Black Arts and Artists Featured at Library in Time for Black History Month

SAN FRANCISCO – In celebration and solidarity with Black History Month, San Francisco Public Library brings vibrant authors, book clubs, exhibits and music, arts and crafts programs to the City this January and February. The Library champions Black history, culture and heritage in its More Than a Month free programming series—formally launching on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday weekend and extending through the rest of the year. Visit for a full listing of the events. 

The exciting roster of free events celebrates the 2024 national Black History Month theme, “African Americans and the Arts”, in its many forms. In keeping with the theme, the Library celebrates the work of a local artist, Kenneth P. Green, Sr., the Oakland Tribune’s first Black photographer. Toward a Black Aesthetic: Kenneth P. Green Sr.’s Photographs of the 1960s and 70s opens on January 25. An image from this extraordinary collection of two girls running down Ocean Beach will be featured throughout the year around the city to promote the Library’s More Than a Month programs.

Best of the Best: Showcase Events

Margaret Wilkerson Sexton’s On the Rooftop: Book Club and Author Event 

The storied Fillmore District unfurls its pageant of history in the hit On the Rooftop by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton. Join this shared reading experience through the Library’s On the Same Page virtual book club, then come hear the author speak. The novel features a moving family portrait set in 1950s San Francisco, weaving together themes of love, independence and embracing change in a tumultuous era. 

Book Club – Feb. 21, 7 p.m., Virtual Library

Author Talk: Margaret Wilkerson Sexton in Conversation – Feb. 27. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Event starts at 7 p.m. African American Arts & Cultural Complex, Buriel Clay Theater, 762 Fulton St.

Programs for Youth and Families

Learn about African American aviators and basic principles of flight while testing out different paper airplane designs. For ages 5 and older. Paper Airplane Challenge – Jan. 20, 3 p.m., Bayview Branch, 5075 Third St. 

Learn about the first African American woman to travel into space, Mae Jemison, and try an engineering challenge to build a balloon-powered rocket. For children ages 6 and older. Balloon-Powered Rocket – Jan. 21, 2 p.m., Merced Branch, 155 Winston Ave. 

Create images by using household crafting materials with Charles Dabo. For children and their families. Collage with Charles Dabo – Jan. 27, 3 p.m., Merced Branch, 155 Winston Ave. 

Create a cooperative quilt and wall-hanging with upcycled paper or fabric scraps, using math, geometry and your imagination. For children 5 and older. Paper Quilts Inspired by Gee’s Bend – Jan. 31, 3 p.m., Visitacion Valley Branch, 201 Leland Ave. 

Listen to traditional instruments of the Mandinka and the Mande-speaking people of West Africa. Local musician Keenan Webster will teach and demonstrate the kora (West African Mandinka harp), the Kamele Ngoni (West African Mande harp), the Balaphone (Mandinka xylophone) and some other percussions. Learn how these traditions gave birth to the banjo and influence blues, jazz and popular music of today. For children and their families. Performance: West African Music by Keenan Webster – Feb. 6, 3 p.m., Portola Branch, 380 Bacon St.

Learn about the African thumb piano and see Kalimba King Carl Winters perform. Performance: Kalimba King – Feb. 10, 11 a.m., Anza Branch; 1:30 p.m., Marina Branch; 4 p.m., Visitacion Valley Branch, 201 Leland Ave.

Learn to hand crochet and create an art piece during our crochet jam. A Crochet Jam is a public, art-making event focused on relaxation and human connection, invented by local artist Ramekon O’Arwisters. We'll also play mancala, a game originating in East Africa, and enjoy snacks during this hour of community connection. Activity: Crochet Jam and Mancala – Feb. 17, 3:30 p.m., Western Addition Branch, 1550 Scott St.

Listen to the musical talents of Bryan Dyer and Zareen Poonen Levien from the Music Is First Band, as they share their love of music. Join the Parkside community to sing and learn together. For ages 4–12 and their families. Performance: Music Is First! Duo Bryan Dyer and Zareen Levien – Feb. 24, 11 a.m., Parkside Branch, 1200 Taraval St.

Learn about the history and art of Hambone, and its evolution from Africa to modern North America. Then experience traditional styles of Hambone body music and find playful rhythms to express a unique Hambone musical style in a fun, non-competitive atmosphere. Performance: Unique Derique – Feb. 25, 3 p.m., West Portal Branch; Feb. 28, 5:30 p.m., Park Branch, 1833 Page St.

Learn to prepare delicious recipes from cookbooks by Afro-Vegan Food justice activist, Bryant Terry. For teens. Workshop: Biblio Bistro – Feb. 29, 4 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., The Mix at SFPL, 2nd Floor

Adult Programs

In keeping with the national Black History Month theme, “African Americans and the Arts”, the Library’s events showcase the significant contributions of Black people to our country through exhibits, films, book discussions and storytelling. 

