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CELEBRATING BLACK HISTORY IN CHICAGO

Honoring The Great Migration and Black History Month, these 2016 events, exhibits and performances celebrate African-American culture and history.

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2016 marks the centennial year of the Great Migration — a pivotal moment in history in which African Americans from the rural south moved north and settled in cities throughout the West, Northeast, and Midwest. To honor this milestone, Chicago's cultural community will provide an exploration and celebration of African-American culture and history.

Check out these unique experiences and opportunities to learn more about Chicago's African American influences during Black History Month and stay tuned for more centennial celebrations throughout the year.

 

This month, The Second City, Chicago's famed Improv troupe, (1616 N. Wells St.) is presenting a comedy show titled Afro-Futurism, featuring street satire and cultural cosmologies in the form of stand-up, sketch, music and more by Chicago's hippest African American talent on the verge of a new generation of comedy. Catch this performance (recently extended!) through April 27.

The Second City presents Afro Futurism

This year also marks the quadricentennial anniversary celebration of literary giant William Shakespeare with Shakespeare 400 Chicago. This yearlong international arts festival, spearheaded by the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, is the largest global celebration of the anniversary of Shakespeare's death bringing together 60 of our cultural institutions with 400 artists form around the globe.

As part of the celebration, Shakespeare 400 Chicago will feature two performances that draw on the impact of African influences on society, literature and the performing arts with Sancho: An Act of Remembrance. This one-man show performed by Royal Shakespeare Company actor Paterson Joseph (HBO's The Leftovers, NBC's You, Me and the Apocalypse) looks at the African-British experience through the lens of Charles Ignatius Sancho- a man of many talents, known to have quoted Shakespeare immensely. Born on a slave ship, although never a slave, Sancho became the first black person of African origin to vote in Britain. The final performance will be February 21.

Shakespeare 400 Chicago presents Sancho

Shakespeare 400 Chicago will also bring to the stage two special renditions of Othello, one of Shakespeare's well-known tragedies. Both follow the tale of the Moorish general in the Venetian Army and his wife Desdomonia, whose relationship comes to a heart-breaking end because of the deceit, hatred and jealousy of Othello's trusted ensign, Iago.

The first will be a stage production directed by Jonathan Munby featuring Chicago born James Vincent Meredith as Othello. The production run is from February 18-April 10at the Courtyard Theater at Navy Pier. The second is a special performance and dance interpretation of Othello by the world-renowned Hamburg Ballet, February 23 and 24 at Harris Theater Chicago (205 E. Randolph St.). 

Hamburg Ballet presents Othello

Major anniversaries continue to shape the cultural experience in Chicago this year. To kick off its 40th anniversary season, Chicago's Black Ensemble Theater (4450 North Clark St.) will bring back the treasured production Doo Wop Shoo Bop, a showcase of the music and artists that formed the Doo Wop sounds of the 50s and are still recognizable today. Step back into that era beginning February 21.

Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood is perhaps considered one of the most significant landmarks of the Great Migration, a neighborhood beaming with stories and culture given to it by the African American settlers of the early 20th century. On February 27, for one special night, the Chicago Theatre will present Chicago's BRONZEVILLE The Musical, a thought-provoking story filled with dance and soulful music that captures a wide range of emotions and testimonials illustrating the experience of African Americans as they journeyed to Chicago. 

Some of the lasting influences of The Great Migration in Chicago can be heard in the music genres of jazz, blues and gospel. Snap your fingers, stomp your feet and enjoy the tunes that have long resonated through local clubs and bars throughout Chicago at one of these iconic places. And as an extension of Chicago's connection with the South, be sure to check out the musical performance by New Orleans' Rebirth Brass Band at Promontory in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood.

There's also still time to enjoy these special exhibitions and events in celebration of Black History Month.

STAY TUNED: Come spring, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present the first retrospective exhibition of artist Kerry James Marshall, considered one of America's greatest living painters and an imaginative chronicler of the African American experience (April 23 - September 25).


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