.
In the heart of Downtown Cleveland, the 7th Annual Black Business Expo will showcase over 100 of Cleveland’s Black-owned businesses – all under one roof at Tower City Center. The family-friendly event will also have live performances and a dedicated kids’ zone. The event will be open to residents and guests. Click here to learn more.
CSU’s Black Student Union will present the Black Love Beauty Pageant in the Student Center Atrium (2121 Euclid Avenue). This bold celebration of beauty, culture, identity, fashion and empowerment is part of Black Student Union Week.
Think you can run faster than legendary Olympic gold medalist Jesse Owens? Visit the Cleveland History Center for this special event that will pay tribute to local Black all-star athletes. Test your athletic skills, and size up your wing span and footprint to see how you compare to the pros. Attendees will have access to the Western Reserve Historical Society collections featuring Cleveland sports legends. Snacks and drinks will be available for purchase. Click here to learn more.
The Unite & Prosper Gala caps CSU’s Black Student Union Week events. Enjoy a night full of music, food, fun and networking in the Student Center.
This year, Blax Museum will take various virtual formats, releasing pre-taped video performances every week of February in partnership with the Twinsburg Public Library, along with a live virtual show streamed from the East Cleveland Public Library on Feb. 26. Click here to learn more.
Listen to the poetry of Love Ties and see Cleveland designers’ fashion on the runway. This Black History Month event is dedicated to those who lost their lives to law enforcement. It is presented by ACL Productions and will take place at Mitchell’s in Euclid. Click here to learn more.
These are just a few of the ways that Greater Cleveland is celebrating Black History Month 2022. We invite you to share additional events and programs in the comments below!