Dive into the vibrant 1940s—50s jazz scene through archival photos and oral accounts. Harlem of the West with Lewis Watts – Jan. 7, 2 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., Lower Level 

Stop by the opening reception for an exhibit by local artist tanea lunsford lynx exploring Black American presence in 1800s—1900s San Francisco through interactive investigation. we were here Artist Talk and Reception – Jan. 11, 5 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., African American Center, 3rd Floor

Learn about the marketplace in the Fillmore/Western Addition presented by the San Francisco Housing Development Corporation. In The Black, a Black-led Marketplace – Jan. 16, 11 a.m., Virtual Library 

Opening reception for the exhibit, co-curated exhibition by Larry Ossei-Mensah and Micki Meng, celebrating the dynamic relationship between Black and Asian communities in shaping contemporary culture. Exhibit Opening: Cross Currents: Visualizing Black and Asian Stories  Jan. 16, 5:30 p.m., Four One Nine studio space, 419 10th St. 

A book club for urban fiction enthusiasts, discussing selected titles, including Silence by Zaire Crown and Absolute Power by Zari. Book Club: Hood Lit Book Social – Jan. 17, 6 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., Learning Studio, 5th Floor 

A hands-on workshop on identifying and accessing digitized Black newspapers through the library's electronic resources. Workshop: Digitized Black Newspapers – Jan. 20, 10:30 a.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., Computer Training Center, 5th Floor 

The story of Mary Ellen Pleasant, an abolitionist, businesswoman and philanthropist of African-American heritage. Film: The Legacy of Mary Ellen Pleasant – Jan. 23, 2 p.m., Richmond Branch, 351 9th Ave.

Watch a one-hour preview of the upcoming Independent Lens documentary Razing Liberty Square and participate in a presentation on the Waterfront Resilience Project from the Port of San Francisco. This Indie Lens Pop-Up screening is presented by San Francisco Public Library and iTVS. Film Preview: Razing Liberty Square – Jan. 23, 3 p.m., Presidio Branch, 3150 Sacramento St.

If you enjoy a good whodunit, spend an hour hashing out the details of this month’s mystery novel: Kellye Garrett's Like a Sister. When Lena Scott's estranged half-sister and Black reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found dead, no one except Lena distrusts the official story, and her search for the truth turns out to be a dangerous undertaking. Book Club: Mysteries at Milk Memorial – Feb. 18, 3:30 p.m., Eureka Valley Branch, 1 Jose Sarria Ct.

SF Opera presents a historical and musical survey of Black voices in American opera, such as Camilla Williams, Simon Estes and Marian Anderson, and mid-century superstars such as Leontyne Price. In addition to celebrating these iconic voices, discuss the institutional and social barriers that have often existed within the art form, and the corrective and equity-based efforts being taken today as San Francisco Opera paves the way for a new century of opera in America. Celebration: Black Voices in American Opera – Feb. 20, 7 p.m., Virtual Library; Feb. 24, 3 p.m., Bernal Heights Branch, 500 Cortland Ave.

In celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop, watch a screening of the little known film, Big Fun in the Big Town. This Dutch music documentary directed by Bram van Splunteren follows Marcel Vanthilt on his journey to discover more about the emerging subculture in New York City called Hip-Hop. Big Fun in the Big Town – Feb. 22, 5 p.m., Ingleside Branch, 1298 Ocean Ave.

Watch the KQED documentary Take This Hammer that follows James Baldwin's visit to San Francisco in 1964. Sample a tasting of local Oakland tea and discuss the film. Take This Hammer – Feb. 25, 2 p.m., Noe Valley Branch, 451 Jersey St.

Dr. Tanisha Ford in conversation with Dr. Tiffany E. Barber on African American fashion culture and its influence on the past, present and future. This conversation will contextualize the exhibit, Toward a Black Aesthetic: Kenneth P. Green Sr.'s  Photographs of the 1960s and 70s. The discussion will revolve around fashion themes discussed in Ford's books, Dressed in Dreams: A Black Girl’s Love Letter to the Power of Fashion (St. Martins, June 2019),  the award-winning Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul (UNC Press, 2015) and her latest book, Our Secret Society: Mollie Moon and the Glamour, Money, and Power Behind the Civil Rights Movement. Author: Dr. Tanisha Ford in Conversation with Dr. Tiffany E. Barber – Feb. 28, 6 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., African American Center, 3rd Floor and Virtual Library

Jacqueline Francis and Virginia Smyly discuss the work of Sargent Claude Johnson, an important African American sculptor and artist with San Francisco connections. Author: Dr. Jacqueline Francis in Conversation with Virginia Smyly – Feb. 29, 6 p.m., Main Library, 100 Larkin St., African American Center, 3rd Floor and Virtual Library

Programs for All Ages

Unlock the secrets of cultivating superfoods craved by Michelin-starred restaurants! Discover farm-to-table in the urban jungle, boost your health, and join San Francisco's burgeoning food network. Get hands-on experience and support a sustainable economy. Workshop: Urban Farming and the Microgreen Revolution! – Feb. 6, 4 p.m., Visitacion Valley Branch, 201 Leland Ave.; Feb. 21, 3 p.m., Marina Branch, 1890 Chestnut St.; Feb. 24, 3 p.m., Ocean View Branch, 345 Randolph St.

About More Than a Month:

The Library’s celebration is titled More Than a Month in an effort to emphasize that reflection, open dialogue, interdisciplinary education and shared advocacy needs to take place in our communities during Black History Month, as well as all year round.

About San Francisco Public Library:

San Francisco Public Library is dedicated to free and equal access to information, knowledge, independent learning and the joys of reading for our diverse community. The library system is made up of 27 neighborhood branches, the San Francisco Main Library at Civic Center, four bookmobiles and two book kiosks.

December 27, 2023