10 Ways to Celebrate Black History Month in Portland

Film festivals, art shows, a Black Panthers retrospective, and more fill the Rose City's calendar this year. Here's what we have our eyes on.

By Karly Quadros, Conner Reed, and Shannon Daehnke

Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, who's performing at the 2022 Biamp PDX Jazz Festival

February is Black History Month. There's no one way to engage, but all month long Portland is brimming with events that center Black artists and Black stories across a wide range of styles and subjects. Here's a by-no-means complete list of the stuff we have our eyes on.

All Power to the People

Various times Fri–Sun, Feb 11–13, Cerimon House, FREE

The Vanport Mosaic is hosting this three-day event about the history of the Black Panther Party in Portland, centered on one of the Portland chapter’s cofounders, Kent Ford. Events include a staged reading of a new play about Ford’s life, a presentation from and conversation with Ford himself, a screening of the latest installment in the Mosaic’s SOUL’D series, and a conversation about the Black Panthers’ Ten Point Plan in a contemporary context. 

Beautiful Experiments

Through March 15, online, FREE

Beautiful Experiments pairs Black, queer, and trans filmmakers with multigenre writers and documents these collaborations with online screenings plus zines and broadside prints. The result is textured, boundary-erasing work that is both iconoclastic and deeply rooted in tradition. The exhibition includes the work and words of Nadia Wolff, Princess Bouton, local writer and organizer Prince Shakur, Ahsante Sankofa Foree, Kearra Amaya Gopee, and Dkéama Alexis. 

Biamp PDX Jazz Festival

Various times and locations Feb 17–26, $0–55 

After a virtual festival in 2021, the talents at PDX Jazz Festival are back at live performance this year. Catch sets from saxophonist and Miles Davis alum Gary Bartz, acclaimed trumpeter Marquis Hill, four-time Grammy-winner Robert Glasper (hip-hop fans will recognize his piano licks from Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 magnum opus To Pimp a Butterfly), and more. Whether you prefer the Mardi Gras Indian tradition of New Orleans jazz repped by trumpeter Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah, or the R&B/psychedelia beats of producer Mndsgn, performing with local producer Omari Jazz, there’s something here for everyone. 

A Black Art Ecology of Portland

10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed–Sun through July, Portland Art Museum, $22–25

Since last July, the Portland Art Museum's fourth-floor APEX gallery—reserved for Northwest artists—has given physical space to Portlander Sharita Towne's multiyear, multidisciplinary project A Black Art Ecology of Portland. Comprising a dizzying span of formats (video, sculpture, mural, stand-up comedy, lithographs, and zines, to name a few), Towne concentrates and illuminates Black life in the Rose City, to invigorating effect.

Cascade Festival of African Films

Various times Feb 2–March 5, online and in-personFREE

The 32nd Cascade Festival of African Films showcases the best of contemporary African cinema with online and in-person screenings for the next five weeks. Highlights include the tender mother-daughter drama from Chad, Lingui (The Sacred Bonds), at the Hollywood Theatre on February 18 at 7 p.m., and the genre-bending, Ivory Coast epic, La Nuit des Roise (Night of the Kings), at the Clinton Street Theater on February 19 at 7 p.m. Stick around after the credits roll for panels with the films’ directors. 

In My Skin

10 a.m.–5 p.m. Wed–Sun through Feb 27, Portland Art Museum, $22–25

Local radio station the Numberz has been managing its own gallery at PAM since August, and this current show features a series of portraits by Portland photographer Jason Hill that track the Black Diaspora in Oregon. From Technicolor shots in collaboration with local afro-pop singer I$$A to stunning tableaus from off-duty touring members of the Lion King cast, Hill’s photos are rich, sumptuous, and gorgeously lit. The gallery also features a bodega, open noon–5 p.m., selling work from local BIPOC artists.


Mandela: The Official Exhibition

9:30 a.m.–5:30 p.m. Tue–Sun through Feb 13, $15–25 

OMSI’s retrospective on the life and achievements of anti-apartheid crusader Nelson Mandela roots his work in ongoing human rights struggles worldwide. Families can visit the exhibit during the regular museum hours, or, on February 9 from 6 to 10 p.m., adults over 21 can explore the exhibition at OMSI After Dark: Rise, which will also include food, alcohol, and vendors including Don’t Shoot PDX, Imagine Black, KBOO, and the Black United Fund of Oregon. 

NW Black Comedy Festival

Various times Feb 17–20, Alberta Abbey and Curious Comedy Theater, $20 per showcase  

The NW Black Comedy Festival is back in Portland for its sixth year running. The four-day 2022 festival is spread across two separate venues, featuring performances from upwards of 60 comedians from all over the country. Of the 11 different live showcases (and two live podcasts), some favorites include: Minority Retort, a year-round Portland staple, and the Rose City–only PDX All Stars.

Portland Black Film Festival

Various times Feb 5-25, Hollywood Theatre, $10 per screening

This month, the Hollywood Theatre hosts the Portland Black Film Festival: a showcase of cinematic work from Black artists and filmmakers. Next up (screening this Sat–Sun at 6:30 p.m.) is the 2021 doc Summer of Soul, depicting the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival (sometimes dubbed "Black Woodstock"), featuring performances from Stevie Wonder, B. B. King, and more; next weekend, don’t miss Sign o’ the Times, Prince’s live album, recorded at Rotterdam Music Hall in 1987.


Various times through Feb 27, Portland Playhouse, $19–38 

Thurgood—the true story of Thurgood Marshall, the first African American to sit on the United States Supreme Court—opened at Portland Playhouse in January. Directed by Lou Bellamy, the autobiographical one-man show spans Marshall’s entire career, from his early work as an attorney on the Brown v. Board of Education case all the way up to his SCOTUS appointment. Broadway World has commended star Lester Purry’s performance, saying he “convincingly changes his voice and stage presence to reflect the many chapters of the man’s life without losing his mannerisms.” 


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